There has been an enormous amount debate over the difficult decision the Ottawa Senators face when it comes to whether or not to deal Chris Neil at the trade deadline.
Pardon me? Exactly what is so monumental about that particular decision?
Neil is what is known as a declining asset. He’ll be 30 years old when training camp starts next season and will have come off two straight seasons in which he has missed considerable time with injuries. With just 44 games under his belt this season, Neil has two goals and is minus-12.
If the Senators face such an agonizing decision when it comes to Neil, their problems are far greater than any of us ever imagined. And if the Senators fear they can’t replace his spot in the lineup for somewhere in the range of the $1.2 million they’re paying him this year, then all hope is lost.
Of course the Senators should trade Chris Neil, just as they should, and probably will, trade defenseman Filip Kuba. That is what rebuilding teams do. They unload expiring contracts to see what they can get in return. And anyone expecting any more than draft choices or perhaps mid-level prospects in exchange for Neil and Kuba is thinking far too optimistically.
The Senators got a good start on that process when they made the deal to get defenseman Chris Campoli from the New York Islanders in exchange for what will almost certainly be either the 29th or 30th overall choice in next June’s entry draft. Campoli can move the puck, something the Senators need from their blueline, and he can be a serviceable No. 4 or 5 defenseman whose cap hit is a very reasonable $633,000 next season.
If he emerges as anything more than that, the Senators can consider that a bonus. Campoli is only 24 and it’s debatable whether the Senators would have received anything better had they kept the pick. They certainly wouldn’t have got anyone who could help them in the immediate future the way Campoli can.
The rebuilding should continue and if the Senators like Neil that much, they can re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Of course, they run the risk of losing him, but if that’s what’s keeping them up at night, they’re in really deep trouble.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.