Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray went into yesterday’s trade deadline with one clear mandate – to improve his organization’s goaltending.
He thinks he did that both by addition and subtraction, but the fact is the Senators goaltending situation is still as big a question mark than it was before the deadline.
That’s not to say the Senators haven’t ultimately improved their goaltending by acquiring Pascal Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets because they may very well have done just that. But anyone who thinks the Senators’ troubles are over in that department is being wildly optimistic.
Given the fact that Leclaire has won just 47 games (and lost 55) in three years at the NHL level should be proof enough that he’s certainly not a sure thing. The fact that he has struggled both with consistency and health issues over those three years should also send up some red flags.
But Murray must be reasonably certain Leclaire’s surgically repaired ankle will heal completely and he’ll return to the form of last season when he went 24-17-6 and had a .919 save percentage. If he does, it’s a great deal for the Senators, considering they also got a second-round pick and they only gave up Antoine Vermette, a player it seemed they couldn’t even give away a few months ago.
That obviously wasn’t the only news for the Senators yesterday. They signed defenseman Filip Kuba to a three-year deal for $3.7 million per year, which seems crazy until you realize that Kuba leads them in ice time and plus-minus and is their top-scoring blueliner. And when you consider that it’s slightly less than what former Senators’ defenseman Mike Commodore got from the Columbus Blue Jackets last summer, perhaps it wasn’t so crazy after all.
Another player who will stay in town, at least for the balance of this season, is rugged winger Chris Neil, which is something of a surprise. Most observers thought the Senators would either sign Neil to a long-term deal or trade him and they did neither. Murray said there was no tangible market for Neil, which may be the case, but will also certainly be brought up prominently when Murray tries to re-sign Neil between now and July 1.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.