‘The Plan,” as Senators management calls it, becomes clearer each day. The direction from on high, as carried out by general manager Bryan Murray, is to gut this team close to the bone. Nearly every veteran player with a sizable contract is available for trade heading toward the Feb. 28 deadline.
Good guys, honest players, character people, players with reasonable terms left on contracts, are not exempt. That was evident when the Senators dismissed two of the best teammates in the room with centre Mike Fisher’s trade to Nashville seven days ago and then centre Chris Kelly getting moved to Boston for a second-round pick Tuesday night.
The Kelly move, in particular, had to sting Murray on a personal level. When Murray coached this team to the Stanley Cup final in 2007, Kelly was one of his favourites, a coach’s dream for his smart play and ability to carry out instructions.
Many will say this organization wasn’t able to win with the core group of the past decade, so why not bust it up? They have a point, one that is carrying the day at the moment.
“I’m trying to set it up that we have draft picks available, and possibly prospects we can use to restock this team and make the group exciting again,” Murray said Wednesday.
Not long ago, some fans seemed to feel the team might clear cap space to bring in other veterans, from other organizations, but that is clearly not on. Think major rebuild. Think the Edmonton Oilers model of running with kids, not the quick reload of a Philadelphia Flyers.
On Tuesday, as he announced the Kelly trade, mere minutes after the home-ice loss in a shootout to the New York Islanders, Murray even said he has talked to management people in Edmonton and Colorado “about what to do and not do” while reloading with young talent.
“I’m not trying to trade everybody,” Murray said, and yet consider the few untouchables:
Daniel Alfredsson, the cap-? tain and face of the franchise, with two years left on his contract;
Erik Karlsson, the 20-year-? old defenceman;
centre Jason Spezza, whom ? Murray considered trading last summer, but found no takers for a $7-million contract with five years left (now down to four, through 2014-15).
Move every contract you can, Bryan. That’s the message he must be hearing from owner Eugene Melnyk. Major, to the bone, rebuild.
“You can either do it or not do it,” Murray said. “It’s hard to do, but we’re doing it. We’re going to retool the budget, we’re going to retool the organization, and you’re right, there are going to be some changes because of it.”
“Retool the budget.” Interesting comment, there.
The Senators are not going to bother spending anywhere close to the salary cap next season with little chance of playoff contention.
Good riddance to the fat contract of pending free agent Alex Kovalev, but good luck getting rid of the two years and $11 million left on the Sergei Gonchar deal.
Murray will move what he can. And the veterans will be replaced by prospects in the system, players like Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Jared Cowen, David Rundblad and Robin Lehner
Gone is the Murray suggestion of a few weeks ago that this team could be competitive as early as next season, replaced by the stark reality of a very long haul.
The club just got rid of the two best centres after Spezza. They will be replaced by drafted kids and prospects.
Hardly an overnight formula.
“We’re going to try to put young people in some spots and we’re going to encourage them to try hard every night, and be an exciting and fun team to watch,” Murray said.
Sound like the Oilers?
They’re still finding their way (last place overall at the moment), a long way from contention with such bright young stars as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi in their lineup.
And what of Murray’s role? Is he carrying out the dirty work for some new GM to ride in and pick up the pieces after the season? Is he going to stay on in some advisory capacity?
He’s not saying, but note the term “we” he uses to talk about how management and coaches will encourage next year’s kids.
There remain a few important details of “The Plan” to be unveiled.
FOR DARON FEB. 24
The date of the Ottawa West Golden Knights evening in honour of Daron Richardson and the Do It For Daron (DIFD) Foundation, is Feb. 24 at Barbara Ann Scott Arena, and not as noted in Wednesday’s paper. Daron, who took her own life in December, was the daughter of Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson, a former Jr. B Knight.
Doors open at 6: 20 p.m. Patrons are invited to pay tribute to Daron, make a donation to the foundation and peruse the silent auction table. The puck drops at 7: 20 for a playoff game between the Knights and rival Ottawa Jr. Canadians.