The Ottawa Senators offseason is shaping up to be as good as was the second half of their regular 2015 season. Management in Canada’s capital must be paying attention to the same metrics we are; singing Mark Stone (+6.85 AB) and Mika Zibanajad (+1.55 AB) this week were excellent moves in shoring up positive AB producing players. In fact, both of these transactions (average cap hits of $3.5mm and $2.625mm for three and two years, respectively) represent exceptional value for an Ottawa team who leads the NHL in cap space by a wide margin. The deal for Stone was especially critical in that his +6.85 AB ranks in the top 10 for forwards in the NHL according to our work at hockeyfreeforall.com.
Punctuating the improvement for Ottawa, was their next deal which sent David Legwand and goaltender Robin Lehner to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st pick in the first round of the 2015 NHL entry draft. Legwand was making similar money to Stone ($3.0mm) yet costing the Senators – 2.59 AB goals at the margin per year. What is puzzling to us is why Buffalo would want Legwand at all (unless all the Senators positive AB forwards were not available for trade….hmmm….we are sensing a theme here). According to our calculations, Legwand would have actually cost the Sabres two more goals in 2015 than he cost Ottawa, no easy feat. (Note – we will be deconstructing the Sabres soon under a separate article; needless to say they need to be trading for positive AB players, not more negative ones).
To our point, even if the 21st overall pick is not yet, but eventually becomes NHL ready, Ottawa will likely find a suitable similar replacement for Legwand this season (maybe JG Pageau receives more well-earned playing time, +3.27 AB in 50 games). Under this scenario, not only does Ottawa add by subtraction for 2015-2016 with incremental minutes for a positive AB player at the center position, but trades what was a second round pick in 2009 (Lehner) for a first rounder in 2015. Senators fans should not only be pleased with the steps management in Ottawa has made this far, but should be anxiously awaiting more developments form the club; especially if their focus remains replacing negative AB players for positive ones. In fact, moving Legwand places Ottawa slightly positive in team AB. If past is prologue, a replication of this result next season will land Ottawa another playoff berth (but still likely a first round defeat).