Assistant GM Tim Murray made a guest appearance on this afternoon's Healthy Scratches program and he dropped some interesting pieces of information that Senators fans should find useful. Rather than transcribing the whole conversation, I've gleaned the important stuff but if you want to listen to the whole interview, you can do so by checking out the Team 1200's Facebook page. Mark Zuckerberg could use the hits. As always my thoughts are in bold.
Q: Without tipping your hand, what information are you trying to get from your people during the pro scouting meetings this week?
A: Well, it's the same process every year. We go through each individual team's NHL group and then the American (Hockey League) group and it's just a long process of going through each player and discussing each player from the thirty teams and coming up with a consensus mark. Some guys are easy, obviously you get to Crosby and everybody says 'seven' and you move on to the next guy. But there's a lot of guys who are four-pluses and fives, and should they be fives, should they four-pluses or five-pluses and it's a long task but it's a task that has to be done. If you're going to do anything right at all, you have to rate players properly and then move on.
Q: So obviously you rate players on a scale of one-to-seven?
A: Yes we do.
This sounds like a less precise version of baseball's 20-to-80 rating scale in which an individual's tools are graded by increments of five with 50 being considered league average and 80 referring to elite talent.
Q: Do you have a realistic wish list for free agency, or have you gotten that far?
A: We will do that. We started on Monday here, and I just left the room to come here and we were at Washington. That's the first thing to do, to go through all of the NHL teams first, and then now we'll do the American (Hockey) League and minor leagues. But we wanted a number beside the NHL players and a number beside the American (Hockey) League players and then we'll go over our team with a fine-toothed comb -- who stays and who goes -- and then needs. And then we'll have a list of needs based on what we need, then we'll have a list of needs and it'll run the gamut from if the need is a left-winger, you'll have a $7.5 million left winger all the way down to a $900k left winger. We'll rate them based on ability and then what we can afford.
I hope Ottawa's list of needs has defence highlighted, italicized; underlined, put in bold, and asterisked.
Q: Do you really have to wait to get through the draft before making the qualifying offers to the RFAs?
A: Well, we know what we want to do. We need a dance partner. We know who we want to keep here or who we think that we can go by, because of kids or because of something that we may do at a later date. We have to be prepared for that for draft week because if we get thirty GMs in one city, there's going to be a lot of talk. You just have to be prepared for it. There will things that pop up that we haven't thought of for sure, but we'll be prepared for them. There will be names that come up and they'll be, 'What about this guy?' and 'Are you looking to get rid of that guy?' That's just conversation and then all of a sudden something happens through the conversation. We have a real good idea of... we all like our players. I think we've rated them fairly in our numbers system. We know who we want back and we think we know who we can go by, and hopefully those things can happen for us.
Interesting choice of words of “who we can go by” to explain the process of letting their free agents hit the open market. It’s almost apropos when describing Ottawa’s free agent defencemen.
Q: With the possibility of the CBA expiring, is it business as usual for you guys?
A: Yeah, it is. I think in today's league, there's so much parity. You look at LA and they're up 3-0 (in the series) and more than likely go on to win the Cup tonight or in the next couple of days, and if you go through their roster with a fine-toothed comb, you can find guys who you can go, 'I didn't really know about this guy' and 'I didn't really know that guy', you know as a casual fan and it is true in the hockey business. We know them but we may be surprised that they're contributing or playing as well as they’re playing. So, I think there are so many players out there of the same ilk on your bottom two lines and your spare forward or your fifth and six D and seventh D, to me, it's a little dangerous to wait. I always say that to agents, but part of that is posturing and negotiating but 'I'm calling you here and I'm giving you a chance to get a head start. Are you interested in signing on the (July) 1st?' I think there are a lot of players that are of that calibre or a little lesser calibre if you will, or whatever you want to call it, but still good players... waiting is not the best strategy in my opinion.
Murray’s comments about the bottom six forwards being very interchangeable reflects an attitude that has changed from what many Senators fans have grown accustomed to. For years, the fans and organization have romanticized and swooned over the efforts of its third and fourth line players; it wasn’t until management moved a select few of them around the time of the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline before many realized how inexpensively and efficiently their minutes could be replaced.
His last point is a great one. Usually it's the lesser calibre guys who sign well after the deadline and are scrambling for jobs who have a tendency to be the biggest bargains.
Q: Can we expect the organization to sign any of your personal UFAs or RFAs before you get to July 1st?
A: We'd like to but I don't know if that's going to work out; probably not before July 1st. On the RFAs, that's not a date that's a drop-dead date for them. So no, but we'll be certainly talking to... and I have been talking informally with Erik (Karlsson)'s people and Nick (Foligno)'s people and today I had a call from Jimmy O'Brien's guy for example, just 'How's it going? When do you want to start talking (contract)?" The consensus with all of these people is that we've talked on the phone and no specifics but lots of talk. I'll have more meetings than anybody at the draft because they all say when I hang up the phone, 'Let's get together at the draft and go over some stuff.' The RFA guys will be after July 1st but certainly we've got a strategy with all of them and we've got our comparables, as do the agents have their comparables. So they'll all get done in due course but there's no cut-off date and they'll all get done after July 1st.
Q: You have a lot of assets and you've got a lot of forwards who can play in the NHL or who could play in the NHL soon, does that make it a possibility to move some of those assets in a trade?
A: Well it certainly puts us in a great position to trade quantity for quality and you're not often in that position but as you said, the drafting has gone very well over the past few years. Obtaining extra first round picks helps that but I think our (scouts) do a great job and they're very thorough and they have a plan on what kind of player we want to get here. So we've had a lot of signings in the last two years that gets a little worrisome with the 50-man roster, reserve list and all that but we're in a position where if we can plug a hole or trade quantity for quality, we're quite willing to do it but again, we need a dance partner. I think we're in a good position to stand pat and see where the young guys are come training camp, or we can move a couple of guys out of here and get a more reliable or known commodity with a trade.
Without tipping the organization’s hand, it certainly seems like this is the most worthwhile avenue for the Senators to pursue. Having looked at the current crop of UFA defencemen, I have to admit that the possibility that Ottawa could go out and sign a Band-Aid solution in a weak free agent market is a bit disconcerting; especially since the high ceiling players are unlikely to come here and the rest project as bottom pairing or depth defencemen. At this point, I've almost resigned myself to the hope that the organization could make a splash and acquire a first or second pairing guy in a trade.
Q: The Peter Regin contract has to be good for flexibility.
A: Yeah, you do have contracts that both sides like and do have some trades that are good for both teams. It doesn't happen often but it does happen. I've seen Peter here around the building here a lot and he changed agents. His agent was nothing but helpful. He understood where we were coming from. (He) definitely knew that he could have tested the market and maybe got a little more but who likes Peter more than us? He's been in the organization. We know when healthy, he's a pretty good hockey player. He knows our top nine forwards. He knows he has a chance to play in our top six if he comes to camp in good shape and ready to go. The option was to move on and make a little bit more money, but I really don't know. My sentiments to him and his agent was, 'Who is going to give you a better chance? I don't think there's anybody out there (who will.)' And I think they agreed.
Best case scenario: Regin comes in and provides some consistent secondary scoring. If he and Turris can perform at a higher level and Daniel Alfredsson returns, this will take a ton of pressure off of the first line to replicate last season's numbers. At the very least, Regin affords the organization the flexibility to move some of their assembled assets and address a need via trade, rather than force the organization to overpay an inferior player with money and term via free agency.
Q: Are you at the point where a contract offer has been made to Karlsson?
A: No, no offers made. No proposals back-and-forth yet but lots of talk. I was on the phone with those guys and that's the reason why I came on with you guys a little late. So there's been lots of talk, setting up the whole parameter of it. We know what they want. They know where we're at a little bit. I think we agree on term and things like that and we're... I mean, if we played the kids game 1-2-3 and we both said a number at the same time, the number would be very close. But no, there's been no numbers exchanged yet and one of us is going to have to say a number before the other guy obviously and that will likely have to be me, but I don't see a problem with this.
As reassuring as it is to hear that management and the agent have agreed to a term, all it comes down to is: "1... 2... 3... Six million!"