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Get Excited About Nick Bonino!

June 3, 2014, 9:58 PM ET [137 Comments]
Travis Yost
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
We have talked about the reality of Ottawa's entire second-line being eviscerated quite a bit in these parts. Milan Michalek's performance and production has faded rapidly with age and injuries, so unless he's ready to extend on the cheap, it seems likely he's headed elsewhere.

His linemates are, not surprisingly, following him out the door. We'll start with Ales Hemsky first. Ottawa, who paid the price of multiple assets (including Cory Conacher) to bring in Hemsky at the trade deadline, is balking at his asking price. That's not really uncommon at this time of year, but the general sense for a while is that (a) he'll get paid; and (b) he'll get paid by a legitimate contender.

The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch more or less confirmed all of that in a story today:

League sources told the Sun Tuesday talks between the Senators and Hemsky's camp have broken off and unless there is a change of heart on his part he's expected to test the UFA market on July 1.

The 30-year-old Senators winger, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the deadline in exchange for two draft picks, was believed to be looking for a deal in excess of $5.5 million per-season from the club.

Sources say the Senators were not prepared to make that kind of offer and there was also concerns he's determined to test the market."‹

On one hand, you can make an argument that giving a 30+ player that sort of money can be a dangerous proposition. On the other hand, you have the same yarn that Ottawa's spun a trillion times already -- they're not ready to spend competitively, and don't prioritize winning like most other teams do. Hemsky will likely get that sort of money somewhere else. Also, he's worth it, assuming a team can limit the term a touch.

Again, none of this really unexpected. Ottawa does have a number of younger forwards who need more ice-time, and though I'm highly suspicious many/any can provide what Hemsky does over the next 2-3 seasons at minimum, it's a reasonable gamble to take.

The last player on this soon-to-disappear line is Jason Spezza, who is as good as gone. I reiterate that the feelings here are mutual, as far as I understand it: Spezza is just as amenable to a trade as Ottawa is to moving him.

Ottawa, again, is making a defensible play here. You might not agree with it, but there's an argument to be heard that moving on from an aging center who needs another [expensive] contract is a smart one in the salary cap sense. Plus, Ottawa has millions and millions and millions of projected cap space heading into next year. Oh, the things they could do!

The problem with moving Spezza is that, for one, I'm increasingly concerned they're not going to get nearly what they expect. This is an issue, because there's not a snowball's chance in hell that Jason Spezza's going to extend with the team. So, they're basically in a position where the first decent offer will be the winning bidder -- the chance of an ask war, with names like Joe Thornton and Eric Staal and Paul Stastny floating around, is starting to feel like a fool's belief.

There are only so many markets that are ready and willing to take on Jason Spezza and his expiring deal with a fairly-sizable one year cap hit. And guess what! Teams are very likely going to view him as a rental with possible extension in the future, as opposed to Ottawa, who is trying to sell teams on him as a long-term option.

Every week, some insider stokes the fires about the Jason Spezza deal. You sense this is something of Ottawa's doing, trying to fan flames that don't exist. Here was Darren Dreger earlier, via The 6th Sens:

“The Spezza watch is on full alert. I know that Bryan Murray is telling teams that he wants a similar package to what he had to pay to acquire Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Duck – so you’re talking about a pick or picks, you’re talking about a player or players and a prospect or prospects. That’s kind of the market dialogue that’s happening right now.”

Nothing we haven't heard before. A reiteration of the asking price, though, which is important.

Bruce Garrioch followed up on this story, sort of, in a post:

Before Murray can make a deal for Spezza, he has to determine his asking price. As we reported last month, it's believed to be a No. 1 pick in 2014, a top six player who can help immediately and a good prospect already in the system.

Since the Senators have already made a deal with the Anaheim Ducks for winger Bobby Ryan, GM Bob Murray might be a good dance partner for Ottawa because the two have done business before.

If the Senators do make a deal with the Ducks, a league source said Tuesday the club could be targeting centre Nick Bonino. The Hartford native finished with 22-27-49 points in 77 games last season.

That quote feels so Ottawa, I'm stunned it didn't come directly from ownership or the front office through a local radio hit. Nick Bonino. Even if you assume there's another valuable piece in there, you are talking about an absolute disaster if the return is centered around a third-line center.

And let's not kid ourselves here. That's what he is. He was riding the percentage-gods to the tune of 49-points last season, a year where a lot of things fell favorably for him. He's a 47% career Corsi% player in which his team performs better with him off of the ice, and averages less shots per game in his career than Colin Greening by a fair margin. And, uh, he's twenty-six.

You wonder: What's attractive about Nick Bonino? If you know Ottawa, you know the answer. A $1.9MM AAV cap hit through 2016-2017, which is right in the cost per point wheelhouse.

I note here that this is an off-season where Ottawa could very easily buy smart (again!) on a player like Mikhail Grabovski or Anton Stralman, or make a piece-for-piece deal to bring in a legitimate top-four defenseman. Even if a potato took over as GM and the roster simply stayed as is, I think they're good enough to reach the post-season. They're not void of issues, but this is still a quality lineup.

Instead, an entire line is being purged, and the one player who is under control -- even if a depreciating one, inarguably a top-six center that can score at will when healthy -- is being moved for a 26-year old that screams cheap labor.

To state the obvious: I don't like where things are headed. I'm sure we'll hear about the importance of saving money now and about a future 'cap crash' like the stock market and 'having too much talent' and other prospect propaganda, but I think a lot of fans are starting to grow weary about it.

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