The Ottawa Senators appear set to part ways with restricted free agent defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun.
It’s believed that new GM Pierre Dorion informed Wiercioch that he wouldn’t be returning at his exit meeting in April.
Without a qualifying offer from Ottawa, the 25-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. That offer would have to be at least $2.7 million. That’s because he’s finishing out a three-year deal with a $2 million AAV that paid $2.7 million in actual cash this season.
A 2nd round pick in 2008 (42nd overall), Wiercioch had a very promising 2014-15 season that ended with him being an impact player for the Sens during their unlikely playoff run and earning a spot on a strong Canadian national team at the 2015 IIHF World Championship.
Last season didn’t go as well.
Part of the excitement of Wiercioch was a strong possession game and the appearance that he could develop into a puck mover capable of contributing offensively. That’s not what happened last year. He struggled, providing just five assists through 52 games with a 0.9% score-adjusted CF%Rel after putting up an impressive 4.8% mark the prior season.
His scoring took a similar step backward, after putting up four goals and 23 points in 2013-14 and then three goals and 13 assists in 2014-15, he failed to score and contributed just five assists this year.
With a trade to bring in Dion Phaneuf and a commitment made to Chris Wideman, there may not be room for Wiercioch to continue to grow in Ottawa. He requires waivers to hit the AHL and there’s a whole new management team coming into town. Paying $2.7 million for a depth defenseman you aren’t sure about is a big commitment for a team that needs to rebuild their blue line.
This side of Erik Karlsson and probably Phaneuf as a second-pairing guy, their D-corps is a mess.
There had been talk that the team was looking to move Wiercioch at the 2016 trade deadline, but failed to reach a deal with any team. Garrioch cites three teams as having had interest in him at the deadline.
Garrioch also reports that the Senators are likely to look into trading his rights prior to July 1, in order to bring something back before they let him walk for nothing.
If he does hit free agency, there’s a strong possibility that he’s looking at needing a pay cut and a two-way deal to find a role. There ought to be teams willing to give him a short “prove it” deal to try and find out which of the players he’s been over the past few years is the real one.