Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
The NHL trade deadline may be Monday, but a couple of NHL teams got started early on shaping their rosters on Sunday evening. The St. Louis Blues surprised some league observers when they dealt forward Brad Boyes to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a second round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft. The Ottawa Senators also ended some speculation about one of their potential tradeable assets when they re-signed Chris Phillips to a 3-year, $9.25 million extension.
To kick off The Hockey Writers’ trade deadline day coverage, here are a couple of questions about the moves:
Did the Blues get fair value for Boyes?
The Sabres haven’t exactly been a team known for putting up goals in bunches, but they did add a forward with some scoring potential to the mix in this deal. Boyes is a +11 on the season for the Blues, and he has scored 12 goals and dished out 29 assists in 61 games this season. He is a solid puck mover, and he can back-check very effectively as well.
The big beef with Boyes is probably his contract. Is a guy who is probably going to end up around 50-55 points this season worth a $4 million payday next season? In Buffalo’s case, they are able to take the risk that he doesn’t quite pan out for their investment. Yes they do have Drew Stafford hitting restricted free agency this off-season, but when you consider that some of the other losses they are facing involve guys like Tim Connolly and Steve Montador, it’s pretty easy to see that they’ll have the money to absorb a Boyes failure if that were to come to pass.
With that contract, the question certainly needs to be asked as to whether or not St. Louis received fair value for Boyes. After all, this is a guy that two seasons ago scored 33 goals, and the year before that he netted a career high 43 tallies. His production has tailed off the last couple of years, but with a fresh start in Buffalo, he could very well regain some of that form that he lost while with the Blues.
Is a second round pick in what is widely considered a weak draft a good asset to pick up? The answer to this question is a pretty emphatic “no”. Yes Boyes’ production has slipped the last two seasons, but the reality of the situation is that he’s only on the books for one more season, and if the Blues were that adamant about shedding salary to make a run, you’d have to ask yourself “why?” This year’s free agent class is nothing to be in awe of (with the exception of Brad Richards), and if Boyes were to re-find his mojo in a contract year, then St. Louis is going to feel pretty stupid about dealing him for only a second round pick.
Heck, even Kris Versteeg netted a first and third round pick from the Flyers, and he has scored fewer points this season than Boyes has. The Blues probably could have done better than this if they were that serious about moving Brad.
Will this be the only move the Sabres make?
The Sabres are currently only two points out of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and they have two games in hand over the Hurricanes, the team they are trying to chase down. They have been playing a lot better as of late, and their playoff hopes are very much alive with a guy like Ryan Miller between the pipes.
So do the Sabres need to add anyone else before the deadline in order to get that extra boost? General Manager Darcy Regier hasn’t exactly made any huge splashes recently in the trade market, and he probably isn’t liable to start now. The team would more than likely try to acquire a defenseman to add to a blue line corps that is currently allowing 31 shots per game.
One player who doesn’t seem likely to move is Connolly. According to the blog Sabres Edge, at least one team has been turned away (a logical guess would be the Washington Capitals) in their attempt to acquire the center, and even with Boyes being added into the fold, it doesn’t seem like Regier is going to part with him even in the face of impending free agency.
The Boyes acquisition is probably the biggest move that the Sabres will make before the deadline tomorrow, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see this team add at least one more minor piece to try to get one last boost headed into the stretch run (and an arduous seven game road trip that they will begin on Tuesday).
Did Ottawa make the right decision in regards to Phillips?
Phillips has been viewed as a guy likely on the chopping block for the Senators, who are shipping players out left and right in an attempt to begin a rebuilding process. Even though he
was an attractive trade option because of his impending free agency, the Senators instead decided to hold onto him and signed him to a new 3-year contract on Sunday.
In the final year of a four year contract that was paying him $3.5 million per season, Phillips will get a slight pay cut from the Senators with his new $3.1 million per season deal. The new contract does give him some stability that he apparently was seeking, and it shows that Ottawa isn’t willing to completely gut their team in favor of younger guys.
The question here is whether or not the Senators made a wise investment in keeping Phillips. Obviously the trade offers that they were getting for Chris’ services weren’t overwhelming, or they wouldn’t have been so adamant about getting an extension hammered out. Even still, a contract worth that much for a player who has five points this season in 62 games seems a little excessive to most observers.
His point total will never be high due to his reputation as a stay at home defenseman, but when you’re looking at a team that is in the cellar of the Eastern Conference standings, you aren’t thinking about bringing back pieces like Phillips to help your team through a transition. As an older player at 32 years of age and in his 13th season in the NHL, this would have been the perfect opportunity for the Senators to pick up a decent prospect from a team in dire need of help on their blue line.
As stated before, the offers may not have been to Bryan Murray’s liking, but the reality of Ottawa’s situation is that they should have taken what they could have gotten for Phillips instead of throwing new money at him.