Have Cheap Defensemen become that Valuable?

So the Ottawa Senators just traded Dean McAmmond and a late first round pick for Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli.  Mike Comrie is set to become an unrestricted free agent so for a team that won’t make the playoffs (though maybe Bryan Murray is dreaming otherwise), he presents very little value in return, let alone the fact that he really isn’t that good of a player anyway.  He’s not good enough offensively (for the most part) to play on the top two lines, and too weak defensively and inconsistent to play on a third line checking role.

So in essence this trade almost comes down to a late first round pick for Chris Campoli.  So, what can Campoli bring you?  Not a lot to be honest.  He has some skill with the puck, which the Senators do need, but on a good team the best you can expect is he will be a third pairing defenseman and maybe play on the second power play unit.  There are a few teams in the NHL he may struggle to make the defense at all (San Jose, Detroit, and maybe even teams like Florida or Toronto when they are healthy).  On the Islanders he played 19:49 per game which is less than Streit, Gervais, Meyer, Martinek, Sutton and Witt.  Last year he played 19:09 which trailed Martinek, Witt and Gervais.  So while the last place Islanders had a use for him, he was hardly a superior, irreplacable component of their defense.

So, have the Senators over paid for Campoli?  Is Campoli’s greatest asset the fact he is signed for next season at $675,000?  And if Campoli is really worth a first round pick, are other cheap, signed, 3rd pairing defensemen also worth a first round pick?  I am not so sure.  A similar defenseman to Campoli is Marc-Andre Bergeron, formerly of the Islanders and now of the Minnesota Wild.  Like Campoli he is primarilly a puck moving defenseman who lacks size and is questionable defensively.  A year ago (Feb 26, 2008) the Islanders traded Bergeron to the Ducks for a third round pick and last summer the Ducks traded him to the Wild for a third round pick.  Yes, Campoli has a little cheaper of a contract, but is that (and whatever Comrie gives you this season) really worth bumping the third round pick to a first round pick?  I am not so sure.

So, either the Senators vastly over paid for Campoli, or else cheap defensemen have suddenly become a highly sought after commodity.  If so, expect Brian Burke’s phone to be ringing off the hook for a guy like Ian White (who is regularly playing 25+ minutes a game in all situations and is set to make just $950,000 next season (with just an $850,000 cap hit).

This article has 12 Comments

  1. I think this is a move that can be seen more as a desperation move by Murray to save his job. He’s willing to pay whatever price to keep his team in contention for the playoffs. Unfortunately I just can’t see either of those players being solutions to the problem. I’d even say that Campoli may have a bigger impact than Comrie.

  2. On second thought, why not just see it as a first for Comrie? Campoli for McAmmond’s not inconceivable, the Isles get salary off their books for next year and Ottawa fills a need.

  3. You could, but McAmmond wasn’t going to be with the Senators next season anyway. It makes more sense to compare UFA to UFA and longer term asset vs longer term asset.

    I think Bryan Murray’s view of the trade is lets get a something for now (Comrie and Campoli) to aid in the push for the playoffs (and a chance to save my job) but if it doesn’t work out at least we something heading into next season so I don’t look completely stupid.

    The only problem with that theory is Ottawa’s chances of making the playoffs are next to none, so the ‘now’ value is very little.

  4. So, what can Campoli bring you? Not a lot to be honest. He has some skill with the puck, which the Senators do need, but on a good team the best you can expect is he will be a third pairing defenseman

    I think you undervalue Campoli. His stats are depressed from playing on the Islanders. And his opportunities for playing time are similarly limited, since he’s got Streit and Gervais ahead of him on the power-play. Plus, comparing him to the defense on the best teams in the league is a little bogus. He’s not trying to make San Jose or Detroit; he’s trying to make the Ottawa Senators. As you point out, they need the skills he can provide, and he’ll provide them at good value.

    Is the 29-30th pick too much to pay for the skills they need next year and thereafter? Time will tell. Historically, the chance of a player picked in the 26-30 range of even making the NHL for more than 100 games is 44% (stats courtesy of Scott Cullen’s piece on TSN.ca). Given the Sens situation, I think it’s a good move. Plus look at their past dealings with the Islanders 🙂

    They need someone to improve their breakout and powerplay now. Besides, despite what BM says, he can still move Comrie before the deadline (unless there’s a regulation saying he can’t).

    And here’s an interesting thought: how does this trade affect the market for Filip Kuba?

  5. Numbers from hockeyforum.com & nhlnumbers.com (there may be a difference b/w the annual salary and actual cap hit so there may be minor differences)

    Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup Run Payroll

    06-07 (44 million cap)

    Alfredsson – 4.414
    Heatley – 4.5
    Spezza – 4
    Gerber – 3.7
    Phillips – 2.204
    Fisher – 1.5
    Volchenkov – 1.5
    Neil – 1.1
    Vermette – 1.0
    Emery – .925
    McAmmond – .725
    Kelly – .725
    Schubert – .525

    Total: 26.818 (60.95%)

    08-09 (56.7 million cap)

    Alfredsson – 4.414
    Heatley – 7.5
    Spezza – 7
    Gerber – 3.7
    Phillips – 3.5
    Fisher – 4.2
    Volchenkov – 2.5
    Neil – 1.1
    Vermette – 2.763
    Emery – .479 (Buyout cost, not actually making a contribution)
    McAmmond – .875
    Kelly – 2.125
    Schubert – .883

    Total: 41.039 (72.38%)

    In the 06-07 version of the Sens, there were 2 goalies that proved good enough to take a team to the finals, 2 solid defensive defensemen, 3 first line forwards, 4/6ths of a second and third line and some depth players. In the 08-09 model, there is only one goaltender (the inferior one) while the guy who took them to the finals is being paid not to play since he was a locker room disturbance (though this is a good move).

    Also of importance, the cap is up 12.7 million since the 06-07 season, but this group has received a collective raise of over 14 million. In essence, for this team to be as good as the 06-07 team, Emery needs to be playing for less than $500,000 and the other depth players (specifically the defenseman such as Redden, Meszaros, Corvo and Preissing would need to take a slight collective pay cut. This does not factor in things such as age. Clearly, as is plainly obvious, more players need to outperform their cheap contracts (i.e. quality prospects) to have the same success that the Sens had a couple of years ago.

    But at the same time, the 6 highest paid forwards on the current roster currently make 28.092 million with Alfredsson’s cap hit going up another million next season. That is right around the 50% mark of cap money being allotted to 6 forwards (though the Sens are not right at the cap). In 06-07, this group cost 16.139 million. That is around 36.5 % of the cap though, again, the Sens presumably were not right at the cap.

    If the cap is 55 million next year, and those 6 forwards make about 29 million, that is around 52.7% dedicated to the 06-07 forward group. So the Sens have gone from spending around 36.5% to 50% to 52.7 % on the same group. Presumably Vermette will play, at the most, one more year in Ottawa. But if he were to stay at the same rate that 29 million would take up 58% of a 50 million cap which is the high end of the rumored 2010 cap.

    Now I am not blaming the Sens for locking up two former high 1st round picks like Spezza and Heatley for the prime years of their careers. The other decisions are more debatable, though, in my opinion. However, they are not the only team with this problem. Detroit will allot more of their payroll to Zetterberg next year and quite possibly Franzen and Hudler as well. But the point is, when the Sens keep allotting a greater percentage of their funds to a group of 6 forwards and when they lose their cheap goalie that led them to the finals and their puck moving defenseman and their cheap depth in general, why would anyone expect them to be anywhere near as good as they were two years ago without more than a tweak to the core of the team?

  6. Gerald are u going to say something on a criticism of the Sens that uses numbers and stats (your friend)…because you can’t simply close the comments section here like u would for all those that know that Alfredsson is not the best captain in the NHL…

  7. Ian White is now going to play for Canada at the World Hockey Championships. Who would have thought?

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