By his comments last week, it’s pretty apparent Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray is all but hanging a “For Sale” sign over the necks of his top veteran future free agents between now and the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
The Senators are doing what every team that’s at least 12 points out of a playoff berth at this point of the season should do: thinking toward the future.
Over the weekend, Ottawa Sun veteran hockey writer Bruce Garrioch floated the idea that if Chris Phillips is traded, the Bruins might be a sweet landing spot. Phillips carries a cap hit of $3.5 million and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this July 1.
We know that at the trade deadline, the Bruins are expected (according to CapGeek.com) to have around $1.7 million of cap space, which could increase depending on what the future holds for Marc Savard. If the Bruins needed to move a body off their roster to make room for Phillips, the Sens would probably be interested in a Mark Stuart-type blueliner as part of the return package.
Whether Phillips, who has posted 0-3-3 totals and a minus-23 rating in 50 games this season, would help lessen the need for a “puck-moving defenseman” in Boston, however, is open to debate.
Here’s a capsule look at Phillips:
Size: 6-foot-3, 220 pounds
Background: Phillips was the No. 1 overall pick in 1996 after a standout WHL career with Prince Albert and Lethbridge. Phillips topped out at 26 points in 2006-07, the same year he set a career high with eight goals (he matched that last season). He has missed just one game (due to flu) in the last four seasons. He ranks second all-time for Ottawa in career games played, is ninth in assists, fifth in plus/minus and second in penalty minutes. Currently, he leads all Senators defensemen in hits and is the team leader in blocked shots.
What SilverSevenSens.com says … Peter Raaymakers runs this great Senators blog. Here’s what he had to offer on Phillips when asked about the veteran’s puck-moving ability and whether he has slowed down at 32:
“Phillips has never really been a quick defender, nor has he ever been an expert puck-mover, so he hasn’t really slowed down in either capacity. He can skate, but is at his best when he plays positionally so his foot-speed doesn’t become an issue.
“As for his puck-moving, he’s a decent passer, but won’t blow you away with amazing passes. As long as you’ve got a system that gives defenders an easy out along the boards, though, he’s not going to give you any trouble. As stated before, though, he’s always best when on a shutdown pairing (he played with Zdeno Chara in the past, and they were effective) or as the defensive anchor of a two-way pairing.”
What will it take to get him? As I stated, the Sens might have interest in a younger defender like Stuart, although with Stuart ready to become a UFA that could be an issue. Perhaps Ottawa would be willing to take a mid-level forward prospect along the lines of Jamie Arniel. The Bruins would have to sweeten the deal with a pick and/or another mid-level prospects. The Bruins, however would have to clear a spot on their back end by dealing Stuart or someone else elsewhere.
Bottom line: I really don’t believe that vaunted offensive defenseman is ever going to become available for Boston during the season. And even if he did, it’s doubtful Boston would be able to swing the deal due to their cap situation and the need to move a big name off their own roster.
In Phillips, Boston would get a guy that could play with Chara and free up Steve Kampfer, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg to compete for second-pair minutes. That would also give the third pair an offensive upside with one of those guys playing alongside Andrew Ference. Phillips has Cup final experience, which only makes him more valuable to a Bruins team trying to get over the second-round hump. As he would surely be just a rental because of Boston’s crowded back end beyond this season, the Bruins have to avoid overpaying. If they could land him without giving up anything higher than a third-round pick or any of their top prospects, they should do it.