If a 5-1-2 record under new coach Cory Clouston has you thinking about the playoffs, dispense with that silly thought immediately.
Let's put it into perspective here. Under Clouston, the Senators have a .750 winning percentage going into Thursday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. In order to get the 94 points that was required to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference last season, the Senators would have to play at a .788 clip for their final 26 games.
So it's still all about the future and what the Senators can do to at the trade deadline to position themselves for a better one. In the (shameless plug) Feb. 23 edition of The Hockey News, we think we have the perfect plan.
In that issue, we outlined a number of trades we thought would make sense at the deadline. One of them - and remember we're not suggesting it will happen, but it should - would be to send Jason Spezza and Chris Phillips to the Florida Panthers in exchange for defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and center Stephen Weiss.
It would not help the Senators make the playoffs this season, but it makes a lot of sense on a number of fronts. Weiss is the same age as Spezza and is under contract for another four seasons for almost $4 million less than Spezza. Giving up Spezza and Phillips might encourage the Panthers to trade Bouwmeester, who has made it pretty clear he won't be back with the Panthers next season.
And here's the best part. Even if they fail to re-sign Bouwmeester, they'd be freeing up an enormous amount of salary cap room and get out from under at least one of their oppressive long-term contracts entering a period when the salary cap is sure to go down, not up.
It would be a palatable trade for Florida to make because the Panthers would receiving NHL-caliber players who could help them this season as they make a run for the playoffs. In Weiss, the Senators would get a lower-case Spezza for a lower price. If they re-sign Bouwmeester, they have a young defenseman who is on an upward trajectory and if not, they have the money and cap room to go fill some of their gaping holes in unrestricted free agency.
See? It all makes sense.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
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