The ball was thrown into the Ottawa Senators’ court Monday.
Will they or won’t they keep Marc Methot after George McPhee turned up the heat on other National Hockey League general manager’s on Monday.
As the clock ticked towards Wednesday’s 10 a.m. ET deadline for the Vegas Golden Knights to submit their selections for the expansion draft, McPhee told reporters he gave the other 30 GMs until midnight Monday to determine if they were willing to pay the asking price to retain certain players.
Talk among league executives Monday afternoon was that the Knights had side deals with eight teams and the Senators weren’t in that group, but it was believed general manager Pierre Dorion had held several discussions with McPhee.
Dorion was en route to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards show on Wednesday. He’s one of three finalists for the award presented to the GM of the year.
“What we’ve told everyone today is that (Monday) will be the last day that we are going to have those discussions, that we are going to pick our team (Tuesday),” McPhee told reporters in Las Vegas. “We want to have a discussion with the league (Tuesday) night about what our team is going to look like to make sure we meet all of the requirements and then, if everything’s okay, I’ll sleep on it and then just send it in Wednesday morning.
“Midnight EDT would be ideal, but we’ll see. But we will be done with discussions tonight.”
Dorion is trying to keep intact the top four on defence that helped the Senators take the Pittsburgh Penguins to double-overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final before being eliminated. The Senators included Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci on their protected list for the expansion draft.
The issue several teams around the league are facing is that the Golden Knights’ asking price for side deals is in many cases a king’s ransom — likely a first-round pick in Friday’s entry draft — and any club that does that will end up giving up two assets when Vegas can only choose one player off every roster.
“We’re basically saying, ‘Do you want to hear what’s going on with your team, or are you just content to sit and we’re going to do what we’re going to do? Most of them want to talk about it, and then we tell them exactly what’s going on. ‘Is there something you want to do about it or not?’ ” McPhee said.
McPhee is well within his rights to take that position because he’s in the driver’s seat, but the belief is he’s rubbing some teams the wrong way.
Make no mistake, the Senators don’t want to lose Methot, which is why they’re wrestling with their decision. They also don’t want a rival team making a deal for the Knights to take Methot on their behalf and then trade him in return for another asset.
With two years and $4.9 million left on his contract, Methot, who has been Karlsson’s defensive partner for five seasons, would be difficult to replace because he plays big minutes, but the Senators have depth on defence and could have somebody else to step into that role if necessary.
If the Senators protect Methot with a first-round pick, they’d likely lose Fredrik Claesson in the expansion draft. That would be a big price to pay, so it would make sense that, if they pay with the top pick, they also protect Claesson.
The other possibility is the Senators give the Knights a prospect already in the organization since Ottawa has only four picks in the entry draft in Chicago. Dorion is a longtime scout and he knows the value of draft picks so you can expect him to tread carefully.
The Senators aren’t pleased with the way this has all gone down. It could have been avoided if Phaneuf had waived the “no-move” clause in his contract so he could be made available in the draft, but he didn’t accept because he was concerned the Knights would select him.
Instead, the Senators face paying a high price to keep Methot or letting him walk away for nothing. Neither scenario is ideal, but Dorion has a decision to make and, according to McPhee, time is of the essence.