BAL­ANC­ING ACT

Se­na­tors have one eye on the bot­tom line with trade

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS - KEN WAR­REN kwar­ren@post­media.com @Ci­ti­zenkwar­ren

Ot­tawa Se­na­tors gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion is play­ing chess with a cal­cu­la­tor in or­der to im­prove his hockey team down the road.

Trad­ing away Dion Pha­neuf and Nate Thomp­son for Mar­ian Ga­borik and Nick Shore on Tues­day night was about clean­ing up the bal­ance sheet, while set­ting up fur­ther moves.

Do­rion was non-com­mit­tal on the long-term fu­ture of Ga­borik and Shore in Ot­tawa. “They’re play­ing (Thurs­day),” he said re­peat­edly when ad­dress­ing the me­dia on Wed­nes­day.

It would stand to fi­nan­cial rea­son that the Se­na­tors will prob­a­bly buy out Ga­borik in the off-sea­son, un­less they can find a taker for his con­tract be­fore the Feb. 26 trade dead­line.

Ga­borik, who turned 36 on Wed­nes­day, doesn’t fit with the new man­date to grow through scout­ing and de­vel­op­ment.

The deal does, how­ever, make sense for the Se­na­tors be­cause Pha­neuf and Thomp­son have the ex­pe­ri­ence to po­ten­tially help a team through a long play­off run, but they were over­paid as pieces on a team headed down Re­build­ing Road or Re­tool­ing Av­enue. With Mark Stone ex­pected to sign a new deal as a re­stricted free agent in the sum­mer and with Do­rion in­sist­ing the Se­na­tors’ pri­or­ity is to re-sign cap­tain Erik Karls­son be­fore he be­comes an un­re­stricted free agent in 2019, every dol­lar counts.

Do­rion wasn’t talk­ing about that, say­ing only, “I don’t think we should jump to any con­clu­sions.”

The gen­eral man­ager said the Se­na­tors’ depth on defence — Ben Harpur, Chris­tian Jaros, An­dreas Englund and per­haps cur­rent col­lege star Chris­tian Wolanin — gave him the com­fort to trade away Pha­neuf.

“We saved a bit of money, but, at the same time, I think we were al­ways deal­ing from a po­si­tion of strength on our back end,” Do­rion said. “(Owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk) al­lowed us to re­tain some salary (on Pha­neuf’s con­tract) to give us some ros­ter flex­i­bil­ity. For us, I feel it was just a good hockey move.”

With the help of num­ber-crunch­ing friends at capfriendly.com, we’ve tried to sort out how this might play out for the Se­na­tors’ bot­tom line and blue line.

Word to the wise: There are a lot of num­bers here and we’re talk­ing about salary, not salary cap.

On the sur­face, by dump­ing Pha­neuf (while re­tain­ing 25% of his con­tract) and Thomp­son, the Se­na­tors have chopped $6.525 mil­lion from their 2018-19 pay­roll. They’ve added Ga­borik’s $4.575 mil­lion. That’s a sav­ing of al­most $2 mil­lion. Some­what lost in the re­cent burst of ac­tiv­ity, though, is that Harpur — a prob­a­ble re­place­ment for Pha­neuf — signed a con­tract that guar­an­teed him $650,000 next sea­son. Harpur could be re­called from Belleville of the Amer­i­can Hockey League to take Pha­neuf’s ros­ter spot for Thurs­day’s game against the Buf­falo Sabres.

In 2019-20, the net gain from the de­par­ture of Pha­neuf and the ar­rival of Ga­borik is $1.7 mil­lion. Harpur’s con­tract is for $800,000.

In 2020-21, the fi­nan­cial break is $1 mil­lion.

For all that, the Se­na­tors would be in bet­ter fi­nan­cial shape if they bought out Ga­borik’s con­tract in the sum­mer. In­stead of pay­ing out the $10.825 mil­lion re­main­ing, a two-thirds buy­out would cost them $7.2 mil­lion and that ex­pense could be spread over the next six sea­sons, at $1.2 mil­lion each year.

If the ul­ti­mate goal was to shed Pha­neuf’s salary, why didn’t the Se­na­tors sim­ply buy out Pha­neuf and save them­selves the trou­ble of a se­ries of com­plex moves and counter-moves? Well, ac­cord­ing to capfriendly. com, buy­ing out Pha­neuf would have cost $9.4 mil­lion.

“We did what was best for our or­ga­ni­za­tion to­day,” Do­rion said.

While the Se­na­tors gen­eral man­ager was re­luc­tant to get into de­tails about the big pic­ture — “we’re not go­ing to talk about all the specifics in a plan,” he said — he will be busy in the days lead­ing up to the trade dead­line, look­ing at ev­ery­thing and any­thing that could im­prove the team’s po­si­tion com­pet­i­tively and/or fi­nan­cially.

“We would like to com­pete for the play­offs next year, but, at the same time, we want a team that can com­pete every year in the play­offs," he said.

With money go­ing out the door in Tues­day’s deal, nat­u­rally Do­rion was asked whether that put the team in a bet­ter po­si­tion to sign Karls­son to a new long-term deal.

“To­day is not about Erik,” Do­rion said. He then added. “Our first and fore­most pri­or­ity is to sign Erik Karls­son.”

ERROL MCGIHON/OT­TAWA SUN

By get­ting Dion Pha­neuf’s (left) con­tract off the books, the Sens will have more money to re-sign cap­tain Erik Karls­son to an ex­ten­sion.

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