Can the Senators Afford to Trade Filip Kuba?

Over the past week Ottawa Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch has talked about the Senators trying to move veteran defenceman Filip Kuba (www.ottawasun.com/2011/08/13/cap-puts-sens-on-defensive and on The Team 1200 today, August 19, www.team1200.com/ default.asp), saying one of the problems is the team would need to take salary back in order to stay about the Cap floor (48.3 million, http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=566916).  I thought it was worth examining if his claim is true–not the team’s desire to trade Kuba, but the cap problems implied.

Speculation over who will be on Ottawa’s roster is up for debate, but I think it’s reasonable to conclude that (with Kuba) it will consist of all one-way contracts plus Erik Karlsson, Nikita Filatov and David Rundblad.  These salaries (plus buyouts) produce a cap hit of 50,520,833 (via www.capgeek.com’s calculator).  Removing Kuba takes the Senators below the cap floor (46,820,833).  As I see it, there are numerous alternatives to taking back a player/salary to avoid the floor:

1. Add Mika Zibanejad to the roster (his salary puts them over the floor, 48,595,833)

2. Add Jared Cowen (48,085,833) and any other player from the minors to the roster

3. Add Stephane Da Costa (48,145,833) and any other player from the minors to the roster

4. Etcetera; virtually any combination of two prospects makes up the roughly 1.5 million Ottawa would be short without Kuba

Therefore, the Senators can move Kuba without taking a player back.  I’m not suggesting this is the most probably outcome to such a trade, but it does mean Ottawa is not obliged to take on another team’s problem.

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Binghamton Player Profile: Eric Gryba

This is the third profile on prospects expected to play for the Binghamton Senators.

Eric Gryba, D, Contract: 0.6225/12 (RFA)
3-68 2006 (Muckler), 6’3, Shoots R, YOB 1988, Saskatoon, SK
2008-09 NCAA 45-0-6-6 106pim
2009-10 NCAA 38-4-6-10 118pim
2010-11 AHL 66-3-4-7 133pim (13 fights)

Selected in John Muckler’s last draft, Central Scouting described Gryba as “a strong skater with adequate backward speed… has a long stride and once underway he can be deceiving when rushing the puck… good agility for a big player – he is strong on his stick… has the ability to make sharp passes… has a very good wrist shot from the point… has good eye-to-hand coordination – sees the ice well… has had some time on the power play… is used a lot on penalty-killing situations… has an aggressive edge to his game… can be very abrasive and intimidating in the corners and in front of the net… uses his body to protect the puck well when being forechecked… blocks shots… has a very long reach and uses it effectively to poke check and deflect pucks out of opponents reach… was selected and played in the 2006 USHL All-Star Game and will attend Boston University in the fall of 2006.”  Frank Jay, then director of amateur scouting, adds “To get Eric with this pick was a pleasant surprise. We never dreamt he would be there at that point. We had him rated higher. He’s a big strong kid, and I like his chances of reaching the NHL eventually.”  For a look at Gryba and what brought him to the USHL, Hockey Futures has an excellent interview here: www.hockeysfuture.com/ articles/8451/2006_prospects_qa_with_eric_gryba.  Gryba describes his fighting style: “I actually usually come forward, I like to punch and then tie up and get in a couple in there. Usually, if I’m going to fight a bigger guy, I especially like to stay low, bob and weave and just try and avoid their punches and come up. But if I’m fighting a smaller guy, try and keep him out a little and use my reach as much as possible and come in at the right time.

Gryba spent four full seasons at Boston University.  In his freshman year he was named to the Hockey East Honour Roll, while his game slipped a bit as a sophomore (32-1-1-2).  In his junior year he avoided being a healthy scratch for the first time and thought about turning pro, but ultimately returned for his senior year.  As a senior he set career highs in points and penalty minutes while serving as assistant captain.  He was signed at the end of the NCAA season and signed a ATO to play the final few games in Binghamton, where he impressed the organisation with his physical play.  Following the season he was named the hardest worker in what would be his last development camp.

Coming into Ottawa’s camp for the 2010-11 season, Don Brennan dubbed him the “E-train” (http://www.torontosun.com/sports/hockey/2010/09/26/15485111.html), but any hype about Gryba vanished after he was sent to Binghamton.  Much like fellow-rookie Patrick Wiercioch, initially Gryba found himself scratched regularly to start his pro career (8 times through January) before becoming an integral part of the blueline (25-5 +8 from February onward) and considered as an NHL call-up before getting injured towards the end of the season.  Gryba missed the first two playoff series before returning to the lineup to play in the final ten.  Murray had this to say about him mid-season, “One of the most improved players down there. He’s huge, and his skating and positioning defensively was a little bit of a question at the beginning of the year, but he’s really made great strides. We’re very happy with Eric. Again, all of them can’t play next year. We just can’t have that many rookies on our team. But he will be an NHL player” (http://www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2011/01/25/17024581.html).

Before the end of the season Gryba‘s name was included among those who could challenge for a spot on the NHL roster, but after the draft and during the development camp (which Gryba did not participate in) those mentions fell away.  I don’t think that’s indicative, but like all defensive prospects not named Rundblad or Cowen, I believe Gryba is ticketed to Binghamton next season.  To me, Gryba is the perfect replacement for Matt Carkner.  Both play the right side, both are physical, both are willing combatants.  For this upcoming season, assuming Gryba stays healthy, he should improve on his AHL numbers and produce in the 10-15 point range.

A dated but good Hockey Futures profile: www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/eric_gryba
Interview after his junior year: http://video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=45111
Gryba‘s pre-game rituals (NCAA): http://www.nesn.com/2009/12/eric-gryba-shares-his-gameday-rituals.html
Interviewed towards the end of the AHL season: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or-B3T2_gCg
Fighting NHL tough-guy (and visor-wearer) Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond: http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/103049

Next up is Jim O’Brien.