Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators had a busy trade deadline. Seeing faces like Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Mark Stone leave. However, a move no one gave a thought to was acquiring Brian Gibbons from the Anaheim Ducks for Patrick Sieloff.
Now, this was rightfully so. Brian Gibbons, a 31-year-old who has never played more than 60 games in an NHL season until this year had just 5 points in 44 games with the Ducks. However, since coming to Ottawa he has 12 points in 16 games. With the short scoring explosion it could be easy to convince yourself into re-signing him, but here is why the Sens shouldn’t.
Brian Gibbons: Two Different Players
Ducks vs Sens Comparison
First, let us take a look at what the biggest difference for Brian Gibbons has been this year. At 5v5, Gibbons was not getting any ice time in Anaheim. He had just 9:21 of TOI per game. This ranked dead last out if 20 forwards that have played at least 200 minutes for the Ducks this season. However, while in Ottawa, he has seen 11:01 per game at 5v5. While this still ranks lower on the Sens chart, a full two-minute increase of ice time at 5v5 is huge.
However, has he actually been playing better in Ottawa? His Corsi-for with the Ducks was 44.69 percent and his relative Corsi was -3.77. With the Sens, Brian Gibbons has had a Corsi-for of 42.31 percent and a relative Corsi of -2.61. So, all things considered, the way he drives play really hasn’t changed much. According to Corsica his game score hasn’t improved much either. So where has the sudden scoring come from?
In Anaheim, he only took 29 shots in 44 games. In those games, he shot just 6.9 percent for his two goals. Since coming to Ottawa he has taken 19 shots but scored on 26.3 percent of them for five goals. It appears that luck may be the bigger factor in all of it.
A big reason the Senators should avoid re-signing Brian Gibbons is that this pace clearly looks unsustainable. Gibbons is 31 and can barely keep a full-time NHL job. To expect him to suddenly shoot almost 100 shots a year and convert on even 15 percent of them seems ambitious. His 17 percet career shooting percentage is due to the fact that he rarely shoots.
Lots of his shots come from right in front of the net. Which is totally fine and he deserves credit for battling, however, in a small sample size like this it is important to remember that it can be lots of luck at times that these go in.
The plays below have him swatting in a puck while falling and a deflection behind coverage. While these are pretty, it’s safe to say that puck will not usually go in on the first one, and the second one that puck doesn’t always make its way through. Just a sample of how luck can affect a player’s point totals in a short sample size.
— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) March 17, 2019
— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) March 27, 2019
Rookie Roster Spots
The Sens already have eight of their 13 forward spots filled for next season. Among the five expiring contracts are Brian Gibbons, Oscar Lindberg, Magnus Paajarvi, Anthony Duclair, and Colin White. White will be on the team again next season. Duclair has been the most electric Sens forward since the deadline and is younger with more upside than Gibbons. Even if they let Paajarvi and Lindberg walk, that’s still three roster spots for next season. As well, they may want to bring back Lindberg seeing as he was part of the Stone trade. Including him in the trade may signal they want him as a roster player for another year or two.
So, with such little space for players, where does that leave Ottawa? They will need space for the young prospects they wish to bring up. Players like Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, and Filip Chlapik should all be given serious consideration for a spot. As well, Alex Formenton and Vitaly Abramov deserve at least a look in training camp. Re-signing Gibbons could really close the Sens options. Usually, a cheapish contract would be fine to bury in the AHL. But you never know with the Senators.
More Upside Potential
Mentioned above, even if Ottawa makes some trades to move players or feels others still aren’t ready, Ottawa should aim to sign skaters with more upside. It’s why it would be much smarter to sign someone like Duclair to a contract. As well, look for those types of skaters in Free Agency. Players that may not have many options and are looking to revive their career.
Alternatively, approach teams who desperately need cap space help. Offer to take a bad contract along with a piece that can help you. Or just offer to take a decent player to may be making a bit more than a team wishes. Something like the Buffalo Sabres did with Conor Sheary last season. At the very least, you can trade these players at the deadline if they continue to produce for you. With someone like Brian Gibbons, the return will be much lower or even nothing if they wish to trade him next year.
Another risk that depends more on the market is an overpayment. If Gibbons continues this run it may attract other teams that want a depth piece. If his price is driven up by much more than $1.5 million for one season, Ottawa should definitely stay away.
While Ottawa does have lots of cap space, we also know they want to stay close to the cap floor. Wasting money you may need to bring in assets on a veteran minor-league journeyman who has barely been able to stick in the NHL is an unnecessary risk. Ottawa should just let another team take that risk if it happens.
This is also true if he wants more than one year. There is no point to signing bottom of the lineup players to multi-year deals. Especially not when you are a young team that has lots of rookies coming up. Eventually, his roster spot will definetley be preventing a more deserving rookie from entering the lineup.
Just look at the Matt Martin situation in Toronto. His contract prevented Andreas Johnsson from even drawing in the lineup some nights. This year, Johnsson has shown he was more than ready and has been a great contributor. Let some other teams take the risk on Brian Gibbons.
Overall, the risk for Ottawa just doesn’t equal the reward. Re-signing Gibbons has the risk of having him regress to his career norms, wasting a roster spot for a rookie, and using up money the Sens could use elsewhere. All for the reward of having a decent bottom-six forward if absolutely everything went right. It just doesn’t seem like a smart bet for Ottawa.
However, this is not on Gibbons at all. It is very nice to see him revive his career in Ottawa, and one can hope some other team that is higher in the standings wants to take a shot on him. Given the situation, it just shouldn’t be Ottawa.