Well it came down to the wire, and it finally got done. Phillips got his wish to stay in Ottawa, with his new 3 year, $9+million contract.
In the days leading up to the signing/eventual trade, I considered the options, and before it went down, I stated that I would be satisfied with Phillips resigning for 3-4 years at $2.5 million or so, slotting him in at the 3-4 defenseman level. He could definitely have made more on the open market (See: Anton Volchenkov) so he did take a home-town discount to stay.
For this to be successful, Phillips needs to be paired with another defensive-minded or at least defensively capable defenseman. He is a top shut-down player when paired with the likes of Zdeno Chara or Anton Volchenkov, but he has suffered miserably when paired with more offensive minded players. He never fit well with Wade Redden, and this year his pairings have primarily been with Sergei Gonchar and more recently Erik Karlsson. You can see the results. It hasn’t worked well for anyone involved.
Next year, should Jared Cowan make the team out of camp, he might be the ideal partner for Phillips as the shutdown pair. As Tony said, their games are very similar. In fact during the most recent World Juniors, I thought I was watching a Phillips clone when Cowan was on the ice. Neither one will provide much offense, but could be a tough pair to play against.
So this begs the question of what to do with the blue line going into next season? Gonchar, Kuba and Campoli are all candidates to be traded today, if they can find takers. I might consider buying Kuba out for the last year of his contract if they can’t move him. It would result in a cap hit of $1.22 for the next two seasons. They have the cap space, and it would be painful, but might be the move they have to make. Gonchar’s contact is an albatross, and Campoli is an RFA, so they could let him walk without a qualifying offer.
Bottom line, I like the signing of Phillips but they now have to make the moves to put him in a position to succeed. You can’t hang him out to dry like they did this year.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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