Ottawa Senators defenseman Brian Lee has played the last two games after sitting out as a healthy scratch for 7 consecutive games. David Rundblad, who just seemed to be rounding into form after a shaky start, has been the lineup victim of Lee’s return to action. The Ottawa Senators explained the sitting of Rundblad as “monitoring his playing time” so they won’t burn him out with a longer schedule than the has played.
I, for one, don’t buy it. I might believe the explanation if it had been just one game and he had gotten back into the next one. There has to be another explanation. The next most logical one would be that Lee is being showcased to teams around the NHL in the hope that they can find a taker for the blueliner.
When you factor in the fact that Matt Carkner should be nearing a return from surgery performed during training camp, there is a logjam on the Senators’ blue line. Jared Cowen isn’t going anywhere as he has arguably been one of the better Senators in his own end this season. That leaves Lee, Carkner and Rundblad battling for the 6th spot in the lineup on a nightly basis.
That is why I firmly believe that the Senators are using this stretch to showcase Lee for a potential trade. According to Bruce Garrioch in the Ottawa Sun, there are a lot of teams, including “The Rangers, Oilers, Canucks, Blues, Jets, Coyotes, Lightning, Jackets and Isles are also in the market for help defensively.” He was listing the teams in reference to the potential availability of Nashville d-man Ryan Suter, but Lee could be a decent consolation prize that can play 10-15 minutes a night on your third pairing.
SenShot’s newest writer, Kevin Lee (no relation) looked at Lee earlier this week, before he played the two weekend games. Kevin made some good points, in that Lee might have a spot on the blue line next year if he is patient as Carkner and Filip Kuba have expiring contracts. But is there room for Lee, who doesn’t really fit any one style or profile, on the Senators blue line going forward?
Carkner fits a role, is a veteran presence, and although I am not in the dressing room, he comes across as a great team guy. You know what you are going to get from Carkner and he seems happy with his role, getting into games when needed and being a part time player. He is the only truly intimidating presence physically on the blue line who is a threat to drop the gloves when things get nasty.
At 24 years of age, Brian Lee might still develop into a very good NHL defenseman, as he showed signs of late last season. I don’t think he can do it as a Senator, but it is not because of who he is. It is because of who he isn’t. He isn’t Marc Staal and he sure isn’t Anze Kopitar, the most widely recognized players who Ottawa passed over to pick Lee in the first round of the draft. He can probably never fulfill those expectations in a red and black uniform, and the best case scenario might be to deal him for a pick or a prospect, and take a loss on this player. You aren’t going to hit a home run with this player, but someone might be willing to take a flyer on him.
Yes, there is a very definite chance that Lee could blossom elsewhere and any trade will look one sided in the negative to Ottawa, but might be the best for all involved. Lee has been pretty quiet about his lack of playing time, but you would think he would welcome a move. It would also alleviate the logjam currently in Ottawa and provide hope to Senator wannabes like Patrick Wiercioch and Mark Borowiecki that the line-up to get into the lineup doesn’t extend around the block.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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