When the Ottawa Senators put Jim O’Brien on waivers on Thursday, I think the Senators were secretly hoping some other team would take a shot and pick up the former first rounder. That didn’t happen, and now the Senators have some options with the centre, none of which are really ideal.
1. Send him to Binghamton
As our writer Jeff Ulmer stated yesterday, a ticket to the minors is the most likely option. O’Briens contract is a one-way deal, meaning he will be paid his full $650,000 NHL salary even in the AHL. Not that it is a factor in the Senators’ case, but O’Brien’s entire cap hit would come off the Senators cap because it is below the $925,000 threshold. I am sure the cash-minded Senators would not be happy to pay him that ticket to ride the bus.
2. Keep him in Ottawa
Just because he cleared waivers doesn’t mean the Senators have to send him down. But he fell out of favor with the organization and the coach last season, and rumors of demands for more playing time may have backfired. He doesn’t appear to fit into the Senators’ top 12 forwards, and would likely be a fixture in the press box. The only thing worse than paying him an NHL salary to play in the minors might be to pay him an NHL salary not to play at all.
3. Find a Trading Partner
If someone were going to take a chance on him as a project, they would have done so through waivers. That is, unless said team thinks they can unload a problem of their own onto the Senators at the same time. For example, if the Leafs wanted to try to pawn John-Michael Liles on the Senators and get a bit of cap relief as a result. I just use that as an illustration, I am not saying that is a likely or even possible trade scenario. Since the Senators are already “over-budget, they aren’t going to be adding additional salary to get rid of a smaller one. A trade would have to be almost even salary or for prospects/picks, which wouldn’t fit the critera for the opposition team. Smart teams don’t deal prospects for a guy they could have had for free.
4. Loan him to a team in Europe
If they can find a landing spot for him in Europe, the Senators could loan O’Brien to relieve themselves of the financial burden. I don’t know for sure if O’Brien’s contract contains a clause allowing them to do it, but if the option is riding the bus, it might be something he would agree to even if his contract doesn’t contain such a clause. But it would also mean O’Brien wouldn’t be available for a call-up should the need arise, an option that would be in place if he were in Binghamton.
While if he has fallen as far on the Senators’ depth chart as it would appear, he wouldn’t be the first option for a return engagement from Binghamton unless he really shines and forces his way back. However, if he doesn’t figure into the Senators’ plans for the future, I can see them not wanting to pay for the present, if they can avoid it.
To play or not to play. that is the question.