Mark Borowiecki’s Unclear Future With The Ottawa Senators

OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 29: Ottawa Senators Defenceman Mark Borowiecki (74) keeps eyes on the play during third period National Hockey League action between the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators on December 29, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 29: Ottawa Senators Defenceman Mark Borowiecki (74) keeps eyes on the play during third period National Hockey League action between the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators on December 29, 2019, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The NHL’s 2020 trade deadline is set for February 24th, and is quickly approaching. As has been the case in recent years, many eyes will be locked on GM Pierre Dorion, the Ottawa Senators, and their wealth of pending UFAs that could be heading out the door.

Mark Borowiecki’s breakthrough season could not have come at a better time for him. The 30-year-old Ottawa native has already set career highs in goals (5), assists (11) and points (16), and has seen his average playing time increased from 15:34 to 18:10 from last season to now.

Just based on counting metrics, it’s plausible to think that he could seek a raise on his current contract, that carries a cap hit of just $1.2M.

On the other hand, the analytics community has never loved Borowiecki, who has always been a polarizing figure. For starters, his PDO (shooting% + on-ice save%) has risen from his previous career average of 986.2 to 103.6 (via Natural Stat Trick), suggesting that he’s getting a lot more puck luck this year.

He’s also never been particularly impactful with regards to the team’s expected goals (xGF%) and shot shares (CF%), consistently being a very negative player throughout his career in Ottawa.

Besides his playing ability, Pierre Dorion must consider the depth on the left side of defence that the Senators already have. The quality at the position is up for debate, but with six LHD already expected to fight for three spots next season, it’s hard to see where Borowiecki fits in, especially with the new acquisition of Mike Reilly.

Untouchables: Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom.

On The Cusp: Christian Wolanin, Max Lajoie.

Depth: Mark Borowiecki (UFA), Mike Reilly, Andreas Englund (UFA).

What can’t be lost in the conversation, is Mark Borowiecki’s off-ice profile. For starters, all fans know of the Senators tendency to foster and retain local talent. Borowiecki is an Ottawa native, and a fan favourite for many supporters.

The true off-ice value is in his role as a fantastic ambassador for the team in the local community. Both he and his wife Tara act as honorary captains for the Capital City Condors, a league of hockey teams for kids unable to play due to cognitive and physical disabilities.

Mark Borowiecki is also an outspoken LGBTQ community advocate, and represented the team at the Capital Pride event in June. Who could also forget his amazing thwarting of a robbery in Vancouver this season? If the man dubbed ‘Borocop’ were to leave Ottawa this season, the team would be losing a great person.

Pierre Dorion has the unenviable task of trying to strike a balance between the Mark Borowiecki’s on-ice and off-ice value. Extending him likely means losing one or two of Wolanin, Lajoie, Reilly and Englund, which doesn’t make a lot of sense for a young team, unless they’re dangled to acquire key players moving forward.

While he has seemingly improved on-ice this year, Borowiecki is realistically nothing more than a depth piece on a team that is expected to be competitive within the next couple of years. Whether or not he fits into the team’s plans remains to be seen, but to say it complicates things is quite clearly underselling it.