Sunday, 31 August 2008

Holy Moly! The Butcher Bolts to Tampa

by Jes

I know my blogmate, Czechmate, an Ottawa resident, was already seething over the lack of CzechoSlovak content on the Ottawa Senators. I'm sure, then, that he'll be crying in his All Bran over the fact that Andrej Meszároš was dealt to the Lightning for some prospect assets. Now, Meszaros can have his surname butchered in whole new ways.

In typical Tampa Bay circus fashion, the Bolts made an offer sheet to the young Slovak, only to find out that *DUH* they don't have the necessary draft picks as compensation. Cue the circus music and annoying clowns.

Ottawa clearly didn't mind the fact that the Bolts wanted Meszaros, so the clubs came up with a rather quick trade to get the deal done.

Tampa Bay gave up defensemen Filip Kuba, Alex Picard, and a 2009 first-round draft pick for the Butcher, and then signed him to a six-year, $24-million dealio.

Kuba is no longer all that great, so it's basically a warm body, a lottery ticket, and Picard for a prime young D-man. Good deal of bad deal for Ottawa? I guess it depends on what Ottawa does with this new salary cap room they have.

Over at FanHouse, JP notes that Tampa, famous for comparing Lecavalier to Michael Jordan, turned on the hyperbole machine to proclaim Meszaros an 'elite' defenseman. JP isn't impressed.

Senators GM Bryan Murray referred to Meszaros' play over the past two seasons as "[leaving] a lot to be desired" (not something you typically hear of the game's top defensemen), and the numbers certainly represent something a lot closer to "pretty good player" than "time to adjust the game plan, we're facing Andrej Meszaros tonight" -- Meszaros finished last season 25th among the League's defensemen in scoring and 68th in that group in plus/minus. He was 80th in ice time, 35th in power-play scoring and 100th in shooting percentage.

I'll play the Devil's advocate and come to the defense of Tampa. Yes, Andy is not an elite defenseman, but he's one of the better young d-men in the game and ought to get better.

Remember Meszaros' rookie season? D00d was only 20 years old and put up 39 points and went +39 in 82 games. How many 20-year old d-men ever do that much?

Then, something went sour for Meszaros in Ottawa and he's been on the Martin Skoula path to stagnation. Perhaps Ray Emery's influence made Meszaros into a party animal, perhaps the Sens' new anti-Slovak policy hurt Andy's feelings ... we'll likely never know. What we do know, however, is that Meszaros' relationship with the club was quit sour, and he needed to get the hell out of that rathole.

I believe Butcher will become one of the league's better defensemen, and the Bolts will end up getting good value for this deal. Yes, they paid a high price, but good young defensemen are worth a premium. This is a far better deal than some of the other odd signings the Bolts have made.

Of course, it's easy to be nervous if you are a Bolts fan, especially when Meszaros is commenting on how much was given up for him.

"I was surprised they gave up that much for me," he said of the Lightning. "They gave up some good players. I really appreciate that. I'm excited and happy to be in Tampa. Now it's a great challenge for me to step up and play as hard as I can."

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