Sometimes you read long-time columnists and just wonder. Take Larry Brooks (please):
It will not be a giveaway, not at all, but the development of Andrew McDonald [sic] and Dustin Kohn would seem to free GM Garth Snow to move veteran Brendan Witt, just the type of crease-clearing defenseman whose value increases in the playoffs.
MacDonald [FTFY] has developed, yes. We're praising him. Botta is praising him. He's logging lots of minutes -- around 24 the last three games -- and handling them well. But Kohn? The coach has gone out of his way to shelter him, and temper praise. Kohn has played less than nine minutes in each of the last two games, leaving his five-game career average under 10 minutes per. He's not freeing Snow to do anything other than bring Witt off of IR, not yet.
Witt, tougher than a truck...
Yes, unquestionably, but...
... has one year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $3M, with a salary of $2.5M.
Which is precisely why it would be absurd for the NHL's many cap ceiling-sniffing teams to bring him on, even for a "what the heck, it's good depth" playoff run. You're not just picking the clearance bin for this postseason, you're taking on a $3 million cap hit for next season, when the cap is expected to be about flat.
And for what, exactly? Witt is minus-18 (worst among Isles defensemen), even while facing the weakest competition. His relative plus/minus -- which takes into account minutes played -- is waaay below his teammates. Some of this may be due to Witt's square peg fit in Scott Gordon's round hole system. Certainly not all of it.
Two years ago was before last trade deadline, where GMs began to find Jesus about the relative value of draft picks.
If Snow can wrangle that kind of a return for Witt, who turns 35 next month, the general manager would be advised to make the deal.
Well, um yeah! If he could get half that he "would be
advised strongly beaten over the head to make the deal." But that kind of return simply isn't happening. If you pour me some scotch, a couple of glasses maybe, then I might be willing to believe there are a couple of GMs out there who still see in Witt what many of us once saw -- what I once loved and will fondly remember -- about the tough defensemen who didn't make you feel cheesy tossing around the term "warrior."
It does not delight me to point out these numbers (and I'm hardly the first). But there they are. It's not fun to see a guy you like struggle. But struggle he has. It's unclear how many umpteen injuries Witt has played through the last two seasons, his most recent stint on IR being an apparently team-forced one. It's unfortunate he's not a great fit in Gordon's system while his contract makes him a highly unlikely trade target. Yet that is the reality -- there is no "wrangling" of value for him, no off-loading his salary commitment without it being a certain giveaway.
Then again, someone just willingly took Ales Kotalik's contract off Glen Sather's hands. I guess GMs still do the darndest things. If someone does this one, I'll be dining on some crow.