Normally when a player signs a 1 year, 2-way deal with an NHL team, it gets very little fanfare. However, when said player was your #1 draft pick from 2016 and five years later, he still hasn’t found a permanent home in the NHL, it generates quite a bit of talk amongst the local hockey purists. Such is the case with center Logan Brown.
I must admit when the Sens picked the rangy 6’6” center from the Windsor Spitfires at #11 in 2016, I was giddy. The Sens had not yet pulled the trigger on the Zibanejad trade to the New York Rangers and I really felt this selection would give us a clear two headed monster down the middle that every seven-player profile calls for. I had seen his offensive stats and he was clearly a playmaking pass first player and he had pedigree with his father, Jeff, having played nearly 750 regular season games as a defenseman in the league. I couldn’t ignore his frame either and it had me dreaming of the second coming of Joe Thornton(ish). There were comments his skating wasn’t elite. Neither was Thornton’s, I thought, and he turned out just fine.
Now we find ourselves a little more than five years post selection and a player who was earmarked for general as part of our two headed monster is on a one-year deal with no guaranteed NHL money. When a player signs a deal like that, it shows about as little faith from the organization as you can possibly give. Remember that this is a player that the Senators protected in expansion. This would suggest one of two things to me. Either they do value the asset and want to motivate him or they are just afraid that if they give up on him that someone else will find a gold nugget on their curb on garbage day.
So what are the possible outcomes for Logan Brown this season?
• He fulfills his promise, makes the team and gets a nice extension.
• He is a fringe player for the Sens and gets traded for below market value.
• He doesn’t make the team and gets claimed off waivers.
• He doesn’t make the team and clears waivers.
Option A – Brown fulfills his promise, makes the team and gets a nice extension
This is obviously the option most people would prefer. However, what is the likelihood that a player who hasn’t played more than 56 games in a season, due to injuries, since being drafted is going to suddenly blossom?
Since being drafted, Brown has amassed 30 NHL games with 1 goal and 9 points. Those aren’t exactly Thornton like numbers but that’s no reason to panic. Thornton broke into the league with a playoff caliber team while the Sens haven’t made the playoffs in four of the five years since the selection. Some players take a little longer to find the range I continued to rationalize to myself.
Then I looked at the games played column and ran out of excuses. I don’t blame Brown for these injuries and I don’t attribute them to him being soft. I also don’t blame the Senators for not committing longer term to a player with that track record.
If we continue with the Joe Thornton comparison, Brown hasn’t played more than 56 games in a season since being drafted and the only time Thornton didn’t play that many was during lockdowns and covid-19. Clearly his body has stood the test of time.
I want this option to happen but I would be very pleasantly surprised if it did.
Option B – Brown is a fringe player for the Sens and gets traded for below market value
There is room for Brown to make this team as we did not exactly splurge in free agency this summer. Having said that, in terms of a role for him, he was selected with the view to being a top six forward at minimum and possibly top three. Players in the bottom six don’t get a lot of power play, four on four or overtime opportunities. I have also never heard of Brown playing anything but center.
With the center ice depth chart featuring Josh Norris, Colin White and possibly Shane Pinto, the question begs as to where Brown could play and get the ice time he needs to be successful? Of course, he could come in and outplay either Pinto, White or even Chris Tierney and earn his way. He could also fill that hole on the right side left by the departure of Dadonov.
However, the vibe around the team and Logan Brown has been sour for a while now and him being relegated to a role other than what he was drafted to be would, in my mind, signal the beginning of the end. There was talk, prior to signing this deal, that he might explore options to play in Europe. Had that come to fruition, his days as a Senator would likely be over. A player who has struggled to stay in the lineup due to health isn’t going to reassure NHL teams of his ability to withstand the rigors of an 82 games schedule by playing 40-50 games either.
The fact that Brown has to clear waivers this year and that the Senators have gone to some lengths to ensure they didn’t lose him for nothing, makes this option the most likely for me. I don’t see Brown displacing Norris or Pinto from the top 2 spots and he just doesn’t strike me as a utility player.
Look for Brown to make the team out of camp and for the Sens to give him a chance to shine enough to generate some trade interest.
Option C – Brown doesn’t make the team and gets claimed off waivers
If this option happens, someone needs to lose their job and given that Pierre Dorion and Pierre McGuire are both inked for the next four and three seasons respectively, I don’t see them being foolish enough to allow this to happen.
The team has taken steps to protect this asset from the vultures and I highly doubt they will expose his carcass especially if he is healthy at the end of camp.
Having said that, the Toronto Maple Leafs exposed Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard at the end of camp and tried to send them to the Marlies in 2018 and both got claimed. Of course, we are talking about the Leafs. I only point that out as they clearly underestimated the likelihood of losing both players and both of those goalies had much more NHL experience than Brown.
Option D – Brown doesn’t make the team and clears waivers
This option is more likely than option C believe it or not as this could come into play if Brown gets hurt in training camp. He would likely have to go to Belleville to rehab from any injury and it becomes less likely that a player will get claimed with the uncertainty of his health hanging over him.
This is especially true of someone with Brown’s injury prone past. If this option comes to pass, surely the goal would be to recall him after he was healthy and played some games in Belleville. He has proven that he can produce in the AHL with 79 pts in 94 games.
The Sens need to find out if they have a player or a farm hand and the only way to know is to put him out there.
While I am rooting for Option A, I am somewhat resigned, at the moment, to Option B with this player.
There have been some signs that he might overvalue himself a little bit. His camp has been vocal through his agent about their displeasure with him having to spend so much time in the AHL. There may be some entitlement where he believes he is owed something rather than having to earn it.
I don’t want to judge to harshly as he is 23 years old and was obviously used to making the team every year growing up. I can’t say whether or not he has been given a fair shake to show what he can do.
What I do know is that Josh Norris had a very successful tour of duty in the AHL before solidifying a spot in the NHL and now he appears to be here to stay. Shane Pinto only played 12 games in the league last year and may require some more seasoning. He has almost the same number of points as Brown in less than half the games.
Colin White is on a long-term deal and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Though he has left me wanting, his days of being in the AHL are over.
That is Logan Brown’s reality. He has to supplant at least one of those three players to make the team as a center and at least two to get the top six role he was drafted to fulfill. I don’t have a great deal of optimism that he will do it.
If Logan Brown is a Senator after the trade deadline, I would be very surprised but also very pleased as this would likely mean that Option A happened and that’s an outcome we could all live with.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey