Last night's spirited win had everything that you could ask for from an entertainment perspective. Numerous fights, Mike Fisher's two goals signified that the 50-60 point season cocktease is officially underway, fans jumping back aboard the Pascal Leclaire bandwagon when he stonewalled the Leafs during third period that was reminiscent of Jacques Martin's we're up one goal, let's sit on the lead era.
If Ottawa's going to be anything more than a middle of the pack team this season, they're going to have to play with more desperation than they've had when the team has had the lead in the third period. This team isn't good enough where it can afford to blow leads and lose points to Eastern rivals like Boston, New Jersey, New York and Toronto. Hopefully they develop a killer instinct soon.
That being said, I think Ottawa's in an ideal situation to capture points from two teams that are currently ahead of them in the standings -- the Pittsburgh Penguins and their Northeast Division rivals, the Buffalo Sabres.
Here's my prediction for tomorrow's Citizen panel...
5-2 Ottawa Has anyone ever heard of Derek Engelland, Ben Lovejoy and Nate Guenin before today? Nope? Me neither. However, because Pittsburgh is losing defencemen more often than the Senators are losing draws in the faceoff circle, these are the guys who will log significant minutes on the blueline. With Jay McKee sidelined with a finger infection, he joins the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang on the IR. That leaves Mark Eaton as the lone defender who started the season in Pittsburgh's top six. It's not often that I'll get the opportunity to say it this season, but Ottawa might actually have the edge on defence in this matchup.
Despite Tuesday's win against the Leafs, they played not to lose in the third period. Heading into tonight's game, I expect them to put forth a better 60-minute effort and I foresee this team going on a bit of a roll.
Naturally, the manifestation of a winning streak could be aided by the return of the A-Train. There was a belief that he could be ready to return to the lineup Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, however Volchenkov has apparently suffered a setback and his return has now been pushed back another week and puts the Senators in quite the predicament. There's no question that Ottawa needs to get Volchenkov back on the ice throwing his body selflessly in front of some vulcanized rubber, it does do two positive things. One, it represents a likely stay of execution for Brian Lee, who I believe has played rather well of late. If not for his two-way contract, a legitimate argument could be made that he deserves to stick with the club. And two, it affords Bryan Murray some more time to evaluate his blueline and hopefully address the issue of trimming the fat on an already congested roster.
The inherent flaw that everyone sees in Ottawa's roster is that they're probably one top six forward and one top pairing defenceman away from competing with the elite teams. With rumours that Chicago might be locking up their impending RFA's, Kane, Toews and Keith, the necessity of Chicago having to move some salary before the can be signed is made clear by Gerald Norton who wrote a fantastic piece over at SenSay.
Now, without getting too encumbered in the CBA salary rules, the Coles notes is that a team cannot exceed the current salary cap level in “tagged” salaries in future years. In other words, Chicago cannot have signed one way contract commitments, in any future year, combining to be worth more than the current salary cap limit of 56.8M.
So, the question is, how much “tagging” room does Chicago even have?
Now, that may be how much they can spend on future commitments, but using all of that space will leave them unable to sign any more contracts. They’ll effectively be at the cap limit, with only 9 forwards, 5 defense, and 1 goaltender.
The 6th Sens Translation: Signing free agents for the sake of making a splash, is the worst thing a franchise can do. Brian Campbell? Cristobal Huet? Perhaps the worst non-Glen Sather related free agent investments that a franchise has made in the modern salary cap era.
Based on the needs of both clubs and assuming that Chicago makes a splash by signing their stars, the Senators and Hawks do seem like ideal trade partners. However, here are a list of aspects that I think fans have to consider when playing the role of armchair GM:
- Ottawa doesn't have a lot of cap space, if they're to take on salary, Chicago's going to have to take back salary to match it. Talented players with expiring contracts will likely be of interest to Chicago. (Volchenkov possibly?)
- Ottawa needs a defenceman and a top six forward.
- Chicago will need to pare salary this year or next without significantly diminishing their talent level.
So let's play let's make a deal. I'd like to see what you guys/gals can come up with.
And one more thing...
On TSN tonight, Peter Laviolette mentioned that he believed that Ray Emery should be one of the three goalies named for Team Canada. I'd like to believe that Peter is TSN's answer to Matt Millen. Besides, isn't Laviolette American? Of course he'd like for Emery to be there!