With the NHL Entry Draft and the July 1st free agency period sneaking up on hockey fans like an unexpected Dany Heatley trade request, there isn't much to do as the playoffs unfold but put pen to paper and attempt to figure out what kind of offseason the Senators could foreseeably have.
So the challenge was simple and the invitations to the rest of the Ottawa blogosphere were sent out. Using Capgeek.com, some creativity and common sense, come up an offseason plan that was feasible.
I will post what some of the others came up with first before concluding with what I came up. I would like to thank those who took the time to lend their thoughts and participate. Here it goes:
Well, what better place to start than where we stand today. Looking at our currently signed contracts, the role players have earned, and where they might progress or regress.
- Z. Smith-Regin-Butler
The assumption here being that all of the Senators’ RFAs are re-signed. You may notice a few names missing: Although it is entirely possible that Eugene Melnyk won’t be interested in buying out Jonathan Cheechoo, I think he’s been willing to pay the cost for what’s best for the team in the past, and that is the case here; Ryan Shannon, who was re-signed mid-way through last season, will probably pick up where he left off as the 13th forward; and Shean Donovan, although he’s a popular guy, will probably have to look elsewhere to continue his NHL career. Matt Cullen, also, is off this list, because I don’t see where he’d fit on the roster; still, it’d be a boon to the team’s depth if he was kept around.
On to the defence corps, which I have a feeling will see more changes than the forwards:
- Phillips- Sutton
In all honesty, I don’t see how the Senators will re-sign Anton Volchenkov. I’d love to see Android come back, and he’s one of my favourite Senators, and I understand the argument that he’s the best at what he does. But earmarking $5M (or more) for the next five years (or more) with the players who are coming up through the system just won’t work under the Sens’ salary structure. The writing seems to be on the wall that Volchenkov wants to get his money—and who can blame him—while Murray isn’t willing to go that high. So re-signing Sutton will at least help to mitigate the loss of Volchenkov, while not hamstringing the team in terms of salary or length of contract.
On the other hand, I think Chris Campoli will be signed, not only because Murray paid a heavy price for him, but also because he had a terrific second half and playoff in 2010, he adds mobility to the back-end, and he’ll be reasonably priced to boot. And since I have little faith in Brian Lee, I think Carkner will out-play him for the sixth D spot while Lee spends most of the season in the press box (pending injuries, of course). That is, if Lee isn’t traded during the off-season (say... on draft day?).
As for the prospects, I don’t know where they could fit. Jared Cowen could still be a terrific NHL d-man, but by all accounts he’s not there yet. And Patrick Wiercioch seems a little farther along in his development, but he’ll have to demonstrate some serious upside to get on the NHL roster. I think they’ll both spend most of the year in Binghamton, with spot duty as injury replacements.
And on to the net: What can happen here? Brian Elliott’s not going anywhere, Pascal Leclaire isn’t either, and Robin Lehner probably needs some seasoning in the AHL. That leaves the biggest question being whether any of Mike Brodeur, Chris Holt, or Andy Chiodo gets re-signed; for the record, I think Holt might, but I doubt either of the other two have much interest.
SLC - Five For Smiting
Step One: Package Kuba and Lee and foist them on some Milbury-esque sucker (HEEEELLLOOOO Long Island!) for picks, prospects and/or a game worn Garth Snow jersey (autographed, natch).
Step 1a: Buyout Cheech (1M/yr for 2yrs)
Step 2: Sign RFAs. Regin: 1.75M/yr (3yrs), Furbligno: 1.5M/yr (4yrs)
Step 3: Sign UFAs: A-Train: 5M/yr (however long he wants), Marc-Andre Bergeron: 2M (term TBD, HUGE raise)
Step 4: Impress upon Mssrs. Cowen and Wiercioch that unless they bust their asses this summer and make the team out of camp, they will be fed whole into a wood chipper. This whole thing depends entirely on it (seriously, this made more sense last night).
- Michalek -- Giggles -- Alfie
- Kovy -- Fish -- Regin
- Shannon -- Butler -- Furbligno
- Neiler -- K-Rok -- Roto
- Zack Smith
- Karlsson -- Carkner
- Bergeron -- Cowen/Wiercioch (whoever shits the bed less)
CapGeek tells me this roster runs to $56,554,166 on a $57,700,000 cap.
Step 5: Hold on to that $1,145,834 cushion like it's a newborn puppy and pray nobody gets hurt.
Duff - Another Ottawa Senators Blog
1. Tell Cheechoo to get lost. He will be buried in Binghamton and can be loaned to Europe, if he chooses. The poor guy showed throughout the year that he is not NHL calibre and it does too much damage to our payroll. Tell the Euge that it is collateral damage of the Heatley trade.
2. Get Foligno and Regin done. Foligno for two years at $1.2M because we need to find out if this guy is top six quality, or if he is another Patrick Eaves. Foligno's challenge is that he either has to fit the second line (and play better) or be on the fourth line (and make less money). Regin is signed three years at $1.5M. If he had more rights, he'd get more money, but this is a nice contract to give him a nice, long chance to earn a good raise.
3. Re-sign Matt Cullen. I might stand alone on this one, but I loved his performance both in the regular season (when he didn't put up a tonne of points) and in the playoffs (when he tied for the team lead in points). Cullen insures that we have two very strong solid lines and can even put together a third line that can score. Great penalty killer that has good hands and is fast. He's like a better Chris Kelly. He's not cheap. In fact, it is a three year deal worth $3.25M, which is a nice deal for us and still a good raise for him. Stillman left for a hit of $3.533M and Cullen isn't as good.
4. Re-sign Chris Campoli. He isn't a stud and he is on borrowed time, but the guy had a very strong second half and is a Corvo without the turnovers or the desire to live in anonymity. Campoli will have one more year to prove himself here and will have Cowen and Wiercioch breathing down his neck in the second half of the year (although Lee was supposed to do that this year and it was hardly a bother for Campy). Campy gets a one year deal and a raise to $1.2M. He simply isn't worth more at this point.
5. Tell Anton and Andy to enjoy free agency. Volchenkov will sign in LA (guarantee it) and Sutton returns to Long Island or Atlanta, two teams that will still throw $3M his way.
6. Sign one player - Dan Hamhuis - for 3 years at $2.8M. I'll be completely honest, it would be a miracle to get the Hamhouse for $2.8 Million, but I can dream. Why the Hamhouse? Our biggest problem this year (aside from shady goaltending, but that is unfixable this year) was the inability for our defence to move the puck up the ice. I thought we were tough with Phillips, A-Train, Carkner, and Sutton, but none of them have an offensive bone in their body. Karlsson will be better, Kuba will be healthy, and Campoli will do fine with his limited ice time and second PP time. Karlsson is still a few years away from being the #1 guy and Kuba is on borrowed time, so the Hamhouse fills the void of a proven (sort of) defenceman that can move the puck up the ice and eat up minutes.
Payroll before bonuses is $56.9M. There is essentially no cap space considering we'll carry 13 forwards and 6 defencemen. You know what is surprisingly shitty? The Bobby Butler deal. I know he might be fine, but that is $900K on what I presume is a one-year deal. It didn't work out great for Winchester (who can sign a two-way deal and go to Bingo) and I don't know that it works great here. Having Butler instead of someone like Zach Smith making $400K less means that perhaps we can't afford that defenceman. Also, Chummy retires and joins the Team 1200.
This team isn't that good, but you have to hope that the vets can keep up their pace of this year and the newbies develop. Just like this year, our goalies need to get us the rest of the way.
Young - Ottawa's Consensus
Here's how I see the summer unfolding for the sens. As a preface, Im not trading Spezza (the idea is ludicrous, you'd never get full value for him, and Ottawa won't support a bottom feeder for 5 years a la Pittsburgh/Chicago) and I'm not signing Volchenkov. I've made my opinions clear on his contract before, and I cannot bear the thought of him turning into the next Jay McKee.
So this is what I'd do:
1) Let Volchy walk, and go out and sign another, defensive minded defenceman who blocks shots but has slightly more offensive upside than Anton. The only person who comes to mind from this years crop is Zbynek Michalek. At 28 he is the same age as Anton and his career high in goals is nine, not 4. The other nice thing about Little Z as they call him is that he made 1.25 this year. I say sign him to 4 years, 3 mil per and move on with two Michaleks on the team. (NOTE: also would be open to signing Dennis Seidenberg, who is strong at both ends of the ice, but I feel he may be a touch more expensive)
2) Let Cheech play in the minors. The Euge has shown he is willing to do this in the past, and there is no sense having him count against the cap for two more seasons when he can be off the payroll after this year. Remember buyouts count against the cap for twice the remainder of the contract, and that hinders further moves.
3) Offer Matt Cullen what he made this year (2.8) for another 2 years. At his age, that's not bad, and the worst that can happen is he says no.
4) Sign Peter Regin, Nick Foligno and Chris Campoli. I KNOW. But Chris played a good playoffs and at this point he gets a tiny raise (to 0.7 mil) from us, or probably doesn't get a contract. Fact is, he is better than Brian Lee. Period. (Note: Peter Regin 3 year 1.4 mil, foligno 3 year 1.2 mil)
5) Pile all of our awesome Murray draft picks that are playing all over the place in one place: BINGO. Let them learn to play together and for them all to develop together. Give Cowen and Weircoch top minutes in all situations and let Mike Hoffman and Peterson et al play to their hearts content down there. Don't forget Lehner as the starter.
This leaves us with a similar but not same lineup as we finished with, but with some great prospects on the way. I'd like to see a forward selected first round who can also make the jump to the "A" but thats wishful thinking...
- 1) Regin-Spezza-Alfie (why tinker with it, and check out the depth it gives)
- 2A) Foligno-Fisher-Kovalev (or shannon til Kovy is healthy)
- 2B) Michalek-Cullen-Butler
- 4) Ruutu-Kelly-Neil
- Phillips-Karlsson (the kid is the future, give him big minutes and let the big rig guide him)
The goalies are the same.
Cap is about 200k below cap. Beauty right? this summer isn't going to be one of huge changes, that's next year when all sorts of contracts come off the book. I love this forward line-up, its really deep and dynamic.
Nichols - The 6th Sens
Ottawa's in a weird predicament. Not only can one of their best defencemen leave without compensation, there's some mythical movement to expel Jason Spezza out of town in a trade before his NTC kicks in on July 1st. If one or both leave town, Ottawa's in line for a bit of a shake up. However, if both stay, it will likely be status quo for the roster. Regardless, with the moves that Bryan Murray made near the trade deadline, he's shown that management/ownership believe that this ensemble can win in the East. Keeping this in mind, here is the way I wouldn't mind seeing things play out:
1) Bury Jonathan Cheechoo and his cap hit in the AHL. Even though Daniel Alfredsson had successful sports hernia surgery this past week and even though he's considered a great captain who leads by example, I don't think there's any chance that he can show Cheechoo how one effectively comes back from hampering injuries. With buyouts to Alfredsson and Emery already counting against the team's 2010-11 cap situation, Ottawa needs all the cap space that they can muster if they're serious about competing as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference next season. The only way we don't benefit from seeing Cheechoo get bought out is that we're not privy to seeing another Cheechoo song YouTube video.
2) Resign restricted free agents Peter Regin and Nick Foligno to two short-term contracts worth $2.2 million over two years. ($1.1 million cap hit per season.) Both players will probably look for short term deals so that they can capitalize on having more productive seasons in the next year or two.
3) Trade Jarkko Ruutu for a draft pick. With Regin and Milan Michalek occupying the top two left wing spots, Foligno needs to play on the third line. And as a younger and probably cheaper alternative to Ruutu, it's a necessary salary cap era move.
4) Trade Chris Kelly for draft picks. I'll explain my reasoning in a second.
5) Sign Tomas Plekanec to a 4-year, $20 million deal. Unlike some, I don't consider Mike Fisher to be a legitimate second line center. Historically, he's proven himself to be a 40-45 point producer. At 29, he had a career year this past season, but it's not like his point total (53) was considerably better than his career norm. Provided that he continues to receive considerable power play time, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that Fisher can continue to put up 40 points by playing with a former linemate in Chris Neil. Anyways, back to Plekanec. By signing Plekanec, the Senators would have a legitimate second line center who's put up 70 points in two of the last three seasons and has had success playing with Alexei Kovalev in Montreal. I think he's the kind of player who could take the offensive pressure off of Jason Spezza and insulate the team in the event that Kovalev has to retire or isn't retained by the team following the 2010-11 season. Besides, Ottawa hasn't seen a lot of mock turtlenecks around these parts since Alexei Yashin left town.
6) Trade Volchenkov's rights and let Matt Cullen, Andy Sutton and Shean Donovan walk via free agency. All are cap casualties.
7) With Volchenkov gone, Ottawa would need a defenceman to fill the void until their young blueliners are ready to contribute. Defensive defenceman like Volchenkov, Dan Hamhuis and Zbynek Michalek are rumo(u)red to fetch a premium price on the open market, so maybe it'd be a bit more prudent to spend that kind of money on a two-way defenceman like Pavel Kubina. I realize that Paul Martin would be ideal but Kubina will likely go for less on the open market and would be a good security blanket if Kuba leaves the following year. Give him three years and $12 million.
8) Waive Ryan Shannon or bury him in the minors and sign Jesse Winchester to a one year deal worth $700k.
9) Choose between Chris Campoli or Brian Lee and dump the other.
Here are the lines with each player's cap hit:
- Regin (1.1) - Spezza (7.0) - Alfredsson (4.875)
- Michalek (4.33) - Plekanec (5.0) - Kovalev (5.0)
- Foligno (1.1) - Fisher (4.2) - Neil (2.0)
- Z. Smith (583k) - Winchester (700k) - Butler (900k)
- Phillips (3.5) - Kubina (4.0)
- Karlsson (1.3) - Kuba (3.7)
- Campoli (1.0) - Carkner (700k)
- Leclaire (3.8)
- Elliott (850k)