During a media scrum this afternoon, Bryan Murray was posed the question by a reporter, “What does (Mika) Zibanejad have to do to stick around?”
“I don’t know that he has to be the second line center or not. He just has to see if he can be one of the twelve best forwards. If that be the case, it’s a big step. He played in the (Swedish) Elite League against men. We’d like to think that our league is better. That our team is better than it was last year by a margin and for a young guy to play on it, he just has to be able to compete every day and hopefully develops along the way. We don’t want to retard his development by putting him a position in which he doesn’t get a lot of ice-time.”
On the surface, you’d think that the first bolded statement conflicts with the latter. If Zibanejad’s not playing top six minutes, one would assume that he’d be playing with less talented players on one of Ottawa’s bottom two lines. While true that bottom six minutes can be supplemented with the odd specialty team shift, it’s rare for an 18 year old player to receive significant, if any, PK time.
I know when I first heard about Murray’s comments, my initial reaction on Twitter (@6thsens) was, Sweet. Nothing like burning a year off Zibanejad's ELC to have him play 4th line minutes.
In consideration of this offseason’s transactions that included the UFA signing of Zenon Konopka and the re-signing of Zach Smith to a one-way contract, Ottawa added these two to a group that already included Jason Spezza, Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester, and potentially Nick Foligno. (Or if you’re feeling really audacious, you can expand the list to include Stephane Da Costa or Corey Locke.)
Looking at that group, there’s a rational argument to be made that as an 18-year old rookie, the likelihood that Zibanejad could outperform one of Ottawa’s top three centers is small. In this year’s McKeen’s Hockey Yearbook, they project him to put up a modest 8 goals and 14 assists. To put this in perspective, if he approaches these kinds of numbers, he’d be producing at a rate similar to Zach Smith’s 2010-11 season (4 goals and 5 assists in 55 GP).
While I do recognize and understand the common sentiment that it makes for a better fan experience to watch the future now, the value of what Zibanejad can offer at such a young over a replacement player isn’t large enough to succumb to the temptation of keeping him around. In addition to that point, Jared Cowen and David Rundblad both stand a very good chance of cracking this year’s squad so the yearnings for ‘prospect porn’ should be satiated.
In fairness to Zibanejad, one could raise the argument that he could surpass McKeen’s projected totals but there’s some inherent risk there. I remain unconvinced that it’s worth losing the first year off of his entry-level contract so that he can play at the highest professional level. With Ottawa not spending to the cap ceiling threshold, it might not seem like that big of a deal now but the importance of one more inexpensive season from Zibanejad down the road cannot be understated. The cap savings could be extremely important in three years when the organization has a better chance of being more competitive and can use that space to make an expensive trade deadine rental or summer free agent signing to augment the team’s young core.
And really, would another year in the Swedish Elite League adversely affect his development?
It’s not like he has nothing left to prove at that level. Djurgarden would likely offer him more minutes and feature him in a more prominent role. He would also be afforded the opportunity to play for Sweden in the U-20 WJHC.
I’m interested in what you readers think, so have at it in the comments thread.
First and foremost, one would have to assume the GM knows best, that there are variables to this beyond either our scope of understanding, or knowledge, making their decision somewhat beyond our ability to completely evaluate.
But where's the fun in that?
Assuming we do know best, I would tend to agree with your thoughts, with one caveat; What if the Senators would be better off not spending money on UFA's in the near future? Maybe, at the end of the day, having groomed prospects you know, and have to pay to retain, is better than cap space blown in a competitive market of UFA signing?
Possibly the recent past of signing UFA's has been shown to be too much of a risk, considering the associated premium, making internal development, and retention, the better course of action.
Just a thought.
Thanks for a good read.
It will be up to Mika to compete for a spot on the roster. Top six minutes in the SEL are probably better developmentally than fourth line minutes with Ottawa if we project him as a top six forward. It would be difficult for him to develop the skill part of his game without skilled line mates.
KarenWilliams - I don`t understand how he would get 100 games playing with the Sens. Bare in mind that the transfer agreement with SEL does not allow him to play in the AHL. It`s either NHL or back to the SEL for Mika.
Once the sens pay for the transfer fee he can play in the AHL if he wants. The only thing is that the player must be presented the opportunity to go back home. See Tedenby last year. But regardless, Mika has said that he would go back home if he didn't make the NHL.
Pre-season + regular season will be close to 100 games and potentially more than that if Mika plays in the AHL or NHL playoffs.
The SEL transfer agreement excludes AHL play. Tredenby was not under SEL contract last year so he was free to play wherever the Devils wanted him. Andre Petersson is no longer under SEL contract and will be free to play in the NHL, AHL even ECHL. On 7 February 2011, Zibanejad signed a two-year contract extension with Djurgården so he can only play in the SEL or NHL. The fee does not negate the transfer agreement. It is a penalty paid after SEL rosters have been set and increases closer to the start of their season. You can find the dates online if you are interested.
I don't think most people count preseason and rookie camp as NHL games but I understand now how you get 100 games. You do realize he can participate in Senators camps, preseason play, WJU20, even some regular season NHL games and return for the SEL season. He can even rejoin the Sens after the SEL season but he cant play for Bingo till his SEL contract expires.
Don't know what to tell you. Both Bryan and Tim Murray have confirmed Mika's contract status.
If the information on Josefson's contract status is accurate then he and the Devils violated the NHL's transfer agreement with the SEL (as most interpret it). It wouldn't be the first time Lou broke the rules.
I haven't been able to find text of the actual agreement anywhere. If you find it a link would be appreciated. Thanks
There was a mistake on elite prospect regarding tedenby's contract situation I think. But Jacob Josefson was definitely under contract and was assigned to albany.
"Josefson re-signed with Djurgården for another year on 27 April 2010. Despite this and an oral guarantee the club received from Josefson's agent Peter Wallén that Josefson would stay, Josefson signed with the New Jersey Devils on 14 May 2010. New Jersey Devils Josefson participated in the pre-season camp with the Devils in September, but was assigned to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Albany Devils after the camp."
I know Pierre McGuire and Bobby Mac kept repeating that the AHL is not an option during their draft coverage but it actually is and I'm right on this. It's rare but it's possible.
This is why I love this blog. So pragmatic and informed. Not like those retards over at sens underground.
@S_Church If you don't like the content at sens underground, don't read it. I happen to enjoy their podcasts, and have been listening for years. Don't call them retards just because they aren't your particular flavour of coverage.
I would fully support keeping Mika in Sweden for another year. Good league and save on the ECL. Makes perfect sense.
Playing third line in the NHL is a lot like playing any line on Djurgarden. I don't think there's a scenario possible in which Mika would be playing 20 minutes night. Not Ottawa, not Djurgarden, not bingo.
Also, if a player has developmental years in the NHL, the contract demands will be less aggressive. If UFA years come earlier, he'll be easier to lock up.
That's why I think there's no way to go horribly wrong here. That said I think the NHL would be best if he's at the point where we can throw him on the ice without seeing him embarrass himself on every shift. He'll be learning the NHL game instead of the Swedish game, he'll have possibilities to command more ice time and he will play likely over 100 games if he stays in Canada compared to 55 in Sweden.
@KarenWilliams Fair points. (Although, I disagree with your point that he'll be easier to lock up if his UFA year comes earlier. That's completely dependent upon how good the player is - like Drew Doughty's contract right now.)
Thanks for providing some arguments that lend itself to the other side of the coin. Your point about the number of relative games is one I did not even consider.