Yesterday the Senators announced a Mika Zibanejad recall from Binghamton.
At first glance, the news is surprising in the sense that when looking at his cumulative body of work this season; injuries and inconsistent production have plagued the young Swedish center. In fact, they contributed to why the Senators did not extend him an invitation to their abbreviated training camp.
So although he only has four goals and eleven points in 23 games, since returning to the Binghamton lineup on January 12th, he has three goals, four points, 26 shots, and is a +6 in seven games.
Is this recent stretch of good play indicative of just how important the organization views points in this 48-game schedule?
It sure seems that way.
I’m not sure whether Daniel Alfredsson’s absence (due to the flu) necessitated putting a recuperating Guillaume Latendresse (undisclosed lower-body injury) back into the lineup on Sunday, but should either player continue to miss games in the interim, the Senators will certainly need bodies in their top six that can skate MacLean’s 200’, play at both ends of the rink and fill the net.
Zack Smith also missed practice on Monday, a noted rare occurence. Speculation seems to be his absence may be related to this hit delivered from Craig Adams late in the third period on Sunday:
In any case, there are a few health related question marks among the forwards corps.
So if Mika gets into a game this week, what can we expect?
It’s no secret that Latendresse moves around the ice at a pace that resembles traffic on the 417 whenever snowfall exceeds 3 cm, but for as much as Zibanejad tantalizes with his physical tools and combines size and speed, there is some question what he bring to the table offensively at this stage of his development. MacLean may also choose to place Mika in a defensive posture among the bottom six, something he wasn't afraid to do a little of last October.
As we’ve seen with Jakob Silfverberg, it took some time to adjust to the "North American game" in Binghamton this season, it takes another adjustment to perform at the game’s highest level.
With the AHL All-Star Break, maybe this is just an opportunity for the coaching staff to monitor and evaluate Zibanejad to see where his game is at. Such a decision would be akin to how the organization tried to "reset" and instill some confidence in Cody Ceci and Stefan Noesen by bringing the two to the team’s training camp.
It’s certainly intriguing to see Zibanejad receive the call over other prospects like Mike Hoffman or Mark Stone; especially since the former was invited to Ottawa’s training camp and from all accounts, impressed those watching.
Or there’s that…
It’s worth reiterating that because of Zibanejad’s late birth date, his entry-level contract will slide in the event that he appears in less than six NHL games this season.
If a player aged 18 or 19 signs an entry-level contract with a club (with his age calculated on Sept. 15 of the year he signed the contract) but does not play in at least 10 NHL games, the contract will "slide" or be extended one year. The extension does not apply if the player turns 20 between Sept. 16 and Dec. 31 in the year he signed the contract.
Depending on the contract's structure, the player's cap hit can be affected either by an increase or a decrease. Players who sign at age 18 can have their contract extended (or "slide") two seasons.
For what it’s worth, because of the 48-game season, this ten game threshold has been reduced to six games. In other words, if a teenager plays in more than five games, the first year of his ELC will not slide.
Taking into account the shortened schedule, Mika’s injuries and his inconsistent production, his ELC status is a twist that I was not expecting to spend too much time thinking about.
But here we are, fancy that.
He's up to see his girlfriend, and has very good timing: Latendresse is a wounded slug, Zach Smith has a serious owie, Alfie is coming off a cold, the Sens have one point out of a possible four in the last two games, and they are facing a struggling opponent back to back against a somewhat resurgent one. I suspect Alfie will be back in, Latendresse will be out, and Zach Smith will get limited minutes on a sore frame.