Senators Offseason Preview

The Ottawa Senators were an exception to the rule. Under the old CBA, they were able to assemble a highly competitive team with a low payroll. Many believe that a team with so much young talent like Ottawa will suffer under this new CBA, however, this is not true. This team will be better than it was before. Here is what you can look forward to this offseason from the Senators.Current Financial Position

Daniel Alfredsson – $4.7 million

Zdeno Chara – $3.7 million

Wade Redden – $3.7 million

Dominik Hasek – $2.3 million

Greg de Vries – $2.3 million

Bryan Smolinski – $2.2 million

Chris Phillips – $1.97 million

Vaclav Varada – $1.2 million

Peter Schaefer – $1 million

Brian Pothier – $0.5 million

Total for 10 players – $23.6 million

Restricted Free Agents – Mike Fisher, Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa, Chris Neil, Martin Prusek, Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Anton Volchenkov, Todd White, Josh Langfeld.

Unrestricted Free Agents – Peter Bondra, Curtis Leschyshyn, Todd Simpson, Shaun Van Allen, Rob Ray.

Re-Signings and Buy-Outs

John Muckler has quite a few decisions on his hands. It is being widely speculated that both Bryan Smolinski and Greg de Vries will be bought out, after all, in the new system, 2.3 million for a 4th defenseman and 2.2 for a third liner will be too much. These buyouts would bring the team payroll to 19.1 million for 8 players.

The Senators would also love to lock up Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza long term. Unfortunately, that is unrealistic at this point. Havlat and Spezza, being up and coming players, will likely ask for 1 or 2 year deals. Mike Fisher, after 2 injury plagued seasons does not have much leverage, so he will also ask for such a deal. Marian Hossa is the most likely to be signed to a longterm contract. I could see him signing for 4 or 5 years, for a salary that starts at 4.5 million and increases to 5.5 at the end of the deal.

Anton Volchenkov, Antoine Vermette and Chris Neil will also be re-signed to modest deals.

Todd White is an intriguing player. He was Jacques Martin’s guy. However, he is not a John Muckler player. I’m sure Ottawa would like to have him back, as he would be a good 3rd line center (not 1st, like Martin had him), however he will likely have to take even less money than the $988 000 he has to be qualified at. If he wants to remain a Senator, he’ll likely make in the 6 to 7 hundred thousand range. If not, I can see him in Florida next season.

I would not expect to see any of the UFAs back, with the possible exception of Leschychyn is he takes under a million.

There is also a possibility that Martin Prusek could be traded. The team believes that Ray Emery is ready to handle back-up duties, and trading Prusek would create cap room and could fetch a decent return.

Possible UFA Targets

Needs: Gritty centerman or LWer, depth defensemen.

Rod Brind’Amour – Likely buyout from Carolina. He’s an Ottawa native who plays a gritty game and can win faceoffs. Ottawa expressed interest in him last trade deadline, but his 5 million dollar price tag was too much.

Gary Roberts – He’s a Senator killer. Bringing him to Ottawa would be a smart move. Steve Simmons reported that Ottawa will offer him more than Toronto can. Roberts expressed interest in coming to Ottawa when he was a UFA, but at that time, Ottawa could not offer enough money.

Joe Nieuwendyk – Good centerman who can win faceoffs. Probably has one more year left. He and Roberts want to play together, so they could be a packaged deal.

Martin Gelinas – Gritty playoff performer. Just what Ottawa needs.

Tyler Wright – Gritty 4th line center who’ll come cheap.

Martin Lapointe – Will have to take a huge paycut.

Team Loyalty

Back to my original point. Many believe that Ottawa will be dismantled by this CBA, as many of their best players are just hitting their prime. With liberalized free-agency, this could be a problem. However, few consider a very large factor: team loyalty.

The majority of the Senators’ core has never been on a different NHL team. They were drafted by Ottawa, and they “grew up” as NHLers in Ottawa. There have not been many changes to this team over the years, and management has been loyal to players such as Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson has returned that loyalty, signing a longterm deal for less than he could’ve gotten on the open market. He also differed a portion of his salary to make trade deadline acquisitions possible. Kind of ironic considering he’s on the NHLPA executive committee.

Many of these young players have started families here, and are extremely comfortable in the community. This played into Alfredsson’s decision, and it will surely play into others.

There have already been signs of this loyalty. Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, and once again, Daniel Alfredsson have hinted that they will take paycuts to assure that Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat be signed longterm.

You get the sense that the “Ray Bourque salary cap” is in affect on this team. No player will ask for more than Daniel Alfredsson makes.

So this team will not be dismantled. For the most part, it will stay together.

TheCoach’s Projected Lineup

Havlat (2.5) Spezza (1.3) Hossa (4.5)

Schaefer (1.0) Fisher (1.0) Alfredsson (4.7)

Roberts (1.4) Brind’Amour (1.1) Vermette (0.55)

Varada (1.2) White (0.75) Neil (0.45)

Redden (3.7) Volchenkov (0.75)

Chara (3.7) Phillips (1.97)

Pothier (0.5) Leschcyhyn (0.8)

Hasek (2.3)

Emery (0.45)

Total payroll: 34.62 million.

It should be fun!