Sens Seek Facelift

After reaching the cup final in 2007, instead of taking the next step forward, the Ottawa Senators have taken several steps back.

Yes the team was crippled with injuries at the absolute wrong time of the year with both Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher falling to injury in the last week of the season. However, the team was in deep trouble well before that and everything blew up in their face in the playoffs getting swept with ease by the Penguins.

The team started like wildfire with a 15-2 record to begin the season. But a horrible 2nd half where they were below .500, taking until game 81 to qualify for the post season and firing their coach along the way took all the momentum away they got from their hot start.

It was definitely trying times for the Sens. As a result, there definitely should be changes made to the team as they look to forget what turned out to be a very forgettable 2007-08 season.

It starts at the top where Bryan Murray will be on the hot seat this season trying to retool the Sens and make them contenders again. He has made all the wrong moves since his appointment as GM and he is fortunate owner Eugene Melnyk did not pull the trigger and fire him as quickly as he did with John Muckler.

Now Murray will have a chance at redemption. He will likely though have a very short leash and a poor start could spell doom for the GM.

His first job will be to find a coach who can whip this talented team into shape. After the trip to the finals and the hot start, the team became complacent, taking things for granted. It seemed a bit of arrogance got in the way of ability and solid team play. Coach John Paddock lost the team and by the time the Sens figured that out, it was too late. Murray is going to have to solidify this area and with several top end coaches becoming available this summer, he’s going to have to hit the home run with this hire.

He’ll also need to augment a roster that needs change and will be forced to make some changes.

Here is how the team looks heading into the off-season


2008-09
CAP HIT – $40.8 million for 13 players.

The Sens aggressively re-signed the core of their team but the question now is can this group get it done? It seems those players lost a bit of their edge having a comfortable guaranteed contract in their hands. The Sens have made a major commitment to these guys and now its time for them to pay the team back. The big money spent has taken up a large chunk of cap space and that will leave little room to make the changes and additions the team needs. There are candidates to be moved/bought out due to these players no longer being in the team’s plans.


UFA
– Wade Redden, Martin Lapointe, Cory Stillman, Chris Kelly, Mike Commodore, Shean Donovan, Randy Robitaille, Luke Richardson


RFA – Antoine Vermette, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Hennessy, Brian McGrattan

Wade Redden’s career in Ottawa is over. It would take a miracle for him to re-sign. Not only would money be a big issue, the fact is, the Sens need a change, and with Redden being one of their key players and leaders who has proven he cannot get it done, a new direction is needed. He has had a good career in Ottawa but for himself he too needs change. The focus on free agents will be on Vermette and Meszaros. They are good young players with excellent potential for more. But the team does not want to break the bank over these two. Seeing the contracts handed out to players like Stephen Weiss and Martin Erat, Vermette could be looking for something in between those two. They are comparable talents. Meszaros will be interesting as he had an amazing rookie season followed by two so so seasons. The team will also want to bring back Kelly, but he may price himself out of Ottawa.

Under Contract:


Goal – Martin Gerber, Ray Emery

After hiring a coach, goaltending will be Murray’s next biggest task. Emery will not be back. He has played his last game in Ottawa and the team desperately needs to get rid of him. He has talent to be a number 1 goalie and when he is on, he could easily solve the goalie issues that have plagued Ottawa for quite some time. We saw what he could bring during the team’s run to the finals. However he is a distraction with his off ice problems and issues in not following team rules. He is disruptive and poisoned the chemistry in the room. He was perhaps the main reason for the firing of Paddock it will be near impossible for any team to take him off the Sens hands. A buyout is in order here. As for Gerber, well he just is not consistent enough to be the main guy in Ottawa. The pressure here is enormous and its time the Sens bring in a front line goalie. The team will probably ride out the last year of Gerber’s contract. But definitely he will have someone in camp to challenge him for the number 1 job.


Defence – Brian Lee, Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips, Cristoph Schubert

The loss of Redden will negatively impact the Sens more than they think. He logged big minutes, played in all situations and when on, was a great stabilizer back on D. There is now a major void offensively when he leaves. With Corvo already been moved out, the onus is on Meszaros to be the main offensive guy. The Sens need to find him some help. Young Lee is a possibility in a secondary role. He is adept at moving the puck, making smart passes and has offensive upside. But he might be a bit too inexperienced to be handed the PP QB duties and slip into Redden’s shoes. Defensively the team has rocks in Phillips and Volchenkov who are among the best at blocking shots. Together they are one of the best shutdown pairs in the league. The team lacks however a defensive presence on the other pairs and can be exposed in their own zone. The team could use a bit more muscle and toughness on D. Maybe allowing Schubert to play full time on D will give them some of the edge they need on defence. The blueline is definitely an area that needs and upgrade, that needs help and that needs to improve.


Forward – Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike FIsher, Nick Foligno, Chris Neil, Dean McAmmond

There were thoughts of maybe breaking up the top line and trading someone from there to shake up the team. But why break up one of the few things that works. Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley are terrific together. They are perhaps the most potent trio in the league. Keeping them intact will assure the Sens of having a decent offence. The key is Alfredsson as his presence makes everything click. Injuries are starting to creep in and his absence last year was a blow to the team. He knows no other way to play than all out and has proven to be an excellent leader. You cannot ask him to slow it down but he may need to if he wants to stay healthy. Heatley is a top sniper and should be good for 50 goals again if he plays a full season. Spezza’s next step is 100 points. He got close last season and is poised to break the century mark. He showed off his goal scoring ability notching 34 last year. They need him to score and not just be a passer. The depth behind the big 3 is lacking. Fisher, Vermette have 20 goal ability but thats it. They’ll need a youngster like a Foligno to emerge as a scorer and add some depth. There is also missing a true checking unit as they have not been able to find the right mix for that role. And for an eternity the team is in need of grit, leadership, heart and toughness up front. Forever the team has neglected to bring in a guy who can help Alfredsson lead the way.


Top Prospects


Goal: Brian Elliott

Elliott
is an ok prospect who would benefit from more development. He got a brief taste of the NHL and did not look too out of place earning a victory. If the Sens completely overhaul the position this summer, Elliot could be a solid candidate to serve as a backup as he would be affordable. Another minor pro season would best serve his development and in about a year he could definitely be part of the team’s parent roster.


Defence: Kirill Lyamin, Tomas Kudelka

Their top defence prospect, Brian Lee, is with the team now. All 5 of the team’s top 5 blueliners are original Senators. The team has done an excellent job finding NHL calibre blueliners and the trend must continue. The ranks are a bit thin with just Lyamin and Kudelka on the radar. This will be an area the Sens will need to add more depth. Lee though should make up some of the loss with the departure of Redden. He’s made major strides going from a sophmore in college to the AHL to the NHL in a year. He definitely has top 4 calibre talent.


Forward: Ilya Zubov, Josh Hennessy, Jim O’Brien, Kaspars Daugavins, Alexander Nikulin, Peter Regin, Igor Mirnov, Cody Bass
Due to some of their cap issues, the Sens may be left with little choice but to find scoring depth within. Foligno with his grit and willingness to go to the net should find a way to pot a few tap ins and tip ins with more ice time. The team is very high on Hennessy whom they acquired in the Martin Havlat trade and they hope maybe he can win the 2nd line centre job next season. Zubov is another candidate for that role and he fared pretty well in his first season in North America. He even made his NHL debut with Ottawa this past year. Bass wont provide much scoring, but he along with Foligno will add some sandpaper and grit to the forward ranks and youthful enthusiasm physically which is something the Sens need. Someone must emerge and be able to provide some scoring acumen to the team if it wishes to move forward. Buying the offence could be a difficult task.
The depth in the draft could allow the Sens to retool what has been a thinned out farm system. As hosts, the team will definitely be picking in the first round and will probably just grab the best player available as the team needs to replenish all areas. The team may need to think about adding another goalie to the system. Elliott may be at best a backup and Emery is going to be chased out of town so depth is a bit of a concern. They’ll probably focus on this in the middle rounds and hope that a guy like Kevin Poulin or Chet Pickard fall out of the first two rounds. They definitely need more depth on defence and with this draft, defence oriented, they could definitely filll a big hole with their top pick. Perhaps they will pick Tyler Cuma who plays with the jr club in Ottawa. Or maybe another OHL blueliner like Michael Del Zotto who would be another young, skilled blueliner to add to the likes of Lee and Meszaros. The team probably could use a highly skilled forward. They need another late round steal like they got when they picked up Havlat a few years back. Mikail Stefanovich and Mattias Teddenby would fit that bill as as highly skilled forwards. There are plenty of ways the Sens could go to stock up their future and as the home team, there should be plenty to cheer about at the draft.
For the current group of Sens, there isnt much to cheer for at all. The best chance to win may have come and gone with their loss to the Ducks in 2007. They looked overwhelmed and overmatched in losing to the Pens and with more changes and departures due this summer, the team may take another step back. It will unlikely be so bad they’d miss the playoffs. The team is too talented to let that happen. But they definitely need great improvements behind the bench and in goal if they have any aspirations of moving forward. For years arrogance has gotten in the way of the team acquiring the best players available, the best people around to work for the team. Its time now they bite the bullet and do whatever is necessary to find the depth they need, to rectify the chemistry issues and bring in the right people and the people they need. The Sens are simply going to have to bite the bullet and do whatever it takes if they want to bring a championship to the Nation’s Capital. They have nothing to boast about after last year’s debacle and hopefully it wont get any worse than that.


12 Responses to Sens Seek Facelift

  1. jimbob says:

    Just like to start off by saying that Muckler was not let go quickly.  First round loss to Toronto (again), 2nd round loss to Buffalo in 05/06 were his first two years under Melnyk.
    Murray got rid of a player with a large contract (Corvo) who didn't want to play in Ottawa anymore, so good on him.  It cost him Patrick Eaves, who seems to digress with every injury.
    The problem with Ottawa is one that has been occurring since the new CBA.  A team does really well when its biggest players have yet to be tagged with franchise contracts.  Eric Staal with Carolina, Lecavalier and St Louis with Tampa, after next year Zetterberg is going to be paid more than 7 million a season.  I honestly think that they have paid too much for the spezza-heatley combo.  If they were to trade one of them, the amount of high end prospects and young players that would yield (like say, trading heatley to Edmonton for Penner, Pitkanen and Cogliano or Spezza for Backstrom and Fehr) would be worth it in the long run.

  2. mojo19 says:

    Sorry all for bringing the Leafs into this but how would you all like this?

    Neil for Wellwood. It would be a shake up trade for both sides. Welly was terrible last year but was scoring at a 60-70 point pace the year before.

    From Ottawa's stand point it would be a high risk, high reward scenario as Wellwood could add some affordable secondary scoring and has the skillset to be a 60+ point guy. On the other hand he's flakey, hence the risk.

    From Toronto's stand point they make a change and bring in a guy who is a solid 2nd-3rd line guy and brings toughness to a team that shows little emotion. He doesn't have Wellwood's offensive potential, but can be counted on to contribute here and there and brings other intangeables. Could be a beneficial swap for both sides, no?

  3. muckies says:

    A few prospect notes, the Sens aren't high at all on Hennesey and Tim Murray basically called him a career AHL'er with all the tools besides the brain to paly in the NHL. They are massively high on Petr Regin from Denmark who they drafted years ago after the Shane Hnidy trade to Nashville. Many scouts think he was the best player in the Swedish Elite League last season and he could even make the Sens roster out of Camp, Tim Murray said he can play in the NHL at this point, just not sure if it an everyday thing yet. The two Russian forwards, Nikulin and Zubov may have a future, but may go play in the new Russian Elite League as they are both super skilled, they may make the team, but it's a matter of balancing out the roster with not too many rookies at forward – THIS IS NOT A GROWING YEAR FOR THE SENS, THEY HAVE TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS NEXT YEAR OR MANY MNAY MANY PEOPLE WILL BE OUT OF WORK, MAYBE FOR GOOD IN THE NHL.

    The Spezza rumours won't go away, and look for the Sens to maybe suck up some money and do a trade like this. It's unlikely Murray will trade him for the simple reason he can't sign players long term at discount wages and then flip them before the contract kicks in, it'll ruin his reputation forever.  But Murray will be retired in a couple of seasons anyway and he showed with Kariya that he'll be a mercenary and screw players around to get his way.  
    LA – Spezza & Emery
    Ott – 2nd overall, Cammalerri,  Cloutier and the Sens eat the rest of Cloutiers contract. 
    Murray might also trade Vermette and Meszaros, look for the Sens to sign Kalinin or Campbell this summer, or both if he trades Mezaros. 
    Emery isn't a sure thing, but he has been training really hard all summer, has a lot to prove and at 2 years 6 million, it's a lot, but no big free agents are going to L.A anyways, so they'll have the cap space. L.A. get two poster boys who will fit in great, and Emery when he is one is a top 10 goalie in the NHL, and gives you so much grit and competative edge on the ice it completly changes the dynamic of the team. Could be a real come back year for him and make the LA GM look like a genius. I think Emery will have a huge bounce back season, and even though I know he has to leave Ottawa, I'll be sad to see him go. The best goalie we ever had and he's already gone. SUCKS 
    Murray also wants to get rid of Dean Maccamond, maybe Gerber if he can sign another goalie.
    My projected lineup
    Heatley – Spezza – Alfie
    Regin – Vermette – Stillman
    Kelly – Fisher- Foligno
    Donovan Bass – Neil
    Volchenkov – Phillips
    Lee- CAMPBELL
    Meszaros – Schubert
    Gerber
    ?????
  4. UWSensFan says:

    Neil's a solid 3rd liner for us, and Wellwood would probably end up being just that.  The second line for next year (hopefully) will be:
    Stillman – Fisher – Alfie
    with a first line of:
    Heatley – Spezza – Vermette
    With Alfie and Vermette switching it up if need be.

    What worries me is getting the likes of Chris Kelly under contract.  He's a fantastic 3rd line center, and has always been great on the PK for us.

  5. Kramer says:

    The Sens players were injected with alien DNA.  That's why they collapsed this year.  It's all part of a government scheme to add martian DNA to the genome to populate Mars.

  6. wayne2 says:

    We will need help on defense and offense,unfortunately the best goalies are either under contract or RFA's.I do see a chaeper than Campbell way to help on defense,he would bring experience and stability and would be great paired with Brian Lee.Brad Stuart.Another option is Brooks Orpik.Either one would help the sens.I hope Regin is good cause we need him.I'd love for the sens to sign Ryan Malone.Vermette,Meszaros and Donavan as well.
    Offense:
    1-Foligno/Spezza/Heatley(right winger originaly)
    2-Malone/Vermette/Alfredson
    3-Regin/Fisher/Neil
    4-McKammond/Bass/Donavan
    Defense:
    1-Phillips/Volchenkov
    2-Stuart/Lee
    3-Schubert/Meszaros
    Goalies:
    1-Gerber
    2-Elliott

  7. HABSSTAR says:

    This team needs an injection of PAT BURNS! 

  8. PointMeAtTheSky says:

    The only FA's I would retain are Vermette, Meszaros and Stillman. I would retain Kelly, but reports are saying that he wants 2.5 million…way too much.

    Let the rest walk.

    Keep Foligno, Bass and Lee up.

    Get rid of Emery, and get a solid back-up who won't pressure Gerber. Unfortunately Martin folds when pressured, but excels when he's sure he's number 1.

    I was thinking maybe LA would be willing to give up Preissing..he didn't seem to have a good year. They still need goaltending, so how about Emery for Preissing.

    Try to sign Jason Smith.

    Stillman-Spezza-Heatley
    Vermette-Fisher-Alfredsson
    Foligno-McAmmond-Neil
    Schubert-Bass-

    Phillips-Preissing
    Volchenkov-Meszaros
    Lee-Smith

    Gerber
    Back-Up.

    In the draft…I'm really liking Chet Pickard. Don't know why, but my gut tells me he will be good. However, I'm also liking Tyler Cuma.

    We have the 18th and 42nd overall picks…it would be nice to draft Cuma with the 18th and nab one of Pickard, Marstrom, Sateri.

    That gives us a solid two-way defenseman and a promising goalie prospect.

  9. dcz28 says:

    Brad Stuart will either sign with the Wings are go back to Cali (where his wife is from). He's said that he would like to stay in Detroit and unless he gets a case of "Markov" (asking for way too much money after one good season in Detroit) i expect him to be in Detroit next season.

  10. pezzz says:

    Emery was a cancer in the lockeroom last year, agreed. but he wasn't the only one. another big problem was Jason Spezza. we must trade him now that he has big value on the market. Colombus are looking for a #1 centerman to play with Nash, Spezza is their man.

    first, convince Redden to wave is no-trade

    to Colombus : Jason Spezza, Jeff Glass, Alexander Nikulin, Wade Redden (Colombus resign him immediatly after the trade)

    to Ottawa : Zherdev, Steve Mason, Gilbert Brule, Ron Hainsey (sens resign him after the trade), 6th pick overall.

    then,

    buy-out Emery.
    resign Hainsey to 4 years, 15 millions (3.75/year)
    resign Chris Kelly to 4 years, 11 millions (2.75/year)
    resign Vermette to 6 years, 24 millions (4/year)
    resign Stillman to 2 years, 6.5 millions (3.25/year)
    resign Donovan to 3 years, 2.4 millions (.800/year)
    resgin Commodore to 3 years, 7.2 millions (2.4/year)
    resign Meszaros to 4 years, 12 millions (3/year)
    sign Kristian Huselius to 4 years, 18 millions (4.5/year)
    trade Dean Mccammond
    let Robitaille and Lapointe walk
    resign McGrattan to 1.2 millions for 2 years (.600/year)

    Huselius (4.5) – Vermette (4) – Heatley (7.5)
    Stillman (3.25) – Fisher (4.2) – Alfredsson (4.414)
    Foligno (.650) – Kelly (2.75) – Neil (1.1)
    Donovan (.800) – Bass (.510) – Schubert (.883)

    Phillips (3.5) – Volchenkov (2.5)
    Hainsey (3.75) – Commodore (2.4)
    Meszaros (3) – Lee (.850)

    Gerber (3.7)
    Elliot (.758)

    cap hit : 55.015 on projected 56.3.

    if Meszaros underachives again this year, trade him at the deadline along with Chris Neil for offensive depth and veteran d-man.

    in summer 09, resign Gerber to 1 year, 3 million, and if the Sens aren't making the playoffs at the deadline, trade him to a team seeking goaltending depth for the playoffs and bring Steve Mason with the big club.

  11. pezzz says:

    Emery was a cancer in the lockeroom last year, agreed. but he wasn't the only one. another big problem was Jason Spezza. we must trade him now that he has big value on the market. Colombus are looking for a #1 centerman to play with Nash, Spezza is their man.

    first, convince Redden to wave is no-trade

    to Colombus : Jason Spezza, Jeff Glass, Alexander Nikulin, Wade Redden (Colombus resign him immediatly after the trade)

    to Ottawa : Zherdev, Steve Mason, Gilbert Brule, Ron Hainsey (sens resign him after the trade), 6th pick overall.

    then,

    buy-out Emery.
    resign Hainsey to 4 years, 15 millions (3.75/year)
    resign Chris Kelly to 4 years, 11 millions (2.5/year)
    resign Vermette to 6 years, 24 millions (4/year)
    resign Stillman to 2 years, 6.5 millions (3.25/year)
    resign Donovan to 3 years, 2.4 millions (.800/year)
    resgin Commodore to 3 years, 7.2 millions (2.4/year)
    resign Meszaros to 4 years, 12 millions (3/year)

    trade Dean Mccammond
    let Robitaille and Lapointe walk
    resign McGrattan to 1.2 millions for 2 years (2-way contract)(.600/year)
    send Brule to Binghampton

    Heatley (7.5) – Vermette (4) – Alfredsson (4.414)
    Stillman (3.25) – Fisher (4.2) – Zherdev (2.5)
    Foligno (.650) – Kelly (2.75) – Neil (1.1)
    Donovan (.800) – Bass (.510) – Schubert (.883)

    Phillips (3.5) – Volchenkov (2.5)
    Hainsey (3.75) – Commodore (2.5)
    Meszaros (3) – Lee (.850)

    Gerber (3.7)
    Elliot (.758)

    cap hit : 54.00 (approximate, see buy-out rules) on projected 56.3.

    if there's any injury, you can call up Brule, Winchester or Regin.
    and there's enough space left under the cap to seek a playoff rental at the deadline (#1-2 center or veteran d-man)

    if Meszaros underachives again this year, trade him at the deadline along with Chris Neil and Gilbert Brule for offensive depth and veteran d-man.

    in summer 09, resign Gerber to 1 year, 3 million, and if the Sens aren't making the playoffs at the deadline, trade him to a team seeking goaltending depth for the playoffs and bring Steve Mason up with the big club.

  12. cartino says:

    I keep reading all the doomsayers saying the Sens time has past, bla bla I have to disagree.

    They still have a solid core in their prime to build around which not all teams do. to get over the hump from lasy year I feel they only need to do 2 things to be a competitive threat again.

    (1) A tough hard-ass coach is what this team needs to make them play a solid system and hold Spezza I mean um.. all the players accountable. Someone who without fear will bench spezza if he floats around center ice and turns the puck over with his no-look behind the back pass's. Burns would be perfect but could live with Hartley, Tortorella and Hartsburg.

    I also believe this team needs to go back to playing a more defensive system ala Jacques Martin years. They still were in the top 5 scoring but need to be more responsible. (Just get a meaner coach with more passion).

    (2) Fix goaltending, Gerber is not going to bring them the cup or take them deep. I keep reading people saying as long as he's handled properly or not pressured … not acceptable you can't have someone that fragile/shakey to lead you. Everyone knows Emery will be bought out and done. Sad part is their are not too many good goalies available via UFA (Huet is decent but think Washington may keep him).

    Couple other notes:

    a) The defence needs to be improved with better puck moving ability. I would try and get Preissing back from LA for a 2nd round pick he was a good #4-5 d-man with a good +/- and could move the puck.

    Other than that they have Phillips/A-train who are as good as they get for shutting people down (can't move puck very well though). Schubert should go back to D, Lee should get a spot.  This opens up a slot Mezaros if he can be re-signed for under 3mil (other wise let him walk) and perhaps grab another one via UFA (Streit or Orpik maybe) or try an big RFA offer sheet (who cares about next years 1st pick) maybe one for Shea Webber.

    b) Try and get a goalie, even if you have to trade Vermette, a 1st rounder, or go for a big name if you have to trade Spezza or Heatley but we need a quality starter and put to rest once and for all… that Ottawa has goaltending issues.

    c) Most forwards are returning, and despite everyone screaming for Heatley or Spezza to be traded I'd keep them. I truly believe with the right coach who makes Spezza accountable, he will become a a top 5 scorer and play a respectful 2 way game. you'll obviously have to plug in 2-3 spots. I'd resign Stillman if possible, maybe see what Malone is going for but probably no cap space for him.

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