The Ottawa Senators didn't look crisp from the start last night as the Detroit Red Wings took full advantage of a shorthanded defense corps with 2 AHL call-ups on the blueline. The Wings scored twice on the powerplay in a 4-1 win over the red hot Senators.
There were a few bright spots for Ottawa though, the line of Peter Regin, Alex Kovalev and the newly acquired Matt Cullen from the Carolina Hurricanes was easily the Sens best line. Cullen was 62% in the faceoff circle while creating a few solid scoring chances for his linemates. His veteran leadership and consistent scoring will really balance the Sens scoring.
Derek Smith one of the two call-ups on the blueline played a very sound game and in simple hockey terms, “worked his butt off” all night long. He had a little over fifteen of icetime and had a much more solid game than Brian Lee. How Lee garnered over twenty of icetime is beyond me. Regardless if the Sens are trying to showcase Lee, it blows me away how he gets caught not moving his feet over and over. Countless times he was burned wide and his lack of physical play makes Lee extremely one dimensional. The sad part in it all is that even his supposedly very good offensive upside is lacking. It's quite obvious to see he has no confidence and needs to be moved come the NHL trade deadline as he doesn't fit into the teams longterm plans.
Jesse Winchester continues to struggle since returning from injury which really is too bad after playing his best hockey before getting injured back at the end of December.
The Sens were outshot 40-30 and Brian Elliott didn't make one game changing save. Look for Pascal LeClaire to get the start in the goal today as the Sens visit the NY Islanders.
With the Sens so thin on defense it comes as no surprise that Ottawa GM Bryan Murray is looking for depth on the blueline. He really wants a top four defensemen and I am told that the Sens have had a few of their scouts attend a fair of amount of Nashville Predators games of late. A scout has been spotted at a few Milwaukee Admiral's games too, the Preds AHL affiliate. I was told the Sens are in serious talks of acquiring defensemen Dan Hamhuis. I am told the Preds have asked for 2 different packages in return for Hamhuis. The first one is Brian Lee and Chris Kelly, the second one would be Lee and a 1st round pick with a prospect on the blueline going back with Hamhuis. The prospect would play in Binghamton immediately.
The other defenseman that Murray is courting is Andy Sutton of the NY Islanders. With the Sens in Long Island today, expect talks to heat up a bit heading into the break on both sides. The Isles are looking for a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick in return for Sutton or a top prospect.
Both defensemen are UFA's come July 1st. Hamhuis would be the best much better choice if Murray can pull it off. Even if he had to give up Kelly, Shean Donovan is ready to play and come mid to late March Nick Foligno will be due back. Zach Smith would also be given serious consideration to replace Kelly as he has torn it up since being sent back down to Bingo. I am told that Murray promised the young center something when he was sent back down. Could it be that he would be called up shortly after the Olympic break? Kelly makes 2 million per year while Smith makes 500,000. It would give Murray some serious cap relief in his attempts to re-sign defensemen Anton Volchenkov.
AHL affliliate news……..well there is alot of it! As I wrote here a month ago long before it was confirmed that Carolina would be moving their AHL team from Albany to Charlotte and something I wrote months ago Edmonton is moving their AHL affliliate from Springfield to Oklahoma City. What does all this mean? Well the Buffalo Sabres are closing to announcing their new affiliation with Albany as they move from Portland, Maine. The Sabres have wanted to get back into the state of NY since leaving Rochester for awhile now and with the opening left by Carolina in Albany they quickly jumped on it.
Now Springfield and Portland have openings for teams that want a new AHL affiliation. Springfield is where the AHL headquarters have been stationed for years and most likely will do everything to get another team back from the 2010-2011 season.
The New Jersey Devils could be close to moving their AHL team from Lowell, Mass. to Trenton. The Devils own the Lowell team and they would just close up shop there and no team would be back in a very poor market for hockey.
The other intriguing AHL team is the Syracuse Crunch. The Columbus Blue Jackets have been partners with the Crunch for 10 years but they have yet to reach an new agreement and with their affiliation done come the end of the season, Syracuse could be a very viable option for a few teams out there. Columbus has been quietly talking to Lake Erie of the AHL but they currently house the farm team for the Colorado Avalanche and have 2 years left on their deal. It makes you wonder if the Jackets are trying to make a deal that would benefit them and the Avs. More to come on that.
The NY Islanders are also looking to move to their AHL team from Bridgeport. With the openings in Springfield and Portland, one has to wonder if the Isles are looking to either city.
With all the shake up in affiliations one has to wonder if the Binghamton Senators will finish the last two years on their deal with Ottawa. Hartford can't wait to get the NY Rangers out of their building as they lose money hand over fist and the Rangers would love to move back to Bingo. I am told now that the Senators need at least another year to get the Cornwall arena up to AHL standards and that the Sens will play next year in Bingo but that many in management believe next season would be the last in Bingo even though their would still be one year left on their deal. That would allow the Rangers to slide into Bingo. As always, more to come as I get solid info sent my way.
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About the Author
Written by Kevin Lee
Kevin has had an extensive career as a sports writer and radio show host for almost 10 years. Kevin has covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA College Football and Basketball. From covering the BCS Championship Game to the Final Four and the Stanley Cup Finals, he has done it all. He has been featured on numerous sports radio stations in Canada and the United States and often a weekly guest on numerous XM and Sirius Satellite radio shows. He has also had his work featured on FoxSports.com.