Now that the draft is done and free agency frenzy is now on, it’s time to take stock of the team and hazard a few guesses as to which direction it will take for the next season.
What the Senators Have
The Senators currently have a total of 10 forwards signed in for next season, 6 defensemen and 1 goaltender. Svatos, Shannon and Lessard are the odd men out for the forwards, while the defense will look pretty much the same for next season in the hopes that there are no injuries. Craig Anderson has been made the number one goaltender for the next 4 years, giving Ottawa good stability between the pipes. Spezza looks to be a Captain in training, which is somewhat appropriate since he’s already paid like an NHL Captain and Alfredsson still has a few question marks post-surgery.
Filatov, described by some as having Kovalev-style tendencies, will be added to this roster as well, coming over in a trade with Columbus. I’m not sure about this move myself; it seems that Columbus has suckered us in trades in the past, considering that we already got Leclaire and the results on that are pretty clearly not in Ottawa’s favour. As a matter of fact, Ottawa should drop Leclaire like a hot rock; as good a guy as he may be, he’s just too accident-prone for the world of sports, a world which is well-known for superstititions and the like.
What the Senators Need
The Senators addressed some of their offense issues with the draft, but clearly this will not be enough to carry over into the next season. Looking ahead, there are 3 possible spots to fill on the forward roster and Ottawa has a few options available to them. If they want to be fiscally responsible, they can move up some of their Binghampton stars, such as Bobby Butler, who had a breakout season last year. He’s had chemistry with Spezza, so he’s not a long shot and Ottawa should be able to sign him to a reasonable deal. If they want to grab someone off the free agency roster, they will have to be ready to commit more bucks, but that hasn’t been an issue for Ottawa in the past. The hope is that they choose wisely, as their investments in marquee players have not always paid off in the way most people expected it to.
In terms of defense, Ottawa looks set with the roster that they currently have, but if it was possible to sign on another big body, that would just be icing on the cake. Ottawa may be better served by spending their cap money on some power forwards for next season, rather than dressing a seventh defenseman.
In terms of goaltending, Ottawa would be wise to sign on a veteran goaltender to be a reliable back up to Anderson. They could sign on McElhinney for a one year contract as a back up which would give him valuable experience at a reasonable price tag. But all things considered, and with some cap space available to them, a third, older and wiser goaltender waiting in the wings, may not be a bad idea.
Who they should sign
Taking the temperature on this new Ottawa Senators team with new coaches and a new outlook is not an easy thing to do at this stage in the game, but I will venture to say that it looks like this will be a hard-working, grinding team. Which is why I was bit floored to discover that Filatov was added to this roster when he clearly has diva-like tendencies and possible attitude issues to be ironed out, something which I hoped was gone when Kovalev packed his bags for Pittsburgh.
Ottawa looks to have close to $19 million in cap space, depending on the terms of Filatov’s agreement and subsequent bonuses that might be paid out. If they look to sign two forwards and two goaltenders, this amount is definitely generous considering the gaps to be filled with it. It would help Ottawa qualify as a contender in the Zach Parise sweepstakes, who will likely be on the hunt for a long-term contract and a pay raise from his current $3 million a year. Contrary to popular opinion, I think Ottawa should forego a major signing with Parise and instead, look for a more consistent, versatile player with a good work ethic.
If I were a GM (insert dreamy face here), I would be looking to sign the following three free agents:
1. Brooks Laich, Centre, Washington Capitals. Oddly enough, Ottawa drafted Laich in 2001 in round 6. He’s proven to be a solid contributor and a character player, something Ottawa sorely needs for its future. He hasn’t been able to make the impact that he has wanted to with Washington, probably because his own efforts are overshadowed by the Russians on his squad. He might be the kind of player that Maclean and Cameron like to see and he won’t come with a back-breaking deal. Signing Laich wouldn’t cause the kind of media frenzy that Parise would in Ottawa, but he might be the better long term investment. Problem is, Laich is likely looking for a Cup contender now after years of early playoff exits with Washington. It might not be easy to convince him otherwise.
2. Andrew Brunette, Left Wing, Minnesota Wild. While he’s no spring chicken as they say, Brunette brings to the table a ton of experience and reliability. He’s a tough nut to crack, performing admirably for the Wild and barely missing a game. He’s the type of player who can help some of Ottawa’s younger players strengthen their game and calm their nerves when the playoffs roll around…hopefully.
3. Johan Hedberg, goaltender, New Jersey Devils. He is a veteran goaltender at 38, but he’s not a bad pick for a back-up. It’s expected that Anderson is going to shoulder the load, so Hedberg’s job will more or less be to back up on off nights if all goes well and his numbers are solid. The best that one could expect is a solid year from him and some good mentoring opportunities if McIlhinney sticks around as a third man.
There are many factors to consider in signings and there are surely others out there who think that my picks are unwise or that I’m a dummyhead. I’ve gone with 3 picks based on the information on hand and on my personal opinion as to what the team needs, considering its dismal last season. In my opinion, Ottawa needs less star power and more consistency, which these 3 picks can provide, as well as helping to anchor the team with experience.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.