Friday, June 30, 2006

Muckler on Roenick: "We're going in a different direction."

That was the GM's reponse today at the Wade Redden press conference (technically afterwards in the scrum) when asked about the possibility of J.R. coming to town.

Said he has a lot of respect for Roenick and he was a great player.

So we can put a fork in that rumor, and you Leaf fans can probably go ahead and pre-order those #97 jerseys.

Bye bye Zdeno

Via TSN, we now know what was becoming obvious throughout the week: Zdeno Chara is done as an Ottawa Senator.

My response? Good.

Not that I'm glad he's gone, but at the price he and his agent were asking for, it made ZERO sense to bring him back. With no starting goalie and a need for second line scoring, spending over $7 million per season on an area that is already our strength would be insane.

Which is why I thought John Muckler would do it.

Apparently, the majority of you don't feel the same way I do (based on the little local sports talk radio I listen to and the posters at the Sens board over at the HF Forums), and I figured Muckler would buckle at the fans pressure to get him back and overpay to do it.

So John Muckler just earned some points with me. Still in my doghouse, and it'll take a trade for a 20-year-old Wayne Gretzky to get him out, but I like this move.

Now the question is, what do we do about the gaping hole this creates on our blue line?

Andrej Meszaros is ready to be a top four d-man (was down the stretch, pretty much) and I think Anton Volchenkov can be as well, meaning they could theoretically go with Chris Phillips, Wade Redden, Meszaros, & the A-Train as the big four with Christoph Schubert and either a cheaply signed free agent or Filip Novak at the back-end*

*all of this said under the assumption Brian Pothier isn't coming back, which, based on his request of a long-term deal at $2 mil, he won't be.


They could get by with that, but I'd prefer that wasn't the case.

So who's available at a reasonable ($3-$3.5 million) price?

Well, you have Jay McKee, Willie Mitchell, Ruslan Salei, Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom, Brendan Witt, Kim Johnsson & Pavel Kubina.

A couple of these are probably slightly out of the aforementioned price range (Spacek and Johnsson, and maybe Mitchell), but we do have options, is my point.

Can any of these guys do for us what Chara did (in the regular seasons)? No. In that sense, Chara is a once-in-a-generation player.

But most of the above can provide steady play and bring experience and savvy.

As for Big Z, my prediction, and I say this without even knowing where he'll land though I have my guesses, is that he'll see his standing in the league diminish.

Ottawa teams had have a tendency of making defencemen look better than they are. Think Jason York, Lance Pitlick, & Janne Laukkanen. Two of the three left two for big contracts and were never the same.

While Bryan Murray did get away from the defence-first system Jacques Martin employed, old habits die hard and the team as a whole was still pretty responsible defensively. The forwards had "BACKCHECK" drilled into their heads for years and so it wasn't going to disappear overnight. In turn, they made life a bit easier for their defenceman teammates.

This is not to suggest that Chara will go back to being the middle of the road defender he was on Long Island, known only for his size and not his play, but I do think his days as an elite rearguard may be over.

Havlat seems to be dunzo

According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun the talks between the Sens and San Jose Sharks about Martin Havlat and goalie Vesa Toskala have heated back up after cooling off last night.

With the Redden thing wrapped up, don't be surprised if the deal happens very soon, as there are rumblings the deal is already completed, and that it may be larger than just those two players.

However, because San Jose is shopping both of their goalies, the deal could fall apart should something juicy for Evgeni Nabakov pop up.

Wow, I feel like Eklund. I need a shower.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Finally!

TSN is reporting that the Senators and Wade Redden have come to terms on a new two-year contract worth $13 million. An official announcement is expected soon.

Three thoughts:

1) That's a lot of paper. If Redden is worth $6.5 mil, what will Chara get on the open market, as that seems to be where he's headed? While I believe Redden is a superior defenceman and more important to the success of the Sens, I seem to be in the minority on this as the general consensus throughout the NHL appears to be that Chara is the better of the two. So if that's the case, surely he's looking at $7 million.

2) Did Redden give them a discount of any sort? At $6.5 mil, I'd say no. It's funny because I thought, given how the team supported him during the difficult time when his mother was dying, he would. Not that he should have, so don't get it twisted, just that he would. Was it him saying "if all dollars are equal, I'll come back"?

3) Why only a two-year deal? Was that Redden's preference or the team's? Is that good or bad? I would've thought you'd want to lock him up for more years than that, as in four or five, so you don't have this to deal with for a while, but maybe a shorter contract is better. I'm still mulling over this one.

Either way, I'm just glad Wade Redden isn't going anywhere.

As a fan, he's one of those guys I look at as our own, and though Redden wasn't born here nor was he raised, I see him as an Ottawa guy. We've seen him develop from the clumsy and often frustrating rearguard to a premiere blueliner and it's been a joy to watch.

This is in contrast to Chara, who I view as a sort of outsider. He didn't start his career here in Ottawa, and while he certainly came into his own a Senator, he's still not a Sen through and through the way guys like Redden, Chris Phillips, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, and Chris Neil are. That's not his fault, as he didn't ask to be drafted by such a joke of an organization, but that's simply how I feel.

Perhaps my REDDEN>CHARA sentiment just comes down to that.

I do think it's about what they bring as players, but maybe subconsciously, I just didn't want to lose one of our guys.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Believe it or not, I'm very happy about this

TSN is reporting that Bryan McCabe has accepted the Maple Leaf's contract of 5 years/$28.75 million.

Why am I happy? There was word JFJ was going to heavily target Zdeno Chara if he couldn't get McCabe locked up.

As much as I don't want Chara back in Ottawa at the price he's apparently asking for, chomping up that much of the payroll, the idea of him in Toronto and us having to face him at least eight times a season had me concerned.

So phewf.

J.R. north of the border?

On a slow news day (I'm waiting for that Wade Redden signing, John), the latest on the Jeremy Roenick interests me.

Roenick had some intriguing things to say:

"It was a nightmare season from hell last year," Roenick said Wednesday from Los Angeles. "The embarrassment of the season I had last year is enormous. So I've totally re-arranged my summer and re-dedicated myself to the game of hockey.

"I'm working out and getting into the best shape possible that my body can get to. I want to make amends for a season lost. It was totally embarrassing...

I've always said I would like to play in Canada before my career is over," said the 36-year-old Boston native. "And it's one thing that I'm really anxious in doing. Don't be surprised if I end up on a Canadian team next week

That's something that's high on my list...

It's not going to take much to sign me," said Roenick. "I'm not looking for the $2.5-million to $3-million deals, I'd like to go for a deal for less money and get some bonuses, which I can do at my age. I'd like my play to do the talking, get paid as to how I'm going to perform."

How sincere is this? Was Roenick pandering to the Canadian media (it was a CP story after all) or does he have legitimate interest? And if so, where?

Toronto is always an attractive landing point for veterans, because they like the idea of playing in such a large hockey market (that is, until the first time they're reemed out by the media, at which point it becomes a detrament), but you have to think Roenick wants to win a Cup and the Leafs appear to be moving away from that.

Montreal has a lot of the same appeal, what with all the tradition, but it seems as if some free agents are scared of the whole French language thing (J.R. did play in the Q for a season though).

Calgary and Edmonton are both coming off terrific seasons but, apparently, it sucks living in Alberta. Does JR have a cunty wife who has him by the balls?

If quality of life would keep him out of Alberta, then perhaps Vancouver is the destination. It's a pretty awesome place to live, I hear, and the acquisition of probably the best goalie on the planet has to make them an attractive team to play on.

And what about Ottawa? We're still considered a favorite to win the Cup, or at least Las Vegas thinks so, but Ottawa has never been very good at luring veterans here. It was hoped Dominik Hasek's signing two summers ago would sent a message to the rest of the league, but besides that, most of our UFA action saw players leaving.

Roenick's no stranger to the area, having played for the then-Hull Olympiques for the aforementioned season he played in the QMJHL.

The bigger question may be, do we want him?

There can be no denying that we have a huge, gaping hole at center in terms of the second line. Try as they might to make him such, Bryan Smolinski is no longer fit for that role, if he ever was. Mike Fisher might be, but I like him more on the third line. Antoine Vermette's an extremely talented kid, but every time the coaching staff tried to give him an increased role over the spot he occupied on the fourth line, he failed miserably, including such an opportunity in the playoffs.

However, at age 36, does Roenick have what it takes still? He's saying the right things, and I'm sure he thinks them to be true, but for every Teemu Selanne in Anaheim last season, there was a Tony Amonte in Calgary.

Last summer, the question was how would these aged vets respond to the year off. Roenick was one of those question marks and the answer we got was a depressing one. He was not nearly the impact player he had been previously.

I think it would be foolish for the Sens to not at least talk to J.R., but at the end of the day, unless he has a time machine in his back pocket, it doesn't seem like a wise move. We tried the "I want a Cup bad so look past my age" veteran player last season. Didn't go so well.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A good fit here?

Upon learning that the Chicago Blackhawks have bought out Matthew Barnaby, my first thought was, how would he look in Ottawa?

GM John Muckler made no secret that he wanted him last summer, but for the role he plays, the price tag of over a million bucks was just too high. Now that he has some cash in his pocket, perhaps Barnaby would take significantly less to come play in his hometown. The price would have to be right (as in, less than $700K I'd think), but Barnaby has never struck me as a guy driven by finances so I'm not sure that would be a major issue.

He'd certainly add some grit and grind to the Senators, and in a fourth line role, could be very useful. The Senators, hopefully, have more than enough scoring and wouldn't need Barnaby for that. He'd merely bring an edge to the roster that was clearly missing down the stretch.

Seems like a good idea to me.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Good riddance

Thankfully, John Muckler has shown he's not entirely out of common sense (the Roberto Luongo proposal he allegedly made had me questioning it's existence). Today, the Senators did not issue a qualifying offer to Tyler Arnason, so he's off the books for good.

Muckler says he asked Arnason to take a pay cut from the (at least) $1.2 mil they would've had to throw his way and he refused. Of course he did. From Arnason's perspective, why take less money to go someplace where the coach already hates you?

If he's going to make less money, and as a UFA I have a hard time believing he'll get more than a million bucks per season on the open market, he'd surely want to do it in a place with no baggage.

By the way, where does the Arnason trade rank in terms of all-time brainfarts by Sens GMs? The Peter Bondra trade was a bust and they gave up a pretty good prospect (Brooks Laich) to get him, but at least Bondra played in the playoff games he was brought in for. The Greg de Vries for Karel Rachunek swap that same season wasn't good, but Rachunek left the NHL after that. Who can say if he would have had he stayed in Ottawa, or if it was New York that soured him on the league (he was already in Ottawa's doghouse, having been a healthy scratch before the trade).

That's what frustrates me so much about the Arnason deal. It's not that he played poorly. He didn't even play! Not in the games that be was brought here for anyway. And I don't blame Bryan Murray for sitting the fat lil' bastard because he played like shit in almost every game as a Senator. But still.

The Sens gave up a decent level draft pick (2nd round) and a guy in Brandon Bochenski who has scored at every level. NCAA, the AHL. The hype surrounding him before the season was too much, but I still believe he'll be a good scorer in this league.

And Ottawa just gave him away.

As of now, the deal doesn't rank ahead of the Pavol Demitra trade that gave Sens fans nightmares for many years, but should Bochenski emerge as the 30-goal scorer many think he will, I have to think we'll be talking about this trade for years to come.

By the way, I assume the Sens did qualify everyone else, including goalie Mike Morrison, because no mention was made to the contrary, but that might not be true.

Bahahahahaha

As for Pothier, sources told the Sun late Saturday he's seeking a raise from the about $650,000 he made last season to more than $2 million per year on a long-term deal.

Do Pothier and his agent have a broken calendar and think it's the 1st of April?

Weekend action wrap-up

Ottawa draft recap

Despite picking very late into the entry draft, I feel as though the Sens did pretty well for themselves when they snapped up Nick Foligno 28th overall. Son of the famous Leaf leaper, he appears to have all the attributes Ottawa needs going into the future: a large work ethic to go along with a sizeable mean streak. Five years from now, with Foligno and Cody Bass in the line-up, I can’t imagine anyone saying this is a team that doesn’t work hard or is soft.

The Sens didn’t have a second round pick, having sent it to Chicago in the Tyler Arnason deal (I know, I know), but with the 91st overall pick, took LW Kaspars Daugavins of Latvia. Statistically, he seems promising, having put up 9 points in 5 games in the Under 18s. The scouting reports on him seem to indicate he’s a few years away, at least, but it sounds as if he has the tools to be a player. Some insiders even pegged him as a darkhorse going into the draft, so perhaps we’ll be hearing more from him in the future.

Their fourth round pick saw Ottawa select Pierre-Luc Lessard a player I’m actually a little familiar with, as should any local junior hockey fan. He’s spent the past two seasons playing for the team across the river, the Gatineau Olympiques. I remember being impressed with his skating, shot, and ability to join the rush. He was moved to PEI late in the season so we won’t get as golden an opportunity to see him first hand this coming year, but I like this pick.

In the fifth round, Ottawa added another young goalie to their stable, picking Ryan Daniels of Saginaw. Daniels won the OHL’s F.W. “Dinty” Moore award this past season for the rookie netminder with the lowest GAA as well as earning a spot on the league’s all-rookie team. He also made an impact at the CHL Top Prospects game, not allowing a goal for his entire time between the pipes. He was a back-up most of the year but should see more action this coming season, so we’ll really see what he’s made of very soon.

In the sixth & seventh round, the Sens finished the day by picking D Kevin Koopman, a junior B player from B.C., and Erik Condra, a RW from Notre Dame. Koopman had a monster year with Beaver Valley, putting up 40 points in 38 games while also going +50. He has good size at 6’3” and 200 pounds, but dominating an inferior league doesn’t mean much. If he can get with a CHL team, then we’ll see if he has a future. Condra is also coming off a strong season, having been named CCHA all-rookie team. As a freshman, he led the team in scoring.

Onto the trades

Vancouver traded RW Todd Bertuzzi, G Alex Auld, & D Bryan Allen to Florida for G Roberto Luongo, D Lukas Krajicek.

The consensus among the media pundits and with bloggers seems to be that Vancouver got a steal, and while I’d concede that the Canucks probably came out the better of the two teams, I don’t believe this is the one-sided trade most everyone else does. Luongo still needs a contract, and there is no assurance Dave Nonis will be able to get his name on one. Losing Allen is a big loss, perhaps the biggest of the three players leaving B.C., as he’s developed into an incredibly reliable rearguard, on a team that needs them. With Jovo likely also on the way out, the Canucks blueline will look considerably different next season, and without Allen, it won’t be as good. Alex Auld is a sturdy but unspectacular netminder. I’m not convinced he’s a legitimate #1 goalie, but if nothing else, he’ll make a solid backup. The real wildcard is Bertuzzi. If he can regain the form that made him among the league’s most dominant skaters as recently as the 2003 season, then Mike Keenan will look like a genius. If not, and instead they get the inconsistent lug that existed in Vancouver this past season, they’ve inherited a very expensive headache. Either way, he had to be moved.

Truth be told, I believe this deal benefits both teams. In Allen, the Panthers get a reliable defenceman who could very well continue to improve and maybe even become a top two blueliner, and with Bertuzzi they have a very talented player who, when he’s on, can be an elite player. He’ll also help sell tickets in a market that desperately needed some star power. For Vancouver, they finally have a genuine top goaltender. The Canucks have been brought down by shoddy play between the pipes for too long, and if we know one thing for sure, it’s that that will no longer be the case. The question now is how will the team around Roberto look. Something tells me Nonis isn’t finished, and I’d bet good money either Markus Naslund or Brendan Morrison are on the way out as well.

Boston traded G Andrew Raycroft to Toronto for G Tuukka Rask.

Like with the Bertuzzi trade, this one depends on which player arrives in T.O. If it’s the Calder winner from two seasons ago, then I believe JFJ pulled off an excellent deal. If it’s the guy who fell so out of favor this past season, then Toronto’s goaltending woes have not been fixed. Having said all that, I think it’s a gamble worth taking if I’m the Leafs brass. I do think Raycroft can return to his old form in a new environment and at around a million and a half bucks, he can be a good deal financially. Losing Rask hurts, but with Justin Pogge in the system, the Leafs could afford to deal him.

Colorado traded LW Alex Tanguay to Calgary for D Jordan Leopold, second round pick in 2006, & a conditional second rounder.

If Darryl Sutter can get Tanguay signed to a long-term deal (which, I suspect, is where the conditional pick comes into play), this is a tremendous deal. Tanguay addresses the Flames’ need for big time scoring and at 26 is still relatively young. Leopold never quite materialized in Calgary as the offensive defenceman he was supposed to be, and with the Flames loaded on defence, they could lose him and not suffer severely. I had to wonder what the new Avs GM was thinking, and if this is a way to keep Rob Blake around as some have suggested, then I think it’s a mistake. Blake is on his last legs while Tanguay could’ve been a major part of the franchise for many years to come.

Los Angeles traded C Pavol Demitra to Minnesota for Patrick O’Sullivan & the 17th overall pick in 2006.

This one shocked me. I’ve never known the Wild to be spenders of a large variety, but trading for Demitra’s $4.5 million contract, they sent a message to their fanbase: they’re willing to spend to win. Demitra’s always been one of the league’s most underrated players, and his success in St. Louis hurt my heart as a Sens fan. He has the ability to make those around him significantly better and, ideally, will do that for Marian Gaborik, assuming they can get him signed. I have to think this trade will make it easier, but Gaborik’s a strange cat sometimes. O’Sullivan will be a very good NHLer sooner rather than later, but Minnesota’s a team with a good collection of prospects, and can get away with moving a big one for immediate help. This trade, seemingly, sends the message what the Kings’ approach will be. If they’re not going to make the playoffs, I guess Dean Lombardi has decided they might as well do so without big contracts and the even bigger egos that come along with them. Of course, the rumors were that also that the Kings were in the Luongo sweepstakes, offering up Alexander Frolov as well as bluechipper Dustin Brown, so Lombardi could have an identity crisis.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Redden in, Havlat out?

So says Bruce Garrioch anyway. In today's Ottawa Sun, he's reporting that the Sens are close to signing Wade Redden to a new deal and it might be announced as early as today.

On the other hand, Martin Havlat's "one year only" plea has the team shopping him. Interested parties are said to be San Jose, Los Angeles (for Alexander Frolov and Carolina)

Could be a big day.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Time to say goodbye to Chara / where the hell do we go from here

Yes, a post. Imagine that. The plan is from here on out, they happen a lot. No, really.

As the draft sits less than 15 hours away, and with the news of the massive Todd Bertuzzi-Roberto Luongo trade going on behind me as I type, I figured it’s time to say what I’ve been contemplating for the last month or so:

It’s time for the Ottawa Senators to part ways with Zdeno Chara.

There. I feel better just saying it.

I know, fans, it’s a difficult conclusion to come to, but I believe you too will reach that decision by the end of this post. And if not, my case wasn’t presented strongly enough.

Chara came to this team, truthfully, as a throw in. In the magical swap that sent dickhead extraordinaire Alexei Yashin off to Long Island, the Sens got Chara, Bill “I Couldn’t Score To Save My Life” Muckalt, and a first round draft pick that was situated at number two overall. That draft pick was the real prize. By the time the trade was made, most believed it would be Jason Spezza as the Thrashers were openly gushing about Ilya Kovalchuk. The prospects of acquiring a potential franchise player who could plug the hole created by the loss of Yashin was wonderful.

We all looked Chara as a project. He was a player most fans were aware of, even then, just because he’s a friggin giant, but his skills as a defenceman left a lot to be desired. He wasn’t even a top four d-man on a brutal Islanders team. Where would he fit on this team, which at the time, with Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Sami Salo, Curtis Leschyshyn, and Karel Rachunek (coming off 30 points as a rookie) was pretty strong. Nepean-born Jason York was set to leave town as a UFA, so there was a spot, but could Chara fill that void?

Fast forward six years and it’s crazy to think I was worried if Chara could contribute as much as York. No offence to Jason, who before this season I thought the Sens should acquire as a 7th blueliner, but Chara has gone so far behind that expectation it’s laughable.

He truly is, most of the time, one of the best, most dominant defenceman in the league.

So why then am I so eager to see him go? Two reasons. One is obvious: $. With the salary cap, the team cannot afford to keep so many high-priced pieces of talent. It’s an almost comical part of the new CBA that was supposed to favor small market teams like the Senators. Long-term, I believe it will, but boy does it feel like a kick in the balls right now.

The second reason is this reality: Zdeno Chara is not a big game player. This past playoff was the final straw in a long line of disappointing postseason performances from the big man who, in January and February, can be among the league’s best players. To say he struggled with consistency would be kind. Chara was flat out awful on most nights, routinely out of position, pinching at the worst times, not using his body, and scary bad with the puck in his own end.

Every now and then he’d have a great shift or two and you’d think “okay, here we go. Chara’s got it together.” Nope. A few moments later, he’d make a clusterfuck that had the entire fanbase shaking their heads in disbelief.

How someone can be so great at one time of the year and so bad in another remains a mystery to me. If you have an explanation, I’d love to hear it. I’m all ears. The only one I can come up with is that he cannot handle pressure. When the demands increase, he folds so badly Pierre Turgeon likely thinks he’s soft.

Some have defended the big Slovak by implying he was hurt. After all, Chara did suffer a severely damaged hand down the stretch in a fight and probably rushed back too soon. Fair enough. I’ll concede his paw was probably bothering him. But a bad hand does not impede effort. A bad hand doesn’t stop one from making mistake after mistake. Those are errors that cannot be justified with an injury.

All of this does not take away from what Chara brings the rest of the time. In the regular season, when he’s on his game, Chara is an extremely valuable player, and contrary to popular belief, I think you need those good games in the regular season. You want home ice when it matters. Ask the Carolina Hurricanes about that.

However, when you’re throwing out figures like $6 or $7 million a year, you want solid play all year round. Zdeno Chara just doesn’t deliver that. I expect him to get that big payday this offseason somewhere else, maybe even into the $8 or $9 million should a bidding war erupt, and it’s a shame more GMs aren’t aware of what I am. I suspect they’ll be blinded by his regular seasons and more importantly his massive size, and the whole “can’t play when it counts” thing won’t matter. They’ll quickly find out.

The decision of Chara or Wade Redden has been looming all season long, and frankly, it’s one I’ve tried to avoid. Perhaps it would’ve been wise to address it at some point in the season. It’s not as if I didn’t have a forum to do so. I didn’t. Why? I was in denial.

I thought they would find a way to keep them bother. Now, the economics have dictated that such a thing will be next to impossible. And I’m okay with that.

These playoffs opened my eyes. Order me a “Team Redden” t-shirt because I’m officially throwing my hat behind that campaign.

Wade Redden’s true colors were revealed this playoffs. With the death of his mother Pat still in the back of his head, he had the playoff series of a lifetime in the first round against Tampa Bay. He was, hands down I think, Ottawa’s best player. By the second round, his play fell off a little bit, but with the adrenaline wearing off and the grief sinking it, I expected it. I hoped those around him, Chara especially, would pick up the slack and allow Redden to have a subpar series and still be playing in the third round. Didn’t happen. Instead, Redden’s average play against the Sabres made him Ottawa’s best d-man, again, with perhaps only Brian Pothier having a superior series.

Wade Redden needs to be back in an Ottawa Senators uniform next season. Whatever it takes, get that deal done John Muckler. If it means a no-trade clause like the Leafs gave Tomas Kaberle, so be it. $6 million, so he’s paid more than the aforementioned Czech and his teammate Bryan McCabe? Great. He’s worth every penny.

For Zdeno, thanks for all you did, and better luck elsewhere. Maybe it was the environment in Ottawa that had you playing so terribly in the playoffs. I doubt it though.

The Ottawa Senators just have too many needs to justify paying an unreliable player when the chips are down $7 million. They need a real #2 center. They need veteran leadership. Oh, and they probably need a goalie. These things cost money, lots of it.

So that's settled. Phew. What a relief.

Oh shit, we still have a lot of work to do. Guess I better sit back down.

The cap is believed to be at $44 million, if you believe all the projections coming from the PA. Let's assume they're not filthy liars hoping to bamboozle us all and are being accurate. If you're Tom Benjamin, that's not hard, but me, I sorta think they're crooks. But okay, I'm taking their word for it.

The Ottawa Senators will not spend $44 million on their payroll next season. Unless Eugene Melnyk suddenly has a change of heart. Sucks, I know, and I've made many long-winded posts about how I wish Melnyk wasn't such a tightwad (where's the "I'll do whatever, spend whatever it takes to win" guy who swooped into town that we all fell in love with? Oh, right, this guy go to him.)

How much they will spend remains unknown and seems to depend on which media outlet you believe. I've seen projections as low as $36 and as high as $42. I'll do what the NHL and the players couldn't for a whole damn season and go with the middle number of $39 million, slightly higher than this season's payroll, which makes sense when you remember they've frozen all ticket prices.

First, let's look at who's signed through next year. It won't take long, unfortunately:
Dany Heatley. Cap hit $4,500,000
Heatley didn't have the playoffs any of us expected, and sort of makes those of you who raked Marian Hossa over the coals as he left town for his supposedly shitty playoff play and proclaimed Heatley the kind of kid who would prosper in the postseason look pretty stupid. But it was his first kick at the can and, hopefully, a learning process. He finally got to experience the NHL playoffs and he'll be a better player for it the next time around. No to trading him.

Daniel Alfredsson. Cap hit $4,666,666
I've thought a lot about what to do with Alfie. If you remember, at one point, when Ottawa was down 3-0 to the Sabres, I was vocal about my opinion that he was a problem and the team couldn't win with him as the captain. I've moved off that position slightly, as have a lot of you I imagine. Alfie's simply too good a player, and too much of a bargain at that price, to be moved. If the problem is his leadership, then surround him with better leaders. Veterans who've won before and can bring that attitude to Ottawa. They don't necessarily have to wear the C. They can be leaders without a letter. It happens.

Mike Fisher. Cap hit $1,500,000 The 3-year, $4.5 million deal the Sens signed Fish to last offseason looks like a steal now, doesn't it? He's coming off his best season, was one of the lone brightspots up front for the Sens in the playoffs, and there's no reason to think he can't continue to improve as a player. Who's to say he can't score 30 goals this season? I'm not sure he's the guy for the number two center job, but right now, he's the best we got. I prefer Fisher as the third center, because it also allows him to log big minutes on the PK, where we know he's dangerous.

Chris Phillips. Cap hit $1,970,000
It will be an interesting time for Phillips. Should Chara not return like I suggest, he'll be without his defence partner of the last four seasons, and in turn, probably be asked to take on a bigger role. He's also in the last year of his deal, and will be a UFA at the end of the season himself. Trade rumors will likely persist throughout the season but at this point I think it's wise to hold onto him because, at that price, he's a pretty good deal.

Anton Volchenkov. Cap hit $1,250,000 million.
A contract signed last summer seems about right. Volchenkov became the goat during the playoffs, and not without reason as he was not good and made too many mistakes, but overall, he had a solid season and for the role he plays did his job.

Andrej Meszaros. Cap hit 984,200.
During the season, this looked like an out and out steal, as Meszaros played like a 10 year veteran instead of the green freshman he was supposed to be. Come playoff time, we saw that side, as he was dreadful, in over his head and unable to perform when called upon. But he's only 21 and should have an even better season coming up.

Bryan Smolinski. Cap hit $1,786,000.
He's been the local whipping boy all season long and most of the time he deserved it, as we saw yet another remarkably unspectacular season from the guy who was supposed to be the team's second line center. Smolinski had some good games in the playoffs and in that sense managed to redeem himself somewhat but I still think he has to go. Too old, not consistent enough, too costly for what he brings.

Patrick Eaves. Cap hit 942,100.
Not even with the team when the season started, Eaves got opportunities to play with the big club due to injuries and made the most of them, scoring 20 goals in 58 games. He showed a skill to find the net and play far beyond his size, as his officially listed stature of 5-11 and 174 pounds (I doubt them very much) is supposed to mean he can't stand in front of the net. Apparently the kid missed that memo because he did so with success in every game he played. It's a shame the rest of the team, most of them bigger than Eaves, couldn't do the same.

Brian McGratton. Cap hit (estimated) $500,000
Just signed a new two-year deal last week. No figures have really come out but it's safe to assume it's close to the league minimum. Since it was a multi-year deal let's say the Sens boosted him by 50K to be nice.

TOTAL THUS FAR: $18,098,966. And we still have a whole heap of players to re-sign. Yikes

THE UFAS

Wade Redden & Zdeno Chara
. I've made my opinion clear. Chara, for the price he's apparently seeking, is too expensive and just not worth it. Given what McCabe is supposedly going to get, it's probable Wade Redden will command more. Hows five years at $32.5 million sound?
Projected Cap Hit: $6,500,000

Brian Pothier.
Used to be the local whipping boy, but a solid season and strong playoffs have erased that. At least in my eyes. Not an elite defenceman and far too soft in his own end for my taste, but good skillset and a strong powerplay presence has me wanting him back. Assuming the price is right. I'd say a mult-year deal at a million even is fair.
Projected Cap Hit: $1,000,000

Vaclav Varada
A healthy scratch for 2 playoff games, there's no way he's coming back, even with GM Muckler as the President of his fan club. He was overpaid for the role he played all season long, as a fourth line guy making over a million dollars was absurd. Bye Vaclav. Nice to know ya.

Wow, that was easy. Two defenceman back, one gone, one overpaid forward out of town. Pretty good. Oh, wait.

TOTAL THUS FAR: $25,598,966. We don't even have half a roster and we've got less than $13 million to spend. And you wanna bring Chara back, John? Are you on crack?

THE RFAs

Jason Spezza
The big one as far as I am concerned. Spezza's regular season said he was an elite center, but his playoffs, especially the second round, left some wondering if he's the right guy to center this team's top line. Like with his linemate Heatley, I'm willing to give Spezz a mulligan because it was his first playoffs and he wasn't awful. Just not the player they needed him to be. So we want him back. What will it cost? With his 90 points in 68 games and then 14 points in 10, his agent Mr. Orr will likely want a big increase over the $1 or so he got this past season. The plan many had was to sign him to a long-term deal to get him locked up, but with all the other headaches, the Sens just can't afford it. Sorry. It would be nice to lock him up ala Rick Nash, but that will cost Rick Nash money. The Sens don't have the $5 mil to spare. Sign him to a one-year deal for now. Let's say $3.5 million because, I dunno, that number seems right to me? After all, he's only had one big year. If he demands a big increase, play hardball. He has zero leverage. No arbitration rights. So if that turns out to be the case, fuck him.
Projected Cap Hit: $3,500,000

Martin Havlat
In case you missed the news, Havlat's agent Alan Walsh says Havlat only wants a one-year deal and will test the open market next summer as a UFA. My reaction? Great. Because that's all I want from him anyway. The only positive to come out of Havlat's shoulder injury, which kept him out more than 50 games, was that he didn't have the chance to put up the big numbers he likely would've. Unlike Spezza, he can go to arbitration, so the Sens would be screwed. Give him $3 million and pack his bags because he won't be around past June of 2007 anyway. And if he struggles during the season, feel free to use Havlat as trade bait.
Projected Cap Hit: $3 million

Peter Schaefer
Another key signing in my book. Schaefer had a terrific season and needs to be brought back. Fisher is for sure and since we're saying Havlat will, allowing the third part of that line to leave would be foolish. It won't be cheap though. He's a year away from UFA status so they'll have to pay up. A contract slightly more than Fisher's seems likely and fair. $1.75 million? If he gets ridiculous with the demands, maybe a trade is in order. I like Peter, but not for more than $2 million, and that's pushing it.
Projected Cap Hit: $1.75 million

Tyler Arnason
John Muckler says he will exercise the team option on him. John Muckler is clearly certifiable. Why in the hell would you bring him back, at over a million bucks, when he sucked so bad? Are you we going to hope he'll be better next season? What the hell John. I mean, really, are you retarded? *breathes* That felt good. Look, he seems like a nice kid, but it didn't work out. Chalk it up as an L and move on. He can't produce like a number two center, he can't take Fisher's spot as #3, and even if we want to give him Chris Kelly's spot on the fourth line, he doesn't have the skills to play that role. Do not qualify him. I'm not in this little fantasy anyway.

Antoine Vermette
This one will be tricky. He had a terrific season, but was one of the many underwhelming playoff performers. At $600K last year, he was a steal, and I want him back in the worst way, but what will it cost? I don't believe has arbitration rights, which is a blessing because he had the best point-per-minute-played average in the NHL last season and could probably command a lot in that situation. If they can get him to a Fisher-like deal, I'd say great, but I doubt that will happen. Something tells me he's not all that happy in Ottawa (with his ice time, he probably shouldn't be) and won't take a long-term deal unless it pays VERY well. The Sens don't have the luxury of doing so. $1.2 million, double his pay, on a one year deal anyone?
Projected Cap Hit: $1.2 million

Chris Neil
Also had a career year. Great for him, sucks for us right now. Neil solidified himself as a legitimate third line forward, which is something I sure didn't think he'd be able to do going into the season. With McGratton around to take care of the fistacuffs, Neil was finally able to play other roles, and the one he played against Tampa in the first round, of superpest, was awesome. Bring him back.
Projected Cap Hit: $850,000

Chris Kelly
Another must return guy. Doesn't put up points and isn't flashy, but works his ASS off every shift, is a leader, and can play in all situations. He got in over his head when put onto the top line in the playoffs, as that's not where he's suited to be based on his talents.
Projected Cap Hit: $750,000

Christoph Schubert
Showed his value and versatility, I believe the big German has earned a spot on the roster. Put him in the top six on D.
Projected Cap Hit: $550,000

TOTAL THUS FAR: $37,198,699. Uh oh. See the situation? We have less than $3 million to sign two goalies. Let's unload a problem then.

See ya Bryan Smolinski. I'm sure some other team will take a flier on ya. If we get nothing back, so be it.

-$1,786,000. TOTAL NOW: $35,412,699. A little better but still not great, and now we need a forward on top of our netminding problem. Might as well try and address that one then.

So what to do there?

Ray Emery
I'm putting my chips on him. I believe he should be our starting goalie. While everyone continues to say Hasek is on the way back, I believe it time to look past all of the bullshit that surrounds Dominik and go with a new face. Emery showed he's up to the job in the playoffs. I hope most of you have gotten off your stance that goaltending was why we lost. I hope you have had an about face ala mine with Alfie. Emery didn't win us a series, but he didn't lose it either.

And truth be told, I don't see any other solution. The goaltenders that are available on the open market, the Dwayne Rolosons via free agency or Evgeny Nabakov and J.S. Gigueres via trade are just too pricy.

And we saw with the Carolina Hurricanes, and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and Buffalo Sabres, that young, hungry goaltending can win big games.

Don't buy into this nonsense that we need a proven goalie. It would be nice, sure, but we don't NEED it. We do need Emery to step up but I believe he's up to it. You will not find a more motivated player. A more intense competitor. As badly as we as fans want to see this team win, I believe he wants it 10x more, and with the experience he gained this past spring, I think he's in position to perform.

It's a risk, I know, but in situations like this, you have to have some balls.

The safe route is going back to Dominik Hasek. Sorry, but no. I can't endorse that approach, and even though it looks more and more likely like that will happen, I won't even now. It's the wrong move. He cannot be counted on, and is one butterfly away from being out for an indefinite period.

If what happened this season with Hasek was an isolated incident on his record, I would be all for bringing back the sure-to-be Hall of Famer. But it was just one of many embarassing instances where Hasek let his team down.

I realize, when he's healthy he can be a game stealer and he's saying all the right stuff, and he can probably he had for a cheap price relative to what he can do, but I just do not want to see Dominik Hasek in an Ottawa Senators uniform ever again. Period.

Frankly, I doubt many of his teammates do either. None will say so publicly, because going against a player, even an ex-player, seems to be against the NHL player code, but I can't see how any of them could want him back after he let them down so badly.
$700,000

TOTAL THUS FAR: $36,112,699. $2.9 million for a back-up and a forward. Ideally a top six one.

Who is available?

In goal, you want a veteran but also someone who can come in and play if possible. For what we have to spend, the pickings will be slim, but maybe someone might come to Ottawa for cheap in hopes that Emery will collapse and they’ll get to play behind what will still be a very good team. Hey, I’m being an optimist here.

Johan Hedberg, Chris Osgood and John Grahame fit the bill. Sorta. Oh, Patrick Lalime AND Martin Prusek are out there. Just saying.

Of the available, I’d prefer Osgood. He’s won a Cup, was decent with Detroit if I remember right, and is a team player. He won’t come in and undermine Emery nor will be politick to be the starter. This isn’t to suggest he can’t become the #1 goalie, but he should understand, coming in, that his first priority is to provide support to the youngster we’re going with.

So Chris Osgood everyone? I know he’s not Patrick Roy, but we gotta do what we can here people.

Projected Cap Hit: $700,000
TOTAL THUS FAR: $36,812,699.


$2.2 million for a top six forward. Not too shabby if I say so myself. Again, who can we get? The list, as I see it, includes

Anson Carter | Petr Sykora | Mark Parrish | Mike Peca | Brendan Shanahan | Jason Arnott | Doug Weight | Mark Recchi | Marc Savard | Jeff Friesen

A couple of these are pipe dreams on my part, I know. Coming off 30 goals, Carter probably wants a big deal and our little $2.2 million isn’t that. I imagine he took that $1 million to play in Vancouver hoping a year with the Sedins would give him big stats so he could cash in.

Recchi apparently wants to go back to Pittsburgh, because he’s insane, but if he doesn’t, I can’t see him leaving the Cup winner unless it was for big bucks, which we don’t have. Same with Weight.

Mark Parrish would be nice, and $2.2 million isn’t that silly is it? Seems to be in his wheelhouse, and maybe we can convince Mean Gene to spend an extra couple hundred Gs if that’s what it takes.

However, for this spot, I believe we need a veteran. Someone who can aid Alfredsson, Redden, & Phillips in the locker room. Someone’s who’s won would be wonderful.

Hello Brendan Shanahan.

I’ve heard all the same things you have about him not wanting to leave Detroit, but maybe he looks at a situation like Ottawa as a better chance to win, and wants one more Cup ring before he bows out? To a lesser extent, I guess these same circumstances could describe Joe Sakic, who’s name I hear all the time, but I think that’s much less likely.

And if not Shanahan, why not Mike Peca? I thought he was crap during the regular season, but he proved his worth down the stretch and has all the intangibles this team needs right now. Grit, heart, experience.

He would have to take a pay cut, but I can’t see anyone paying him $4 million this offseason so it’s going to happen anyway. Why not Ottawa? He has connections to the area, having spent four years under Brian Kilrea.

Let’s say we do get Peca.

Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson
Schaefer-Fisher-Havlat
Vermette-Peca-Eaves
McGratton-Kelly-Neil


Redden-Volchenkov
Phillips-Meszaros
Pothier-Schubert

Emery-Osgood

Not bad?

And by the way, I'm not married to all those names. As I said, I'd be more than willing to part with Havlat under the right circumstances.

I know a lot of you want to blow the ship up. Change the whole team. I get it. I was there a month ago too. But time has given me perspective, or too much forgiveness, depending where you stand I suppose.

At the end of the day, there's too much talent here to start over with all news faces. And frankly, as a fan, I don't want to. I want THIS team to win. I want to see Alfredsson hoist the cup. I want to see Redden win a Conn Smythe. I want to see Fisher get spotlighted the way Rod Brind'Amour did.

And I believe they can.

It will be an interesting summer.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm not dead

Though this blog has been for the past little while.

Truth be told, since the Sens were bounced from the playoffs, my interest in this year's affairs hit a new low. I've watched significantly more of the NBA action than hockey for the last little while, and having tuned into a few games here or there, it doesn't seem as if I'm missing much.

The quality of play doesn't seem to be at a high level and I have a hard time rooting for either team. I find Edmonton fans to be horribly obnoxious (both on and offline) and as nice as that AcidQueen lady might be, cheering for an NHL team based in Carolina still feels icky to me.

But perhaps I'm just a bitter fan angry his team is out of it.

Alas, I'll get back to posting regularly very soon.

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