2009 NHL Free Agency: What the Ottawa Senators need

What had been a fairly boring off-season turned into a tremendously newsworthy one when Dany Heatley requested a a trade from the Ottawa Senators. Before Heatley's trade request, it seemed the Senators were pretty well-off, requiring one top-six forward, one good third-liner, and one the wish list was a top-flite defenceman--but that seemed like it would have to be addressed by a defence corps-wide approach to solid defence.

If Heatley's traded, however, the Senators' needs change dramatically. All of a sudden there's a need for two top-six forwards, including someone who could play top-line minutes, as well as a third-liner, and an opportunity arose to use any Heatley-related savings to put towards a true number one defenceman.

What it amounts to is a difficult situation for Bryan Murray, who's got to do his best with what he's got while keeping in mind at least one player he's got--the highest-paid and highest goal-scoring one--is anxious to get out of town. If Murray's able to trade Heatley by the start of the free agency period on July 1, then he might have time to carry forward a strategy. If not, then the entire season will likely be a patchwork of quick-fix solutions.

A rundown of the Senators' situation, including some possible free agent pickups, is after the fold, so take the jump, check it out, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Pending UFAs: W Mike Comrie, RW Chris Neil, D Brendan Bell

It doesn't look like any of the Senators' pending unrestricted free agents will be coming back to Ottawa. The Senators have very little cap space to sign Comrie, even if he did have a good finish with the team--which he didn't. Neil has already rejected a four-year, $6.8M contract, and that seems as high as Murray is willing to go. And with an overabundance of NHL-calibre defencemen on the Sens' roster, don't count on Bell getting an offer from Ottawa unless there are a couple of trades made.

Pending RFAs: G Brian Elliott

I'm quite certain Brian Elliott will be re-signed, although nothing's been announced yet. The Senators do currently have Alex Auld and Pascal Leclaire signed, but rumours are circulating that Murray is trying to find a new home for Auld to run with a 1-2 punch of Leclaire and Elliott. Since Ells does not (as far as I know) have arbitration rights, there is little urgency to finalizing the contract.

Salary Cap Space (from NHLNumbers.com): $5.7M

Players signed: 24

Key needs: This is a little difficult; it depends whether or not the Senators trade Heatley. If Heatley sticks around and produces as expected, then the Senators should be in pretty good shape as long as they find one top-six forward and a third-liner. If he doesn't, though, then the Sens would be in the market for two top-sixers, a third-liner (if there's room under the cap), and possibly a top-flite defenceman if one's available--and that all depends on what comes back in any Heatley trade.

Potential targets:

  1. Marian Hossa*: Hossa will likely re-sign with the Red Wings, or find a lucrative offer than something the Senators can afford. Still, if he's somehow able to fit under the Senators' salary structure, he's an immediate improvement in the Senators' scoring depth.
  2. Marian Gaborik*: See above; it's pretty much the same deal.
  3. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin*: The Sedins are a package, and are reportedly asking for 12-year deals each worth $66M. If it can somehow work for the Senators, it automatically and immediately solves the longstanding woes of secondary scoring.
  4. Martin Havlat*: Havlat's a well-known player from his days in Ottawa, and hasn't lost any of the dynamism that made him a fan-favourite here. Won't be easy to get his name on a contract, but he's always a threat when he's on the ice, and would add a long-lost dimension to the powerplay.
  5. Mike Cammalleri*: Murray said he was looking for a scorer to lead the second line, and Cammaleri would look hella good in between Ryan Shannon and Nick Foligno. Such a move would allow Mike Fisher to revert to the more fitting third-line role, and give the Senators some solid scoring depth, but alas, the numbers wouldn't likely work out.
  6. Jay Bouwmeester*: It's not going to happen, but it would be alright. We'd a a huge and mobile top pairing of Bouwmeester and Filip Kuba, even if neither of them are too physically imposing.
  7. Mattias Ohlund: We need more Swedish players if we're going to contend with the Red Wings. Ohlund's a solid defenceman who can put up points, but might be too similar to Kuba to work out with the Senators.
  8. Jaroslav Spacek: Here's a guy who put up 45 points last year, second among UFA defencemen to only Scott Niedermayer. He's good offensively and reliable defensively, and seems like he could fit in just about any team situation.
  9. Sergei Zubov: The guy's old and not likely to want to move again, but he's still got one heck of a shot. In limited even-strength time and a whole whack of PP time, he'd be a contributor.
  10. Ales Kotalik: I'm not sure why, but I like this player. He should be available in the range of $3.5-4M, and can put up points at even strength and on the man advantage. Although he's not likely to lead the team, he'd be a second liner who could fit in the Senators' lineup.
  11. Saku Koivu: One of the few bearable Canadiens alumni, Koivu could work the middle on the Senators' second line if his salary comes down from last year. It appears the Habs are moving on from the Koivu Era, so he may be interested in joining a new team in a supporting role.
  12. Alex Kovalev: Although he's taken hits for being inconsistent, Kovalev can score when he's on. He's not getting any younger, and his production is likely tailing off, but that fact may make him more affordable (but don't count on it).
  13. Erik Cole: Sounds like his contract demands are out of line, but if the Senators are looking to toughen up Fisher's line, Cole might be the power forward to do it.
  14. Mikael Samuelsson: Whether he's a second-liner or a third-liner, he's one who can step up if injuries start to add up. At likely under $2.5M, he's an affordable and adaptable winger.
  15. Ruslan Fedotenko: His value is up because of his playoff performance, but Fedotenko was pretty impressive in the Penguins' run to the Cup. If his salary doesn't climb too much, and I doubt it will, he may be a good contingency pickup.
  16. Radek Bonk: The third former Senator on the list, but Bonkers could be a cheap third-liner who's got some solid penalty killing abilities. He was miscast in his first tour in Ottawa, but a revisitation of expectations might make it a match made in heaven some nice place.

*Only possible/necessary if Heatley is traded.

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