Mika Zibanejad discusses the coveted second line centre position with his chief rival. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes could be the last one for Mika Zibanejad in an Ottawa Senators sweater this season. It is of course the Senators ninth game of the season, after which the first year of Zibanejad's entry-level contract kicks in. While fans have generally agreed that Zibanejad should return to Sweden, the decision appears to be a close one. Bryan Murray said that he would consider sitting Zibanejad after tomorrow should he need time to make a decision. This implies to me that he hasn't already decided on sending him back.
So let's take a look at the reasons for sending him back or to keep him in Ottawa.
Reasons to send Zibanejad back to the Elitserien
- He is only 18 years old and historically players of that age have not played well in the NHL. Why use up a year of his entry level deal?
- He hasn't outperformed the competition, whether it be Peter Regin, or Stéphane Da Costa to a less degree. Some of it can be attributed to playing at right wing, but even while playing centre he hasn't been great.
- Having played only 26 games in the Elitserien, it's not like there isn't anything for him to learn in that league. I would probably rank it as the third best league in the world after the NHL and KHL. I also feel the whole bigger ice issue is overstated.
- His entry-level contract will expire at the same time as Jared Cowen and Milan Michalek. Assuming the Senators are competitive by then and spending near the cap ceiling, it might prove difficult to re-sign them all.
- He is only getting 12:41 of ice time on average with the Senators, but Bryan Murray has been assured by Djurgardens that he would be a first line player with them and get power play time.
Reasons to keep Zibanejad in Ottawa
- The Senators can control his development and do what is best for his long term development. With Djurgardens, they are going to what is going to help them win right now. According to Steve Lloyd, Paul MacLean hinted that he would prefer to develop Zibanejad himself this season. (Steve Lloyd)
- Peter Regin is injured and MacLean currently doesn't seem to have much confidence in Stéphane Da Costa either judging by his ice time and playing on the fourth line. That doesn't necessarily mean Zibanejad stays, but it would certainly be more difficult if Da Costa was outplaying him right now.
- As Bobby noted earlier this morning, a quarter of the season is already done in Sweden. The Swedish league has 55 games and Djurgarden has already played 14 games. What kind of chemistry can Zibanejad have while showing up in the middle of the season?
- If Zibanejad struggles for an extended period, there is nothing stopping the Senators from sending him back at a later date. It's not like he has to play in every game for Ottawa. Of course a year of his contract will be used up, but it's not the end of the world.
- This could very well be Daniel Alfredsson's last season, and a year spent being mentored by Alfredsson and Jason Spezza might prove to be very beneficial. There is also that extra year of growth and experience that he can take into whenever the Senators return to the playoffs. Don Brennan went as far as to say Zibanejad should live with Alfredsson.
- Everyone on the panel predicts a loss tonight except James Gordon. Peter went with 4-2 in favour of the Hurricanes. (Senators Extra)
- Game preview. (Ottawa Sun, Senators Extra)
- The lines in practice were the same from yesterday. Greening-Spezza-Michalek, Foligno-Zibanejad-Daugavins, Condra-Smith-Neil, Konopka-Da Costa-Winchester. (Sylvain St-Laurent)
- The defensive pairings have been the same for a while now. Kuba-Karlsson, Gonchar-Cowen, Phillips-Rundblad. Brian Lee sits again. (Allen Panzeri)
- Kaspars Daugavins will play his second career NHL game tonight. He still has hopes of cracking the NHL fulltime, though if he cannot, he will likely return home to play for a KHL club in Riga, Latvia. Replacing Daniel Alfredsson in the lineup will be some task though. (Ottawa Sun)
- Paul MacLean might seem funny and nice in press conferences, but according to Jason Spezza, MacLean can be intimidating. At least so far, the players are listening to what MacLean is preaching. (Ottawa Citizen)
- Jason Spezza was pleased to be recognised as the NHL's second star last week. Bryan Murray has already been happy with Spezza's play, as well as that of Alfredsson and Michalek, admitting that with the team's current setup, Ottawa is very reliant on that trio. (Ottawa Senators)
- Daniel Alfredsson is taking tonight's game off but says it is nothing major. Is this something we could see Alfie do frequently this year? After three straight home games, the Senators just play the single game on the road before returning home again. Seems like a good time to rest up to me. (Ottawa Senators)
- You can get an Erik Karlsson authentic road jersey (not a replica) for just $179.99, the regular price is over $300. Blank ones also available for $119.99. If I didn't already have a Karlsson jersey, I would definitely get this. (Sens Town)