We have seen our Senator's through nearly half a season so far this year and the chance for a playoff position looks bleaker with each passing game. There is still yet a chance for the Senators to pull themselves together and surge ahead of the mediocrity that is the pack of teams vying for the wild card spot, yet despite that we still have to look forward to next year with realistic plans. What should our goals as a team be moving into next season and how will that affect the decisions made by the powers that be?
One of the most publicized facts about our team is the cost cutting measures being implemented by ownership and management in the name of a team that they have deemed to be "small market". This implies that the team cannot generate enough income to generate a profit while spending to the cap. There is talk of the team needing to shed salary towards the trade deadline to save some real dollars, yet also talk of an ownership green light to spending additional dollars in the future given the proper allocation of funds (ie. not overpaying).
As it stands it seems like the team's current goal is to be cost effective in their spending acquiring pieces at the right price salary wise. This means that nothing could happen or something could happen given the right opportunities, but we cannot estimate the factors that may precede any potential acquisitions. The team wants "bang for your buck" yet does not want to sacrifice it's quality pieces in pursuit so will look for it's own undervalued targets. A good example this season was the acquisition of MacArthur as a UFA, he has been great for us on a very reasonable salary compared to the likes of a highly touted Clarkson who has not replaced MacArthur's points on his Toronto squad.
Ottawa's immediate task will be to:
- identify their core players
- jettison excessive salary outside of the core
- identify possible internal candidates to fill spots by the end of the season
- acquire undervalued talent to fill positions during free agency
- Spezza - Whether you like it or not Spezza should remain a core player going forward. People continue to question his ability to be "the guy" and his captaincy has only amplified it (along with a strong showing for Turris during the start of the season) but point per game centers do not grow on trees. Baring a scenario where Spezza would like to leave, he should remain a Senator by signing a new contract.
- Turris - I don't think there is much debate here, Turris is here to stay and is currently making a meager salary for what he is bringing to the table.
- Zibanejad - Listed as a center here for posterity, but if he wants to get significant T6 minutes moving forward will likely have to be a winger. A nice benefit is having a second face-off guy out there when someone gets tossed from the circle.
- Ryan - We gave up a ransom for the guy, and we need to keep him. He is the package and the guy we have been looking for at wing for ages.
- MacArthur - Questionable inclusion as a core player, but I really like the dimension he adds as a possession driver in our T6. If he can be retained at a reasonable salary then I would.
- Neil - Not really "core" per se, but likely a player that will remain with the team. He is part of the leadership group and brings a much needed presence to the team.
- Karlsson - Duh.
- Cowen - Still questions as to his ability to reach his potential, I still see him as part of the Senators long term commitments.
- Methot - Has shown the ability to be a solid T4 defender for us, resigned at a reasonable price point he should be retained.
- Phillips - Mainly part of the core not for his ability to be the best player, but possibly even as a PR move. Phillips has been a Senator for life and when Alfredsson left, the organization was scarred. Phillips is part of the leadership core and can still play hockey, I would expect him to retire as a Senator.
- Lehner - He is our long term core goaltender. Anderson has played well in the last couple years yet we all know that Lehner is the goalie of the future. I wouldn't trade Anderson as this juncture as he is important to the team, yet he is likely not in the long term plans as Lehner will look to take reign in the next few seasons.
Prospects (held onto with a tight grasp, these guys are our cream of the crop)
- Ceci - Could be a strong pivot on our defense in the future and is already showing off talent in the NHL this year.
- Lazar - Looks to be playing on the top line at the WJC for Canada, although this doesn't mean the world it does count for something. Looks like he could become a definitive well rounded T6 forward.
Wait and see
- Weircioch - He might be there, he might not.
- Conacher - I would say he is a long shot to stick around for long term but we gave up an asset to acquire him and retain his rights for the foreseeable future giving him some odds of remaining a Sen.
- Puempel - He lit the lame in the OHL and has a legitimate shot of being a T6er in the NHL but only time will tell if he can make the jump successfully.
- Stone - Similar to Puempel but without the 1st round pedigree.
Out of the rest of the players we do have useful guys, but I do not see any standouts in terms of irreplaceable bodies. This is not to disrespect your favourite pet player, but rather more of an assessment of what is truly at the root of what Ottawa needs to keep on their team.
As part of the teams commitment to becoming lean it will need to jettison a few dollars from areas where players could be overpaid.
- Michalek - I don't see this mans drive anymore, it could be an extended slump but I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Resigning him to term is a risky proposition with his declining play, if Michalek is a smart man he will likely attempt free agency to salvage as much money/term he can get after a decline in his play.
- Smith - He does make less then 2 million, which is really not a huge deal, yet he is still taking a spot on our team that could go to better use.
- Greening - The worst culprit I do believe, rumours are already afloat that Murray is trying to dump the contract extension he just signed. Greening keeps leaving something to be desired in his play, and won't justify his contract.
Time to play "Moneyball"
When it comes to it, it will be difficult to go out and find those hidden gems because everyone in the league is looking for them. This isn't days past where Detroit could pick up un-scouted superstar swedes in the late rounds of the draft, yet we need to continue to look for the right bargains on the free agency market and trading block.
I won't pretend to know which players will be the right fit for our team to acquire, I would rather leave that to the professionals so I won't bother trying to speculate. That being said we need to take good stock of what we have in the cupboard and prepare for the following season. I would say "winter is coming", but it is already here.