This Season: Patrick Wiercioch, in his third year out of college and only one year removed from a horrifying injury suffered during AHL action, took a big step forward for the Senators. In forty games, he had nineteen points, which was second among rookie defenders. Despite impressive numbers, Wiercioch only appeared once in the playoffs, and was injured. However, even when seemingly ready to return in Game 5, MacLean elected to play Andre Benoit in his stead, who had a solid playoffs for the Sens. Wiercioch earned accolades for his work in the offensive zone. He was good on the powerplay, offering a presence capable of unloading a hard shot and moving the puck well.
Still, Wiercioch didn't look quite ready for the role of everyday top-four defender. He assuredly has a higher potential the team would like to see him reach. After all, his slick presence on the powerplay, timely offensive output, and remarkable similarity to Kyle Turris masked some underlying deficiencies in his play. Most importantly, Wiercioch has yet to gain the full trust of his coach. MacLean managed Wiercioch's time well, giving him the third most powerplay time on the team, predictably behind only Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar. However, his average TOI/60 was the second lowest on the team of any defender who took the ice all season-- only Mark Borowiecki saw less action per game. Moreover, Wiercioch started 62% of his plays in the offensive zone. Needless to say, he hardly played on the penalty kill, and thus was not eligible for the Norris Trophy. Clearly, the rookie defender has room left to grow and trust left to earn, despite the impressive strides he made this year.
Comparables: Jonathan Blum wrapped up his ELC by playing fifty-six games over the course of two years. The Predators rewarded him with a one-year deal worth $650k. However, Blum only managed fifteen points over that time, leaving his points-per-game at 0.27. Wiercioch, in fourteen less games of action over only one season, stands at 0.45.
Following the 2008-09 season, the Boston Bruins signed Matt Hunwick to a two-year deal worth 1.45 million against the cap each season. The contract was signed off the strength of his 53 game regular season, in which he put up 27 points. Sadly for Hunwick and the Bruins, that year would prove to be his most productive so far in the NHL.
With a one-year deal between his ELC and his most recent contract, Grant Clitsome's 19 points in 31 games back in 2010-11 were enough to earn him a two-year deal with an annual average cap hit of 1.35 million.
Contract Status: All that makes for an interesting contract negotiation. Wiercioch will obviously be kept on board and has certainly earned a one-way deal. Beyond that, it gets a little tougher to judge. Both sides will probably be looking for shorter term deals-- his comparables all signed two-year pacts, though a one-year deal may be palatable on both sides, especially if Ottawa isn't quite yet willing to offer up as much as the Wiercioch camp feels he will deserve by next season. Wiercioch has offered more offensively than Blum showed in a similar sample. His figure will likely reside on the upper end, perhaps somewhere between 1 and 1.4 million.
This Season: It's only lasted a shade over two seasons, but Stephane Da Costa's tenure with the Senators has already had its ups and downs. A free agent undrafted forward out of Merrimack College, the diminutive Frenchman was chased by just about every team in the NHL. His decision had Sens fans on tenderhooks, looking for a sign of promise in a downtrodden year. Da Costa chose Ottawa over Philadelphia and, two years later, his career has never quite reached the hype of his free agency. Da Costa has seen time in the NHL in both his seasons. This year, Da Costa made the trip shortly after Jason Spezza's back opened up a spot among the top-six. Da Costa was okay in the role, but did not produce enough offensively- two points in nine games is hardly enough, especially considering Da Costa started nearly 75% (!!!) of his draws in the offensive zone. On a Senators team riddled with injuries, Da Costa couldn't earn his keep, and was sent back down to Binghamton. He played well there, just as he did last season, even though his output was only two points more in eleven games. He showed good chemistry with Mark Stone, which could attract some interest from Senators management.
Comparable: This one has been floated since the day he was signed, but Fabian Brunnstrom is a player to look at here. He had a strong start in the NHL after being a big-name free agent signee. His first season was excellent, his second didn't inspire much excitement, and Dallas re-upped him for one year on an NHL deal worth 675k, which ended up making him a well-paid AHLer, as he spent the entirety of his third season in Dallas. That Brunnstrom failed to become an everyday NHL player should not be read as an indictment of Da Costa, but their situation after a few seasons is relatively similar.
Contract Status: Da Costa hasn't blown away anybody with his play in the NHL, though he has produced well enough in the AHL, which should be expected for a player of his talent level. There are a few things working against Da Costa. The biggest one is the emergence of Jean-Gabriel Pageau as an NHL player. If Pageau's game is more than the stuff of playoff mirage, Stephane Da Costa's future with the organization is in serious jeopardy, if it isn't already. Essentially, the spot Pageau filled should have been taken by Da Costa, but the Gatineau native has superceded Da Costa's spot on the depth chart. He wins faceoffs more frequently and can be trusted in a defensive role, which Da Costa never was by MacLean. Da Costa is an offensive presence, which is fine, but has been replaced by someone who can do more. This alone does not push Da Costa from the organization, but competition for spots on the NHL roster are fierce. I expect Ottawa will look to retain his services for one year on a two-way deal that will pay him handsomely in the AHL. At the NHL, anywhere in the neighborhood of 600k would seem to make sense. Any longer would be surprising on both sides of the table- if there isn't room on the NHL roster soon, I expect the Senators will look to move on and Da Costa will try and find a team where there is more opportunity to earn an everyday spot.
This Season: Mike Hoffman had a difficult year. On the cusp of an NHL job coming into the year, Hoffman was deprived the opportunity of a full training camp to earn a role. Then, when injuries did make a job available, Hoffman broke his collarbone. Rehab was a long process, with some speculation he would be done for the year, which he almost was. He returned enough to play in three regular seasons for the Senators, before being re-injured and sitting out the rest of the season, tagging along as a Black Ace for the playoff run. He was Binghamton's best player when on the team, scoring 38 points through 41 regular season games and manning the point on the powerplay.
Contract Status: Forget the comparables here, there's oodles of them. Hoffman is a tweener- he's on the verge of an NHL spot and has more than earned his keep and done his time in the AHL. Hoffman hasn't gotten more than a cup of coffee at the NHL level, but has shown flashes of his fluid skating and speed when given the opportunity. This coming year will be a decisive one for Hoffman's future in the NHL. He's accomplished about everything he can in the AHL. I still think the organization will try to sign him on a two-way deal, but it would have to be a tall earning in Binghamton. If Hoffman can stay healthy, he has a reasonable shot at holding down an NHL job, as he can slot in just about anywhere in the top-nine. Yet, with little NHL experience to his name, the figure will be low. Hoffman will certainly be re-signed by the Senators, likely in the neighborhood of 600-700k and the Hoffman camp will surely push hard for a one-way deal. Hoffman has given a lot to this organization, but the biggest question mark moving forward is health. For more on the former QMJHL MVP, including the impressive hurdles he's already cleared thus far in his career, read my Top 25 Under 25 piece from earlier in the year.
This Season: Erik Condra is never the kind of player who is going to win you over on a classic stat-line. His offensive output, however, is not his main role for the Senators, except when he has Kyle Turris' big booty to target for deflections. Condra is a gifted two-way player who can fit in just about anywhere on the line-up and shone in the 2013 playoffs, frustrating the Penguins and infuriating the Canadiens alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Colin Greening.
Comparables: Hey, since we're talking about the new Chris Kelly, we might as well take a gander at the old Chris Kelly, no? Kelly was putting up better offensive numbers than Condra at this point in their respective careers, but both of their greatest assets was and is defensive play and responsibility. (Notable exception being Condra's play in the German league, where the sudden superstar directed the flow of traffic. Don't think that'll come up in contract negotiations, though). Heading into the 2008-09 season, Kelly signed a four year deal worth an annual average of 2.125 million. In the 2007-08 season, Kelly lead all forwards in shorthanded minutes. This season, Condra did the same, although the burden was significantly lesser than in Kelly's contract year-- Paul MacLean spreads the shorthanded wealth more generously, but seems to trust Condra the most. Of course, that might also be because Condra's greatest asset is his defensive play: in 5v5, Condra had the least ice time of any forward to play over twenty games, second only to Peter Regin. Kelly's contract would be an inflated comparable, at best. Condra is an important asset for the Senators, an intelligent defensive forward who possesses the puck well, but was still on track to put up less offence than Kelly did in advance of this deal.
Jay McClement is someone that Senators management might point to. Both McClement and Condra play heavy shorthanded minutes and offer similar levels of offence- in other words, they do other things better. McClement starts a lot of his draws in the defensive zone, whereas Condra mostly splits his time. McClement turns the ice for his team well, starting only 28% of his shifts in the offensive zone, but finishing there 42% of the time. He earns 1.5 million per season, the same income he was drawing in for his previous contract.
Boyd Gordon is a UFA this season, but was paid 1.3 million for the last two years. Previous to that, he was paid on a series of one-way contracts, none of which earned him over a million per season. His offence is on a very similar plane to Condra's (in 48 games this year, he had 14 points, which is two more than Condra. If Condra had capitalized on only two more of his glorious opportunities, they'd be even) and both of them play defensively smart games that involve much time-on-ice when down a player.
Contract Status: The Senators like Condra a lot and his coach has trust in him. He had a good playoffs for the team and seemed to be playing his best hockey for stretches of this season. He will certainly be back with the team- a contract in the neighborhood of 3 years at 1.3 million makes sense for both parties.
This Season: Dziurzynski was a bit of a surprise call-up this year, but did make his way into twelve games for the Senators, scoring two goals in the process. His season took an unfortunate turn when he dropped the gloves against Maple Leafs enforcer Frazer McLaren in a mid-season game. The Senators played him after his return from a concussion before sending him back down to Binghamton for the duration of the season. Dziurzynski was on track to a career year in the AHL, or at least very close to it. He seemed to earn more trust with MacLean than did Derek Grant, which is interesting because the latter's defensively responsible play would seem to work well with the coach's desire to play a 200-foot game.
Contract Status: A little unclear. Although Dziurzynski had two goals, his ceiling in the NHL would appear to be as a fourth line player, in which case his defensive play would have to be exemplary. He's an energetic player, who brings energy and physicality. The Senators didn't draft him, signing him as a free agent out of junior, but I wouldn't be surprised if they kept him around for another year. One hitch to resigning Dziurzynski is that the Senators have to cut somewhere if they're to fit comfortably under the 50-contract limit. Silver Seven member Sensfan90 wrote some good stuff on the contract limit in a fan post, I suggest you check it out, even if it was back in the Daug days and the era of Ben Bishop et al. If they do decide to retain his services, it is sure to be a two-way deal, probably somewhere around 600-700k. His veteran experience is likely desirable for Coach Luke Richardson and Ottawa could call on him in a crunch.
This Season: I've said it before and will likely say it again, but this was a big turn-around season for the Ottawa native. Cowick, a former Ottawa 67 and a 6th round pick in 2009, turned professional last year. It was an up-and-down season-- literally. He struggled to cement a role in the AHL and found himself playing a fair amount of time with Elmira. This season, he hit his stride. By mid-season, one could see a new-found confidence in Cowick's game at the professional level. He was trying things, and many of them were working. Playing in all situations for Luke Richardson this year, Cowick hovered a shade under 0.5 points-per-game, posting 35 through 72. However, much of Cowick's offence came in the latter half of the season, having earned a new level of trust and playing a more important role on the team. He wasn't among those given a shot at playing time in the NHL this year, but if similar openings make themselves available, he'll be one of the top options for Ottawa to recall. In one strong campaign, Cowick has remade himself into a realistic NHL prospect.
Contract Status: Two years of a two-way deal, somewhere from 600-800k, with a nice bump from his 65k haul in the AHL seems about right here. He will be back in the system next year, with a more prominent role in Binghamton and a better chance of playing in the bottom-six, should injuries beleaguer Ottawa.
This Season: Not a terrible year for Borowiecki, by any means. He played well in Binghamton, if he struggled during his short stretch in Ottawa. Still, so far as his spot on the NHL team goes, things did not go as planned. Coming into this season, Borowiecki was talked about as being NHL-ready talent, prepared to step in and play for the 5/6 spot, offering a blend of Matt Carkner's departed physicality in a more mobile frame. Later in the season, when there was room on the Ottawa blueline, it was Eric Gryba who came trundling into Scotiabank Place and locked up a spot. He has effectively leapfrogged Borowiecki on the depth chart. That's not good news for the BoroCop.
Contract Status: Again, with such little NHL action, there's not much point looking at comparables. Borowiecki will sign a two-way deal, probably for one way. He needs a big offseason and a stand-out performance in training camp.
This Season: Not a great one for Caporusso. He was a good player in the ECHL, but was a victim somewhat of the numbers game in Binghamton. He had some strong performances, but none enough to merit a permanent roster spot. He did, however, put up 45 points in 41 games while in Elmira.
Contract Status: This is up in the air. I would think the Senators keep him because they spent a third-round selection on him, but it was back in 2007, when Bryan Murray was just getting to the helm in Ottawa. He has several things working against him. He is far behind on the depth chart, the Senators have a lot of full roster spots and he was unable to secure a job in the AHL. He is also under six feet, which is a rather arbitrary cut-off, but a reminder that the Senators have a number of undersized forwards a step ahead of him. If he's back, it would surely be for one season, with a chance at earning a job in Binghamton in training camp. At this point, a return appears unlikely.
Clearly, I'm optimistic for a lot of these players. Teams don't often drop restricted free agents, unless there is a clear-cut reason for doing so. That reason would normally be a player's unlikelihood of much progression within the system or for contractual reasons. For Ottawa, it would be the latter. Either way, there isn't much rest for weary hockey management executives.
Credit to Behind The Net for fancy numbers, hockeydb for the simple stuff and capgeek for the money stuff.