While i might sound overly dramatic, the upcoming off-season is a time when the future of the Sens will be shaped for many years to come.
With many of the teams top tier players entering the final year of their respective contracts in the summer, there's bound to be some additions and substractions within the ranks. On offence we have Spezza, Ryan, MacArthur and Condra hitting UFA-status after next season and Zibanejad, Pageau, Stone, and Prince coming on restricted free agency. On defence there's the upcoming UFA-status of Marc Methot that needs to be addressed and RFA's Claesson and Borowiecki. In goal, Anderson is coming up on the final year of his contract. This is an intriguing situation, the possibilities of the coming summer are titillating.
Ryan and MacArthur are probably very high on everyones resigning list and should be, too. So are the RFAs probably. But the case of Spezza is more curious. A player on the verge of age related decline that has gone through two back surgeries, Giggles might be on his way out if the stars don't align. As Nichols on the 6th Sens wrote a while ago, Garrioch has identified the Blues and Ducks as the two teams sniffing around Spezza on the deadline. With the emergence of Kyle Turris and the chemistry between Ryan and Turris, it is not hard to play around with the thought of selling Spezza for younger parts. Both St. Louis and Anaheim have in their lineups pieces that could be used to stock the Sens in many areas, but there's also the likely possibility that if Spezza is put on the market that a couple more suitors will show up.
On defence the situation is a bit more stable with only Methot on contract that hits it's last year. Methot has been a fine addition to the defence, which has been otherwise quite lacking with almost everything. With Murray already on his heels for years before trading him in from Columbus, it's all but certain that Methot will get a good contract offer from the management. The bigger issue on defence is the holes in it. This season, the expectations on the success f the young d-corps by the management was clearly an overevaluation of assets at hand, but there's two ways to approach this. Either you consider this seasons defencive woes a baptism by fire and expect substantial internal growth (the growing pains having been visible all season) or you go back to the drawing board and go after some of the top UFAs hard. It's hard to disagree with the notion that addin a plaeyr like Matt Niskanen will be a greater gain than the player substracted from his way, but for a team with tight financial restraint this option will be dependent on the combination shrewd actions by the management and sheer luck.
In goal, the plans of moving Anderson for piecs has been hindered by the inconsistent play of Lehner. While showing great promise and potential, many will probably agree that next season is not yet the time to hand the reigns to Lehner. The likely scenario will be that Anderson plays out his contract in Ottawa (atleast until the trade deadline next year) and the situation is reassessed after the season.
So the upcoming summer will be one where the organization will take shape for years to come. If they sell the shining star that is Jason Spezza to the highest bidder there's bound to be some cries from the ranks of the fans, but ultimately the return in the trade will likely be so substantial that the team will be filled with new, exciting talent. If the management is able to resign Ryan and MacArthur for a fair amount of money and get a piece on defence either in the looming Spezza trade or by free agency, they might be able to round up the team and we might see a stronger team strating the season next year. Or they might go for picks on the draft or even resign everybody and write the disappointment of the past season as a necessary part of growing in house talent.
personally, if i was given the opportunity, i'd resign Hemsky now and Methot, Ryan and MacArthur in the summer, trade Spezza for everything young and exciting i could scrape from St. Louis and hide in my office until the fans have calmed down. But that's just me.