As much as I have enjoyed the NHL playoffs so far (particularly the recently concluded St. Louis/Chicago series), I can't help but think ahead to the upcoming offseason and wonder how the Sens will address some of their current personnel issues. This includes not only signing players who are UFAs or RFAs, but signing players whose contracts will be up the following season. As everyone on this board is well aware, how this pans out could greatly affect the franchise moving forward, and includes names such as Spezza, Ryan, Hemsky, Gryba, MacArthur, Hoffman and Lehner, among others.
My post today is actually more about seeking the opinions of Silver Seven readers, as opposed to posting my own musings. However, I'll start off by discussing the obvious topic that everyone is talking or thinking about these days: Jason Spezza.
Spezza has been a point per game player over the course of his 11.5 year career in the nation's capital (687 points in 686 games). He is in the last year of a contract that will pay him $4 million, while carrying a $7 million cap hit. For a team that seems to be strapped for cash (or so the owner would like us to believe), this contract is a dream for this upcoming season. However, the big question is whether or not management is willing to pay what other teams will offer him next year as a free agent, and whether they see him as a building block moving forward, given the less-than-supportive comments from management at the end of the year.
Question 1: Should Spezza be the first person re-signed, given that he is now one of the veterans on the team, wearing the "C" and active leading-career point producer? Or should Brian Murray sign whoever he can, whenever he can, to get things out of the way? Personally, if I was Spezza, I would be kind of insulted if Ryan or anyone else signed long term, big money deals before I did, given my history with the team ("so you just traded for this guy last year and offer him an 8 year deal, and I've been here almost 12 years, and you want to give me a short extension?"). Also, apparently this will impact whether Hemsky returns or not, meaning that potentially two signings are affected here. I'm very curious whether you guys think making offers to Ryan and/or MacArthur first, who played very well this season and hopefully get long term extensions, will change negotiations with Spezza.
Question 2: If he is signed, what is a fair contract value for him? Personally, I hope that Murray just signs him quickly to put an end to all media speculation. The last thing I want to see is the Sun or some other paper I wouldn't wipe my @&$ with run him out of town. Personally, I feel a 4 year contract paying him $8M the first 2 seasons and $7M the following 2 seasons is a fair deal for both parties. He gets his veteran payday while not locking the Sens into a long term contract, and stays at around the same cap hit. If he's looking for term, throw another year on for 4-6M in the last year. It's not that I necessarily think that Spezza is worth $8M a season, I'm just being realistic about market value given what David Clarkson is making for the Make-me-Laffs.
Question 3: If he is not signed, who should he be traded for? It seems that the general consensus on the board (including myself) is that if this does happen, it should be for a top-pairing defenseman. I would be ok with this only if it was someone who would be valuable in the future and not just the present (like Kevin Shattenkirk on St. Louis, for example- given the team's recent first round exit, this could become more plausible if they are looking for a talented centre to play with T.J. Oshie to provide offense).
Now, the next question has to do with our two netminders, who unfortunately did not live up to expectations this season (Anderson cost me pretty bad in my hockey pool actually, being my second overall pick after Crosby...). Anderson has one year left on his contract, while Lehner is a RFA.
Question 4: Who do you sign first, and for how much? Anderson, being the veteran, who until this season pretty much carried the team on his back since he arrived, and is likely wanting a raise and to continue playing as the starter? Or Lehner, the up and coming star of the future? Pretty much the only good thing about them both having poor seasons is that hopefully our low-balling management can pull off signing one (or both) to reasonable extensions. Does signing Lehner first (out of necessity), possibly for similar money to what Anderson is currently making, agitate Anderson because it indicates to him there is a good chance he may have to split time, or that there is a "changing of the guard," and therefore we are forced to trade him or risk losing him as a UFA next year? Personally, I feel that Lehner will bounce back from a sub-par year, and that his time is now.
On to the Sens' defense. With Phillips signing for two more years, the back line, which was also disappointing this year, is crowded with (currently) lower pairing defensemen (particularly with Borocop entering a one-way deal this upcoming season).
Question 5: Should a trade be made to make room and/or upgrade the back-end before, or after, Methot and/or Gryba are re-signed? The porous defense is hopefully something Murrary addresses as soon as possible, as it was the Sens' glaring weakness this year. I can't help but think of Albert Einstein's definition of insanity in this case: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Does making a trade for a D-Man and the salary of the new player (hopefully) brought in affect how much Methot/Gryba expect?
These are the main things I've been curious about recently, and not being all that experienced in back-room negotiations and politics, I was hoping that some of you could provide your two cents! Let me know what you guys think. I have a couple of trade suggestions that I've been mulling over posting here, but I'd like to see what your reactions are to these questions before I do so!
Have a great week, and may you all survive allergy season (every spring, I want to burn every single birch and alder tree in existence....le sigh). Cheers