Burning Questions: Top 6 Replacements

Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto

With Spezza, Michalek, and Hemsky on their way out, the final instalment of the Burning Questions series investigates who could possibly be replacing them this offseason.

As multiple sources reported on Wednesday, Bryan Murray announced that Jason Spezza has requested a trade out of Ottawa.  This really came as no surprise to Sens fans as it was just confirming our speculations.  With Spezza on his way out and with a good chance that we will see both Ales Hemsky and Milan Michalek walk away as UFAs, we need to look at how we will revamp our top 6 via the trade market and the free agent pool.

First off, we’ll look at how our potential return in the Spezza trade will help us round out our top-6.

Bryan Murray is no dummy.  He knows that if he is shipping Spezza out, he’ll hope to get at least a top-6 caliber player in return.  One of the potential suitors for Spezza is the St. Louis Blues.  After their disappointing playoff run, it is no secret that they would want to shake things up a bit.  It is hard not to think that 21-year-old pending restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz (80GP-25G-31A-56P) would be a great fit for the Sens. That may be a bit too optimistic as it would be hard to imagine the Blues sending him away after such an outstanding year.  I think that centerman Vladimir Sobotka (plus prospects/picks) is a more realistic return for the Sens.  The Czech native averaged just over half a point per game this past season (61GP-9G-24A-33P) and was picking up mainly second line minutes all season.

Why would Sobotka be a great fit for the Sens?  First, he’s a possession driver.  He posted a 56.7% Corsi (+3.5% Corsi Rel) this season. As the point has been driven home by many before me, if your team is putting more pucks towards the net than the other team, you're controlling the play and then good things tend to happen.  Secondly, he’s coming off a great year with the Blues, notching 33 points in 61 games.  Lastly, he’s a reliable penalty killer.  Ottawa led the league in times shorthanded this season.  Bad habits don’t fix themselves overnight, so I fully expect we would need to call on his penalty killing ability this upcoming season.

Don’t get me wrong, Sobotka would definitely be a downgrade in the offence department.  But, as we know from experience, the very second it becomes public knowledge that a player wants out, his stock diminishes.

To fill up the other 2 spots in our top-6, we’ll have to look to the UFA market.  The first name that jumps off the free agent list is Radim Vrbata who has earned $3M/year for the past 6 years.  You’d have to think he would be looking for a raise up to at least the $4M mark after putting up 3 great seasons.  That seems like a number that the cap floor Sens could dance with.

Season

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

Corsi For %

Corsi For% Relative

2011-2012

77

35

27

62

0.81

52.8%

+3.9%

2012-2013

34

12

16

28

0.82

51.1%

+2.0%

2013-2014

80

20

31

51

0.64

51.3%

+0.8%

Vrbata would be a great replacement/upgrade for Michalek.  Not only does he have the points to back up a top-6 selection, but he also has the possession stats on his side as well.  Vrbata has been viewed as a finisher and is not afraid to shoot the puck, ranking 11th in the league in shots last season.  Adding him to our powerplay will certainly quiet the calls for "SHOOOOOT" that often rain down from the Canadian Tire Centre fans.

Rounding out our replacements is Mike Cammalleri.  I feel like this acquisition could do a lot for the Senators.  But first off, ownership would have to give Murray consent to spend, which is no easy task.  Once we’re past that small (read: huge) hurdle of receiving approval of a $7M contract, we can look at the positives that would come with a Cammalleri addition.

Season

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

Corsi For %

Corsi For% Relative

2011-2012

66

20

21

41

0.62

47.0%

-1.0%

2012-2013

44

13

19

32

0.73

47.9%

+1.0%

2013-2014

63

26

19

45

0.72

50.8%

+6.7%

Like Vrbata, Cammalleri is a shooter.  With him averaging over 3 shots a game and driving possession even when he’s on a subpar Calgary Flames team, he could be a great addition to the Sens.  Cammalleri is always involved in the play, chipping in on 81.1% of the goals scored while he's on the ice.  Could he be the answer to the Sens troubles?

With the cap projected to keep going up and up, it seems wasteful to throw away these quality Karlsson, Turris, and MacArthur years.  While all signs point to the Sens continuing to be a budget team, the time to win is now as it will only be harder to compete as the cap rises.

There are numerous ways to go this off-season, I’m only hoping that after tossing aside our top line, we will somehow be a better team by October 1.  How do you think we'll we get there?

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