Ottawa Senators fans might be a little disappointed to hear it, but Bryan Murray doesn't think he's going to be very busy during Free Agent Frenzy day on July 1 of this year. At least that's what he told a group of reporters during a fairly in-depth interview posted on Sens TV (video embedded after the jump) late yesterday:
"I don't think I'm going to be very busy [in free agency]. I don't see a lot of names we would be going after. There are some common names that everybody mentions on a daily basis that we have to have a conversation about, but I don't think we're going to do much beyond that."
Those "common names" mentioned are almost undoubtedly Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, but based on his answers and his tone, Murray doesn't seem very optimistic about Ottawa's chances at luring one of those two to the Sens.
Given the lack of proven depth the Senators have at forward as well as on defence, this answer seems a tad surprising--although given owner Eugene Melnyk's acknowledgement that the Sens can't (or won't) spend crazy money, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise at all.
Instead, Murray seems to have high hopes for the prospects in Ottawa, both up front and on the blue line:
"I think we very definitely have to have one of our young defencemen, or an alternative signed, to make our team next year. I don't think there's any doubt that we want to be a touch better back there, or different back there.
"And we always talk about a top-six forward, there's always room for that type of player, but we do have a couple of young guys that are very, very strong candidates this coming year, and maybe they'll fill the need. The good thing about it, we have a development camp coming up, and that will force us to open our eyes and see what some of these people might bring."
It seems to be that Murray's comments reveal a much higher chance of signing a defenceman than signing a forward, which makes sense--Ottawa's got two defencemen in the system who stand a good chance of making the team, Mark Borowiecki and Patrick Wiercioch (and maybe Fredrik Claesson), but has a good number of forwards who could potentially step into a supporting role on one of the top two lines: Jakob Silfverberg at the forefront, followed closely by Mark Stone, Stephane Da Costa, Mika Zibanejad, and Andre Petersson, not to mention the possibility of Colin Greening, Nick Foligno, Bobby Butler, or Peter Regin filling that void. So there's a good chance at least one of the forwards can step up and capably play in the top six in a complementary capacity at the very least, but the team is a lot more exposed on defence to injuries as well as steps backward in development (at least once Filip Kuba and Matt Gilroy are allowed to walk on July 1).
I still think the team would be better off acquiring at least two blueliners on July 1, and there are lots of names out there, even if few are capable of top-pairing minutes: Bryan Allen seems to be a name everyone thinks Ottawa's keen on, but there are also guys like Matt Carle, Carlo Colaiacovo, Dennis Wideman, Pavel Kubina, Barrett Jackman, Greg Zanon, and Kurtis Foster.
I'd expect the Senators also to sign an experienced defenceman penciled into the Binghamton lineup but with an opportunity to play for Ottawa, sort of in the mould of David Hale, Andre Benoit, and Lee Sweatt. That's the sort of deal that will likely wait until a few days into free agency; most of those 'tweener defencemen hold out hope for a one-way contract offer before settling for a reasonable two-way deal.
But maybe Murray's going to keep a low profile in free agency in order to wait things out, and see if a team that overspends on free agents might have to deal away one of their defencemen to make up some cap space. It's a bit of a risk to take, but it might be one that works out for the Sens given the abundance of cap space the team has.
Murray's acknowledgement that the teams wants to be "a touch better" and "different" than they were last year on the blue line indicates that he will be bringing in some new faces on defence. Although that probably won't be someone like Suter or Carle, both of whom will be highly sought after, the Sens' GM still has quite a few options at his disposal for upgrading the D-corps.