With the Stanley Cup Playoffs winding down, discussion will soon move to the NHL Entry Draft and Free Agency. We know that Milan Michalek, Ales Hemsky and Matt Kassian are all coming to the end of their contracts on July 1, 2014. But, with all due respect to these players, this is peanuts compared to the UFA haul the Sens will have next year.
Here are the players whose contracts will end next season: Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Marc Methot, Craig Anderson and Erik Condra. Who will stay? Who will go? Who will get a new contract this summer? Let's look at some of the major UFA priorities for the Ottawa Senators.
In any other situation, re-signing the captain would be priority number one. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Senators. Bryan Murray will likely trade Jason Spezza before the Draft, or at the very latest, Free Agency.
Hypothetically, if the Sens were not going to trade him, Spezza would likely see a contract renewal sometime this summer. Sorry Sens fans, it doesn't look like this is going to happen.
With Spezza on the way out, the focus now shifts to Bobby Ryan. After coming in hot last season, Ryan gave Sens fans a much needed boost after losing Daniel Alfredsson. That excitement was met with cautious optimism when they realized that he only had two years left on his contract. Fans determined that Ottawa had to re-sign Ryan to make this trade worth it.
After Ottawa gave up Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick for Ryan, it would be a big loss if the team didn't re-sign him this season. That is a steep price to pay for a player who you got a season and a half out of (if all goes well). I would expect Murray to extend Ryan's contract early in the season.
Whether or not the Sens re-sign Clarke MacArthur largely depends on his play in this upcoming season. If it was strictly based on this season, he would stay and this conversation wouldn't be happening. But MacArthur has a history, granted a small one, of being streaky. Fortunately, he also has a history of lighting it up in contract years, just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If he plays anywhere near the level that he did this season, it's safe to assume Murray would re-sign him. He's likely looking at a small raise too. My guess is $3.5 million per year for two years.
Sens fans won't like this, but I don't think Marc Methot will remain an Ottawa Senator after next season. This team has so many young defensemen waiting to crack into the line-up, and this blue line is crowded to begin with. In order to make some room for these guys, a player like Methot is likely to get chopped.
But fear not, Sens fans, this means we get to see more of players like Mark Borowiecki, Fredrik Claesson and Cody Ceci.
This is going to go one of two ways:
1) Craig Anderson remains the starting goaltender for the first half of the season, sharing more games than normal with Lehner. His trade value increases, and the Sens trade him before the deadline.
2) The team puts trust in Lehner from day one, and lets him make a case for why he should be the starting goalie. Anderson steps in every now and then to maintain trade value, and we see him leave town before February.
Either way, Craig Anderson's days here are numbered.
As much as we all hoped he would, Erik Condra just hasn't found his groove here. He had mild success in the beginning, when no one knew who he was. Now, the only thing he can do is carry the puck from one blue line to the other. Don't get me wrong, he does that very well. But the Sens will likely find someone else for the job after next season.
Murray might ship him out in some sort of package deal (maybe with Methot) before the deadline, but we might see him walk at Free Agency next year. Regardless of how it happens, this is likely Erik Condra's last season as an Ottawa Senator.
As always, a lot could change before next season. Some of these players could see early contract renewals. Some of them may even get traded in the summer. But if they stay here, Ottawa is going to have a lot of decisions to make when the season starts.