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Five Thoughts for Friday: Anderson, Michalek, Puempel, and Politics

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

"Yeah, but did you try the lasagna?"
"Yeah, but did you try the lasagna?"
USA TODAY Sports

It is the middle of summer. What is there to talk about? For starters, Robin Lehner just signed a new deal.

1)    Robin Lehner's been locked up with a three-year deal. This is a pretty good deal for the Senators. Term and dollars work and when the deal is up, Lehner won't be a UFA. But it does suggest the writing is on the wall for Ottawa's veteran goalie, Craig Anderson. Andy is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014-2015; the terms of Lehner's deal indicate a changing of the guard. What isn't clear is Anderson's role this season. He most likely starts the season as the number one goalie, but if he struggles out of the gate (like he did during much of 2013-2014) how soon before Paul MacLean hands the reigns to Lehner? If Lehner does grab the starter's job this season, it's probably going to be hard to move Andy midseason. Trading for a 33-year-old goalie that has lost his job as the number one doesn't seem likely. I think Ottawa's goaltending situation is resolved when Anderson walks as a free agent at the end of the season.

2)    What's reasonable to expect from Milan Michalek? I don't love the decision to retain his services and I don't love the contract, but Michalek is a Senator for the next three seasons. So what are we getting? Michalek played all 82 games in 2013-2014 for the first time in his NHL career, yet managed just 17 goals (his lowest total as a Senator except for his injury shortened lockout campaign). Recovering from a knee injury, he started slowly, but his play picked up in the second half of the season when he featured on a line with the now departed Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. Now, his linemates are gone and for the first time in his Ottawa career, he'll have to find chemistry with a centre not named Jason Spezza. The problem with this scenario is that Michalek's struggles away from Spezza are well-documented. There's been a suggestion that pairing Michalek with Zibanejad might work, but Nichols explains why that's not the best option.

3)    I think Michalek slots in best playing next to David Legwand. The veteran forwards can be somewhat successful playing a reduced, third line role. After Erik Condra and Derek Grant, Michalek averaged the most shorthanded time of any Ottawa forward in 2013-2014 (1:48 PK TOI/G). Legwand didn't spend much time on the penalty kill for Nashville last season, but he's been a reliable penalty killer in the past for the Predators. I think it's unrealistic to expect significant offensive production out of the pair, but perhaps they can offset a reduced role by taking some of the defensive zone starts from the top line and contributing on the penalty kill.

4)    While it seems like Curtis Lazar will be given every opportunity to make the team out of training camp, most likely as a winger given Ottawa's depth down the middle, I'm curious to see if Matt Puempel gets an extended look. In his first season of pro hockey, Puempel played 15 more games for Bingo than he did in any season in junior hockey and potted 30 goals. Not bad for his first pro season. Again, the contracts of Colin Greening and Chris Neil limit Ottawa's options. If Lazar makes the team, that further complicates matters for Puempel. If Lazar earns a nine game look to start the season and then returns to the WHL, is Puempel the first winger to be called up? Can Puempel make the team out of camp?

5)    This past week has been a tough one in the wider sporting world for those who don't like politics mixing with ballgames. The NFL's suspension of Ray Rice had ripple effects through the broadcasting side of sport and the Maple Leafs' hiring of Kyle Dubas proved controversial for some. In the wake of these events and the related discussions spawned online, many sports fans have suggested they want politics out of sports and sports coverage. If only it was so simple. From flags and singing the national anthem before games, to honouring politicians with a minute's silence, and ceremonial faceoffs and first pitches, the political has become entrenched in our games. We hold significant international tournaments, ignoring the numerous sins of organizing committees. Like it or not, politics is part of sports. It's what we do with that knowledge that makes a difference.