Making the cut: Are there any open spots on the Senators' roster?

An interesting story came up in today's National Post about the unenviable position prospects are in by virtue of their two-way contracts in competing for s roster spot on this year's Ottawa Senators squad. It wasn't going to be easy for Peter Regin, Zack Smith, Josh Hennessy, Ilya Zubov, or Cody Bass to make this team even before Ottawa made a two-for-one swap with Dany Heatley, and after that the odds were stacked further against them. Hennessy, Zubov, and Bass have already been demoted, and although the hard work of both Regin and Smith has kept them around for further observation, there are no guarantees.

Including Christoph Schubert, the Senators' have 13 forwards on one-way NHL contracts. That doesn't include Nick Foligno, who is a sure bet to make the NHL squad. It does, however, include Jesse Winchester, whose 'lower-body injury' is expected to keep the second-year NHLer out for three weeks. That injury, coupled with a re-assignment to defence or placement on the waiver wire for Schubert, and possibly the scratching of Shean Donovan (who was a healthy scratch fairly often last season) might open up one spot for either Regin or Smith.

Judging by his three-point performance against Montreal, and the chemistry he appears to have with Foligno and Mike Fisher, the edge at this point probably goes to Regin.

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Assuming Regin sticks around and Smith gets sent for a second year in Binghamton, the lineup might look something like this:

Milan Michalek Jason Spezza Daniel Alfredsson
Jonathan Cheechoo Ryan Shannon Alex Kovalev
Nick Foligno Peter Regin Mike Fisher
Jarkko Ruutu Chris Kelly Chris Neil
(Spare: Shean Donovan; Injured: Jesse Winchester)

I'm not sure if that's the most expensive fourth line in the league, but with a combined cap hit of $5.425M ($1.3M, $2.125M, and $2M respectively), it's got to be pretty darn close. The bottom line with respect to those top three lines, though, is that all three can score on any given night--a vast improvement over the past couple years, where the top line was the be all and end all of our scoring prowess in just about any given game.

The picture on defence, though, is at least as complicated. Hot prospect Erik Karlsson was going to get every chance to make the team out of camp, and he hasn't disappointed. The Swede looks like he might be the most offensively skilled defenceman on the Senators' roster, and his size hasn't yet proven to be an issue. None of Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, nor Filip Kuba are going anywhere in the near future, and the one-way NHL contracts for both Chris Campoli and Alex Picard make it unpalatable to send them to the minors. Add to that Schubert's uncertain role on the team, and it sure looks like neither Brian Lee nor Matt Carkner has much of a chance to make the team--due to numbers more than their play in training camp.

Filip Kuba Erik Karlsson
Anton Volchenkov Chris Phillips
Chris Campoli Alex Picard
(Spare: Christoph Schubert)

What will make all of this conjecture more interesting is the possibility of waiver-wire acquisitions this season. Seems like the NHL is trending towards increased player movement, and the number of professional tryouts for established professionals, not to mention those who remain without an NHL team, leads me to believe that there will be a few players on NHL contracts thrown on the waiver wire. Schubert has been run through the rumour mill for the last eight months, and Picard was mentioned plenty over the summer. If either of them move on, it might clear up the situation--possibly making room for one of Lee or Carkner.

We'll see how this situation works itself out. Sometimes injuries have a way of solving these problems, but it seems cruel to hope for that sort of thing. And it would probably be bad karma... But no matter what happens, it's going to be an interesting season. But at least the goaltending situation seems to be predictable. For the time being.

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