In the past calendar year, the Ottawa Senators have made plenty of signings---just not players from outside of the organization. There were plenty of Senators set to hit free agency in 2015, both UFA's and RFA's. And at the end of the day, Bryan Murray was able to keep UFA's Craig Anderson, Clarke MacArthur, Bobby Ryan, Marc Methot, as well as the RFA's Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Alex Chiasson.
The only player that wasn't re-signed was Erik Condra. I absolutely despise the decision to let him go, but let's move on from that. Considering he was the only one to go though, it's quite impressive that all those players will still be with the team. The 2015 summer could have been a nightmare for the Senators, but instead it was very manageable.
Looking ahead to 2016, it will be infinitely easier. In total, Ottawa has two expiring UFA contracts and four RFA contracts. You could also include Chris Wideman, Shane Prince and Matt Puempel in the totals, but they shouldn't be very expensive. But out of the players that are on the NHL roster as of now, there are six expiring contracts. The two unrestricted free agents should be insignificant: Chris Phillips and Chris Neil.
Phillips and Neil have been with the Senators for their whole careers, but their time has come. 2014-15 should have been their last season at least with Ottawa, and it's clear that the team has no use for them and doesn't want them. It's great to have loyalty to your players, but it will be ridiculous if either one of them gets re-signed. Ottawa can let them walk, and that will take a solid $4.4 million off the books.
As for the RFA's, they will of course be a bit harder, but nothing like 2015. Up front it's the same two forwards that went to arbitration in Hoffman and Chiasson. Then on defense, partners Patrick Wiercioch and Cody Ceci will seek out new contracts as well.
Let's go through all four players one-by-one:
- Alex Chiasson: If he has another season like last year, he won't be making much. I don't see him breaking out, and if Ottawa wants to re-sign him he'll cost about what he is making right now at $1.2 million.
- Mike Hoffman: Hoffman's an interesting case, because he could end up with a massive contract by next summer. He lead the team in goals last year, and all signs point to him being a quality player. I don't know if Ottawa is sold on him, but if he gets 30 goals next year you can be sure he'll be asking for at least $4-5 million. That could potentially cost the team around $2-3 million more.
- Patrick Wiercioch: Wiercioch is just like Hoffman in that he is very under-appreciated. In Ottawa's stretch run people realized how good of a defenseman he is, and if he can be consistent then he'll be asking for money in the $4-5 million range like Hoffman. He may end up being a hard sign, but at least he is still an RFA./
- Cody Ceci: Ceci has underwhelmed me so far in his career, but I still have hope for him. He has the skills, but he just needs to put it all together and make better decisions in his own zone. Even with a stellar season, he should be an easy sign. The Senators do well at signing young talent for cheap, and I think he'll agree to a cap hit of just over $2 million.
Chiasson and Ceci shouldn't be too much more expensive, but Hoffman and Wiercioch have the potential to be
costly contracts. They would absolutely still be worth it though, as even if they don't progress they provided lots of value to the team last year.
It may be a pipe dream to see certain players like Smith and Cowen go, but the fact is that Ottawa should have the extra money to give Hoffman and Wiercioch a solid raise even without moving players. They are both already making $2 million right now, so if they get raises to say $4.5 million, then they aren't really adding much to the team salary. Especially if somehow the Senators can rid themselves of a few contracts.
The next 11 months leading up to 2016 free agency should be much less stressful for the organization, even if there may be a few worries.