With Buddy Robinson set to become the eighth player to make his NHL debut with the Senators this season, I thought it'd be a good time to take a glance at the Senators organizational depth chart. Though there aren't many "big" names up for free agency other than Mike Hoffman and Cody Ceci, who are both restricted free agents, the Senators only have 28 players (NHL, AHL) signed for next year. There are a ton of minor league decisions to be made.
Let's start at left-wing, where the Senators biggest offseason decisions have to be made. First, the uncertainty: if Clarke MacArthur is unable to play hockey AND the team loses Hoffman, that means that they go from two bonafide top-six left wingers to zero in one offseason. With only Francis Perron available in the next 2-3 years, that's shaky depth. You'll notice that I've listed Zack Smith as a left winger because that's how team management have referred to him in 2016, but Murray commented earlier in the year about how he'd ideally like to have Smith has a 3rd line winger who can play second line minutes as a fill-in, rather than permanently. Due to all of this, I'd say it's a priority to get Hoffman locked up to at least a three-year deal, but due to budget constraints and comments about his perceived defensive deficiencies and play "down the stretch," I'm worried.
Centre ice is where the team is at its strongest, with natural centres (Turris, Zibanejad, Pageau), current wingers who can play centre (Lazar, Smith), and prospects in the system (Paul, McCormick at the AHL level; White at the junior level). If the team is looking at trading for a young defenseman or winger (ex: Drouin), I'd suggest making use of their depth down the middle. At the AHL level, we're likely going to see some change. Phil Varone has stepped in admirably after being exchanged for Eric O'Dell, and it'll likely be up to him to see if he's fine staying with Ottawa after rumours got out that him and linemate Jason Akeson were upset at being passed over for NHL opportunities. Despite getting an early call-up, I'm a strong supporter of AHL development time and think Nick Paul would benefit from working on his offensive game to develop into more of a complete player. On the bottom lines, it'd be interesting to see if the Senators sign current Frozen Four attendees Colin White or Quentin Shore to entry-level deals. Both are lauded for their two-way play and could push Rupert or Dunn down to a 4th line position as neither are likely going to be NHL players.
Right-wing is interesting, mainly because the Senators seem set for years to come in the top-six, barring a trade that includes Bobby Ryan. There is open competition for both bottom-six spots, with Lazar flexible and Chris Neil only signed for one more year. The two AHL options that I'd consider are both RFAs at the end of the year. Casey Bailey, who was brought over in the Dion Phaneuf trade, was a highly touted college free agent signing out of Penn State last year and can play right wing as a shot generating forward. The other option, Buddy Robinson, is currently getting games in now but has disappointed at the AHL level after a strong rookie year. He's big, and has size, but seems to struggle with puck support. Both Shane Eiserman and Chris Leblanc look like they won't even be signed next year, so the only organizational hope is 2015 2nd rounder Gabriel Gagne, who is 2-3 years away. I don't expect Alex Chiasson or Michael Kernanen to be brought back, so Jason Akeson may stick around for another year to potentially get an NHL opportunity after an extremely productive junior career.
The Senators are set in terms of contracts on defense -- but whether these players are capable of improving one of the worst units in the league in terms of shots against for the last 5 years is a whole different question. Cody Ceci will be brought back or traded, with the main question being if the team will sign him long-term (hope not - he hasn't shown it yet) or short-term like they did with Stone, Hoffman, and Zibanejad. The team generally gets good, cost-saving deals on players in this position. Currently, the only defense prospects that spent a majority of the time in the AHL this year were Fredrik Claesson, who tops out as a Mark Borowiecki replacement, and Ben Harpur, who may not be NHL worthy. Both play on the left side, so now that you see the organizational depth chart, it should be no surprise that the team acquired two right-handed defensemen in the last 3 months: Cody Donaghey (Phaneuf trade) and Macoy Erkhamps (CHL free agent). With the potential of Andreas Englund coming over, the team could have three of their six AHL defensemen as prospects for the first time in ages, with decent prospect depth on both sides with Chabot, Wolanin, Jaros, and Summers. Again, the big worry is that outside of Chabot and Englund, the team doesn't have any prospects with top-four potential at this point, so they may decide to move quantity for quality over the next twelve months.
Lastly, with six goaltenders in the system, I don't expect the Senators to take a run at any of the college free agents or spent a draft pick on a goaltender. Driedger could likely be an NHL back-up now if the Senators decide to part ways with any of their NHL options, and both Hogberg and Daccord are likely 2-4 years away. Goaltenders are hit-and-miss, so more chips to play with are always good, but it's not something I think is a priority at this point.
I hope this way at looking at the organization helps with your offseason speculating, especially in terms of trying to justify any short and long-term decision making in the future!
- Only one Sens game since our last check in, but it featured much of the same. A porous penalty kill rife with missed coverage and a 3-2 loss. [Silver Seven, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
- The BSens are depleted, with most of their skilled players in Ottawa. They've brought in a bunch of new faces in Ameteur Tryout Agreements (ATOs) but you shouldn't be surprised that they lost both of their weekend matchups. [Silver Seven - v. Albany, v. Utica]
- Only roster news comes courtesy of another call-up. This time, it's right-winger Buddy Robinson who gets a shot with Mark Stone not 100% healthy. Given Methot's injury, we may see another call-up (Harpur again?) before tonight's game against the Penguins. [Silver Seven]
- There's only three games left, and although the Senators fate is pretty much sealed except for moving one or two spots in draft position, it's still worth it to watch the last three games. Chet has his final weekly preview of the season, and Trevor goes through the reasons why and touches on some important individual milestones that can be broken. [WTYKY, Silver Seven]
- If you wanted to look forward to next year, Chirp has you covered with 8 offseason predictions. [SensChirp]
- Nichols transcribed Bryan Murray's recent radio appearance, where the Senators general manager touched on his status, Karlsson's Norris chances, new prospect Macoy Erkhamps, and Mike Hoffman negotiations. [6th Sens, Ottawa Citizen]
- Peter has some notes on the players the BSens have signed to ATOs, their recent play, and Macoy Erkhamps. [Eye on the Sens]
- Who's up, who's down? Check out the young players! [Silver Seven]
- Your end-of-Nuggets audio courtesy of the new Battle of Ontario podcast that Callum is hosting with Alec Brownscombe of Maple Leafs Hotstove. The guests this week: Ian Mendes and Gus Katsaros. [Silver Seven]
- Did anyone watch the final of the Women's World Championship yesterday? If you did, you witnessed an incredible game, but if you didn't, here are two game recaps for you. [Yahoo! Sports, Habs Eyes on the Prize]
- Since the Senators are out of it, who are YOU cheering for to win the East? Yost goes through the Eastern Conference playoff race. [TSN]
- Dom discusses the oft-mentioned quality of competition, and tries to find situations where it can be a helpful tool to help explain defensive performance. [Hockey-Graphs]
- The Senators have two NCAA goaltenders currently in their system: Bowling Green's Andrew Hammond and Boston University's Matt O'Connor. Why do NHL teams like to sign NCAA goaltenders? Kevin Woodley has your answer. [NHL]
- Most of the league talk this weekend were about two things: the Duncan Keith suspension, and Steven Stamkos' injury. Adam discusses the former while Sarah goes through the latter. [CBSSports - Keith, Sports Illustrated - Stamkos]
- The other hotly contested award this season? The Calder Trophy, where Connor McDavid, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Artemi Panarin are the favourites. [TSN]