Silver Nuggets: Looking ahead to free agency

Yesterday we looked at what the Ottawa Senators might do at the upcoming draft. Today we will look at the strategy for the upcoming free agent period (brought to you by TSN). Looking at cap geek, the Senators have a ton of expiring contracts at the end of the season. Filip Kuba, Matt Carkner, Matt Gilroy, Zenon Konopka, Jesse Winchester, Alex Auld are all unrestricted free agents. Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Jim O'Brien, Kaspars Daugavins, Rob Klinkhammer and of course Erik Karlsson are all restricted free agents. Nikita Filatov, Eric Gryba and Stéphane Da Costa also will be at the end of their entry level deals and be restricted free agents.

That's a total of 15 expiring contracts and that's not even counting other Binghamton players. It's impossible to predict which ones will be re-signed but one has to expect many of them will not return. Alex Auld is gone with 100% certainty, and at least one of, if not two or all three, of Kuba, Carkner and Gilroy could be gone. Konopka has been used sparingly in the last month and I wouldn't expect him to be offered an extension either.

Looking outside the organisation, the Senators two biggest needs are a first line winger and a first pairing defenceman if Kuba walks. There are a couple of major candidates for the first line winger: Alexander Semin, aged 28 and Zach Parise, aged 26. Parise will have a long list of suitors and should get a salary around $7-8 million. At 26-years, and on pace for 74 points, he will be entering the prime of his career. His point total should climb even higher if given the chance to play with Spezza. I would advocate paying him whatever it takes within reason. Semin is having a down year with 44 points in 65 games and given this fanbase's opposition to most things Russian, it likely won't happen. P.A. Parenteau is another option coming off a career year with 61 points in 69 games so far.

The first pairing has a few more candidates including Ryan Suter (age 27), Matt Carle (age 27), Jason Garrison (age 27) or Dennis Wideman (age 28). My first two choices would be Suter or Carle. Carle leads the Flyers with almost 23 minutes per game, and led all NHL defencemen in even strength points last year. Suter would also be a great addition but far more expensive.

With so many expiring contracts, and the cap expected to be between $69-$72 million next year, Ottawa will have between $32-$35 million in cap room. They can certainly add a star player as well as re-signing Karlsson and any of the other restricted free agents should they feel the need to. The one wrinkle to this is the new CBA, that might change the formula for calculating the salary cap. However, I would expect any reduction in the ceiling to come with a rollback on existing contracts.

More after the jump.

Here are today's links:

  • Craig Anderson was at practise. He should be nearing a return. (Dan Séguin)
  • Ian Mendes cautions against wishing to play the winner of the Southeast division, whether it be Florida, Washington or Winnipeg. Still beats playing Boston though doesn't it? In any case, it's probably easier now to get to second than sixth. (Sportsnet)
  • Jean-Gabriel Pageau, also known as the guy with the coolest name in the organisation (sorry Rob Klinkhammer), will miss the final three games of the regular season. (CyberPresse)
  • Jason Spezza was good friends Nik Zoricic, the Toronto skier that died hours before the Senators game on Saturday. (Ottawa Sun)
  • Don Brennan asks if the Senators are contenders in the playoffs. (Ottawa Sun)
  • Spezza blames the reduction in power plays for the decline in goal scoring around the league. (Senators Extra)
  • James Gordon will be leaving his current job as a reporter on the Sens to become sports editor for the Ottawa Citizen. Good guy, so good for him! (James Gordon)
  • According to @steffeG (Swedish Sens fan on twitter), Jakob Silfverberg would skip the world championships and play for Ottawa in the playoffs. He says he hasn't been asked though and his team is playing in the Elitserien playoffs.
  • After NHL general managers said they have done all they can to prevent concussions, Krys Barch of the Panthers comes out and says the risk for concussions is acceptable because soldiers go to Iraq and Afghanistan for lower compensation. I guess Barch is also okay with contaminated drinking water because others have to make due with that as well. (Yahoo!)
  • Meanwhile there is strong support for hybrid icing, in which icing will be automatically called if the forward isn't ahead of the defenceman by roughly around the face-off circle. (Globe and Mail)

What should be the main priority for the Senators in free agency?

First line winger150
First pairing defenceman140
Second tier players7
Just re-sign the current roster25

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