Zibanejad, O'Brien sent to Binghamton; Senators release 22-man roster
Surprise gave way to moderate outrage when it was released that the Senators had sent Mika Zibanejad (among many others) to the Binghamton Senators of the AHL.
The Ottawa Senators made their final 30 cuts today, releasing the 22-man roster that will begin the 2013-14 NHL season.
The players sent top Binghamton include defencemen Ben Blood, Mark Borowiecki, Cody Ceci, Fredrik Claesson, Tyler Eckford, Daniel New, Troy Rutkowski, Michael Sdao and Chris Wideman; forwards Corey Cowick, Jakub Culek, David Dziurzynski, Derek Grant, Wacey Hamilton, Danny Hobbs, Mike Hoffman, Ludwig Karlsson, Darren Kramer, Jim O’Brien, Andre Petersson, Shane Prince, Matt Puempel, Buddy Robinson, Cole Schneider, Mark Stone and Mika Zibanejad; and goalies Scott Greenham, Andrew Hammond and Nathan Lawson. Curtis Lazar was demoted to the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings.
Two names stand out here: Mika Zibanejad and Jim O'Brien.
Zibanejad finished fourth in team scoring in 2012-13, and the general assumption was that he was a lock to make the NHL roster despite the fact that he was on a two-way contract and wouldn't need to clear waivers. O'Brien's demotion is far less surprising, despite the fact that he is on a one-way contract; he was essentially exiled last year, and after he cleared waivers earlier this fall the writing was on the wall about him heading to Binghamton.
Ottawa's 22-man roster includes 13 forwards, seven defencemen, and two goalies. Among the forwards are Stephane Da Costa and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, two young players who were competing with Zibanejad for two of the few roster spots available.
Many are understandably questioning the decision to demote Zibanejad, especially given the fact that the Senators could easily started the season with a 23-man roster (especially since they're embarking on a six-game road trip to kick it off). The item that continually comes up is the team's budget: If Zibanejad were to stay in the AHL for the entire season, the Senators would save at least $850k and as much as $1.65M (it depends on how many performance bonuses he'd receive).
Of course, Zibanejad won't stay in the AHL all season; he's likely at the very top of the list of players to be recalled in the event of injury, and I don't expect him to spend more than 10 games in the AHL this season. That doesn't make the decision any less surprising, however.