Hallow’s Eve: Ottawa Senators Free Agency Preview

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If Triple C actually has a say in things during the Free Agent Frenzy, I would be shocked. More like a puppet for Dictator Murray to control, but not a true communist team. Call it, the People’s Republic of Murray.

One thing Bryan Murray does very well is not to concentrate on all the warped crazy frenzy young General Managers (and Glen Sather) get caught it, and instead wait out for the valued remnants and pick them up and a cheap price. He did that last off-season with Alex Kovalev, and tried to do it with the Dany Heatley saga, to no avail. You can bet your lucky buttons that once again, that will be Bryan Murray’s job.

Using NHL Numbers as a information source, the Ottawa Senators have $11.713 million in cap space. Add in the foregone conclusions of signing all four RFA’s (Regin, Foligno, Winchester, Campoli), that should make out to at least $7.5 mil left. Obviously that’s not much, but it’s something. The Senators’ needs include a Top Nine Forward and a Top Four Defenseman. Let’s start with some forward targets:

Matt Cullen

Matt Cullen: The blue eyes forward from Minnesota joined the Ottawa Senators in a late-season trade from Carolina. Cullen didn’t do much in the remainder of the regular season, but tied captain Daniel Alfredsson for the team lead in playoff scoring, with 8. Good skater with some hands in them. I would say it’s either Carolina or Ottawa for him.

John Madden

John Madden: A sexy pick here for the Senators, the three-time Stanley Cup winner was the real fulcrum in the Chicago Blackhawks this past season. He can play all roles, including on the PK and at most on the third line. However, don’t we already have this type of guy in Chris Kelly. I’d say a young team like Colorado picks him up. Limited chance for Ottawa here.

Alex Tanguay

Alex Tanguay: An underwhelming season for Alex in Tampa likely won’t bring him back in Florida. Last off-season, the Senators were interested in Tanguay here, and they may be as well this off-season as a good option on the second or third line. Re-uniting him with former Canadiens teammate Alex Kovalev could produce good results on the scoreboard.

Colby Armstrong

Colby Armstrong: A playoff veteran and a former anti-Senator, Armstrong’s days as a Thrashers are over, but he should be highly coveted by teams starting July 1st. Armstrong can give you depth down the middle, and insurance on special teams. I can see Bryan Murray making a move on Colby here like he did with Mike Knuble last off-season.

Matthew Lombardi

Matthew Lombardi: My favourite here, should be the top center on the market if the Phoenix Coyotes decide not to re-sign him. Career-high 54 points last season and a great two-way centre. May make Mike Fisher slide down if Ottawa signs him but he can make players around him better. Although, watch out. This is a guy a lot of teams will over-pay for, so the cost may be too pricey for Murray to counter with. I’d be shocked if he didn’t stay in Phoenix, though.

Let’s now look at who the Senators will target as a Top Four Defenseman:

Andy Sutton

Andy Sutton: Acquired last season by the Senators, proved to be one of the best deadline deals in Senators’ history. Great second-pairing player, and a reason why Erik Karlsson played so great down the pipeline. I would doubt it if the mean man returned to Ottawa, but everyone would welcome him with open arms, especially with Anton Volchenkov’s imminent departure.

Paul Martin

Paul Martin: American Olympian had an injury-plagued season but the Cup Champion was the only Devil to actually try during the Devils’ stunning first round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Top Five in Defensive Defenseman in the league, but as we saw with Mike Komisarek, a bit of an injury risk for Murray to take a chance on. Would look good next to Chris Phillips, though.

Brett Clark

Brett Clark: A wildcard here, likely because of his status. Great defensive player with potential offensive instincts. One of the reasons of the Colorado Avalanche’s rise to the playoffs. Should be finding a new home, and a possible Ottawa home if the price is right for The Bryan.

Zbynek Michalek

Zbynek Michalek: Big, under appreciated defenseman who should be getting calls from his brother and Senator Milan Michalek, sometime soon. Leading candidate here, has great poise and has led the NHL in blocked shots the past two seasons. Knows to play under pressure, from such a maligned team in Phoenix last season, rising from the ashes.

Dan Hamhuis

Dan Hamhuis: Living in the shadow of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in Nashville, Hamhuis has proved to be one of the best defenseman on the market. Already traded twice for negotiating rights, has stated he won’t sign with a team before hitting the open market. Could be a great add for Bryan Murray if Pittsburgh doesn’t sign him first.

Derek Morris

Derek Morris: The offensively skilled d-man has changed addresses quite a bit, before leading the Coyotes to a successful season in the desert. Possible choice here, if he can cut his salary demands. Just ask the Boston Bruins about that. His beard during his short playoff run was freakin’ awesome. Need more of those here in Bytown.

Kurtis Foster

Kurtis Foster: My favourite here on D, has 42 points on a sucky team like Tampa Bay. Returned from almost getting his career ended in Minnesota. Big, hard shot on net, and good defensive awareness. Might be an attractive option for teams this off-season. If Ottawa steals him, could from a great second pairing with Filip Kuba.

Sergei Gonchar

Sergei Gonchar: The experienced Russian had a good season with Pittsburgh, although failing in the playoffs after many defensive lapses. Although money should become too high for Bryan Murray, rumours suggest that Ottawa has the leading track on him, due to best friend Alex Kovalev. Can he teach young Karlsson the ropes? To be continued…

As I see it right now, I would expect Matt Cullen to re-sign with Ottawa on a 2-year contract, and create enough salary cap space for Ottawa to create a brother tandem, which means Zbynek Michalek coming to the Nation’s Capital. Things are still to be seen, but it’s my best estimate so far.

This coming Monday, the SenShot Summer Contest will return to it’s normal days. Watch out, as the tail-end is coming, and a winner may be emerging.

Topics: 2010 Contest, Matt Cullen, Off-season Needs, Ottawa Senators Off-Season 2011, Targets, Zenon Konopka

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