Bryan Murray has been on the record that the Senators are aiming to sign one top-6 forward when Free Agency opens on July 1st. However, when you scour the list of those potentially available is very slim. Once you get past Brad Richards, (who may or may not make it to July 1st, depending on where his rights get traded) the crop is whithered. Either the players available are on the wrong side of the hill age-wise, or will not fulfill the promise of being able to handle a top scoring role. Here are a list of 7 of those who COULD fit the bill:
Brooks Laich, WAS – The former Senator draft pick is a good two-way centre in the Mike Fisher mold, who will command a significant raise on his $2.067 M salary. A versatile player who can play anywhere, and even play the point on the power play.
Tim Connolly, BUF - Health is the main issue with Connolly, as he has only managed to play 70 or more games once since the lockout. When playing, he can be near the point per game mark and would be a nice fit behind Jason Spezza. At $4.5 M last season, his demands would have to come down in order to fit in with the Senators, if they were even to consider taking a chance on him.
Thomas Fleischmann, COL – A series of blood clots derailed what was looking like a breakout season for Fleischmann after being traded to the Colorado Avalanche from the Capitals during the 2010-11 season. Apparently he has been medically cleared to play and at age 26, could be in a situation where he wants to prove himself healthy on a short term contract in the 2-3 yr range before cashing in on a long-term deal.
Tomas Kopecky, CHI – Kopecky has the ability to be a game breaker in any lineup, and can play any forward position. Will not be a 80 point player, but has the potential to get 60-70 in the right situation. He made $1.2 M last season and will have no problem doubling that value in this market.
Simon Gagne, TB – Like Tim Connolly, Gagne has a history of not being able to play a full season. Gagne has the pedigree of an Olympian and when in the lineup can be a high scoring forward. He would be the best fit alongside Jason Spezza, but his injury trouble and possibly high salary demands could turn Murray off Gagne.
Michael Ryder, BOS – Although he only seems to excel under Claude Julien, Ryder is a goal scorer who has played in pressure filled hockey markets. He can be a 50-60 point producer, and could be available for $4-5 Million per season.
Jussi Jokinen, CAR – The talented forward has 60-70 point potential AND would give the Senators as close to a sure thing as there is in the NHL when it comes down to shootouts. His $1.7 M salary from last year could double and still be a fit for the Senators.
As you can see, the list is not overwhelming in terms of “sure things”. Each player in question comes with some question marks, whether it be health concerns or exorbitant salary demands (anticipated at least). This obviously isn’t the entire list of available players, but in terms of age, stated team needs and player abilities, these would be the players I would be considering first and foremost come July 1st.
In terms of overall cost/benefit, I think I would take my chances on any of Laich, Fleischmann, Kopecky or Jokinen.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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