As Tony indicated yesterday, with the signing of Erik Condra, the Senators will have 12 forwards on one-way contracts once Bobby Butler gets signed at some point this summer. These 12 contracts do not include Nikita Filatov, Stephane Da Costa, Mika Zibanejad or Jakob Silfverberg, who are all on entry level deals (or will be once signed). There is not enough room for everyone on the Senators roster.
So when the puck drops on Oct. 7th in Detroit, who will be the odd men out, and how many players will be getting paid NHL money to play in Binghamton?
The top 6 forward group is still up for debate, but Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek are locks. Ideally Nikita Filatov, Peter Regin and Bobby Butler make up the rest of the first two lines, but Nick Foligno, Zibanejad, Silfverberg, and Da Costa will have something to say about that during training camp.
The bottom 6 is where it gets interesting. Zenon Konopka is a lock for the 4th line centre role, likewise Zack Smith on the third line. Chris Neil has put in the time and is a good 3rd liner, so you have to figure he lines up with Smith. If Foligno doesn’t make the cut in the top 6, you pretty much have to play him on the third line. So that leaves 2 spots to fight for among Colin Greening, Condra, Jesse Winchester, as well as those rookies mentioned earlier who do not make it as a top-6.
This would be my depth chart for the opening of the season:
Filatov – Spezza – Butler
Michalek – Regin – Alfredsson
Neil – Smith – Foligno
Condra – Konopka – Greening
So that would leave Winchester as the extra forward and meas Da Costa starts in Binghamton. That isn’t a bad thing, as he could use some time to adjust to the pro game and playing with the talent around him. Even though he showed well in spots during his brief trial last season, some seasoning in the minors can do him no harm. Plus, he is not subject to waivers if they want to bring him up as an injury replacement. Silfverberg is prepared to play in Sweden and the Senators might let him, and Zibanejad could either play in Binghamton or stay in Sweden for another year as well. Either one could also force their way into the lineup with a good training camp, however, and push Condra or Greening out of the lineup, possibly to Bingo.
On defense, the picture is equally cloudy. With 5 defensemen on one way contracts, plus Erik Karlsson and 2 rookies expected to make the team (Jared Cowen and David Runblad), there will be two odd man out on D as well. Here would be my pairings to open the season:
Gonchar – Runblad
Phillips – Cowen
Kuba – Karlsson
Spares: Carkner – Lee
Obviously you can’t carry 8 defensemen, and Lee would be the prime candidate to be sent to Binghamton with Carkner sticking around as the 7th defenseman. Carkner adds an element that the rest don’t have, and he can spell any of the young guys should they go through some freshman struggles. Cowen, just like Da Costa, could start the season in Binghamton to get some professional seasoning, and make the permanent jump next year once Kuba’s contract is off the books.
Any way you slice it, with the number of contracts the Senators are carrying, at least 2 or 3 players will be sent down, their one way ticket not enough to keep them off the buses. At least the Senators aren’t carrying a Wade Redden or a Sheldon Souray in that manner, and someone making well under $1 M to play in Bingo is digestable in the short term for the Senators.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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