This time 12 months ago, I was at the head of the line for those campaigning for the Senators to buy out defenseman Filip Kuba. Well as it turns out, it was a good thing the Senators and Bryan Murray didn’t listen. Kuba had a turnaround year, playing 73 games and recording 6 goals, 26 assists for 32 points. His production doubled from the previous season, but the biggest turnaround was his +/- statistic. Among the lowest in the league at -26 in the 2010-11 season, Kuba finished this season with a +26 rating.
Also, Kuba’s contribution to the emergence of Erik Karlsson cannot be ignored. Paired with the young Swedish blueliner for most of the year, Kuba was a steadying influence as Karlsson broke into the elite of NHL defensemen with a 78 point season.
Kuba, now 35 years old, just completed his 3 year, $11M contract and is slated to become an unrestricetd free agent on July 1st. However, this past year was the 3rd best offensive output of his career, and his +26 was 22 better than his previous career high and only the 2nd time he was a plus player in a full NHL season.
So the question facing Senators management is whether or not to bring the veteran back for another season, and if they decide they do want him back, how much will they be willing to offer.
The Senators are not very deep on the blue line, and although players like Mark Borowiecki and Patrick Weircioch are close to being ready to be NHL contributors, I am not sure they are ready for full time duty nor do they fill the same role that Kuba does.
Personally, I think the Senators should do everything within reason to bring Kuba back into the fold. Defensemen with his type of game aren’t growing on trees these days, but you also don’t want to break the bank on him. Since he seems to perform better in a contract season, and he has reached the age where whatever he signs will count against the cap even if he retires, that a 1 year deal would be in order. If you could convince him to stay for the same $3.7 M cap hit that he posted this season, I would jump at the chance.
We don’t know what Erik Karlsson would have done without Kuba riding shotgun with him, but as Karlsson’s game continues to develop at both ends of the ice, it would be a tough blow to mess with the chemistry that these two players have developed.
What would you do?