Free agency opens next Sunday, and without a doubt Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray will be kicking the tires on a number of players. However, barring a big trade (ie Rick Nash) that would send out more bodies than it brings in, the Sens have more than enough bodies up front to compete for the 12 or 13 positions.
The blue line is a different story, as there are only 4 spots spoken for at the present time. Karlsson, Gonchar, Phillips and Cowen are holdovers, while Matt Carkner will likely be back in a 6/7 role after reportedly being offered a contract recently.
Murray is on the record stating the the Senators are parting ways with Filip Kuba, and Matt Gilroy couldn’t be left behind fast enough after showing nothing since being acquired for Brian Lee at the trade deadline.
So that leaves at least two openings on the blue line that need to be filled. There are options to fill the void from within the system, attract free agents or a combination of both. The internal options include Mark Borowiecki, Patrick Wiercioch (the most likely), Eric Gryba, and as a darkhorse, recent first round pick Cody Ceci. If the Senators opt to stay in the system, they will be very young on the point.
The free agent market is not deep and the way GMs tend to overpay in July for average defensemen (Anton Volchenkov, Jeff Finger anyone?) this might not be the best avenue to follow. However there are a few intriguing names near the top of the list that bear watching:
Ryan Suter – Obviously the cream of the blueliner crop and almost every team will at least investigate bringing him in.
Dennis Wideman – Could be a nice complement for Erik Karlsson, especially on the power play. The likely cap hit of over $4M might be too much for this player, but he is still young at 29.
Jason Garrison – Soon to be former Panther had a career season at the right time and is set to cash in on the weak class. Killed penalties in Florida, but are his offensive numbers legit or just lightning in a bottle?
Bryan Allen – Doesn’t quite have the offensive upside but solid defense and a reliable player who can play 18-20 minutes per game. Didn’t see much PP time in Carolina.
Kurtis Foster – Carp native has injury history and wouldn’t command a big ticket. Has bounced around lately and might like to settle at home. His big shot from the point would command respect and open holes on the power play for other Sens.
However Murray tries to play it, it will be interesting. It could come down to Filip Kuba being the best man for the job. WHO would have said that 12 months ago?