Last week I looked at the Ottawa Senators defensemen, and tried to project what the blue line will look like next season. Today, I will attempt to do the same with the forward corps. This assumes that there will be no free agent signings or trades, which is not unlikely, but also relatively unpredictable (even though I speculated that Corey Perry makes perfect sense in Ottawa).
As they sit now, there are 13 forwards on the roster, not including recent callup Mika Zibanejad, who will be returned to Binghamton later this week (unless he plays lights out this week if given the chance). Here is how I think the forwards will look when completely healthy going forward:
ON THE WAY OUT?
The current group has 3 players scheduled to become unrestricted Free Agents in the off-season – Alfredsson, Regin and Latendresse. While Alfredsson is in the situation where he controls whether or not he wants to play another year (which he has stated he is open to), Latendresse and Regin are currently auditioning for a new contract. Both have a troubling history of injuries and have about 40 games left to demonstrate that they are indeed quality players.
Scheduled to become restricted free agents, Condra and Daugavins have proven to be quality players but will be limited to 3rd or4th line roles for their careers.
ON THE WAY UP?
The Senators’ cupboard is pretty stacked with prospects on the way in the system. For next year, I am sure that the Senators expect Mark Stone and Zibanejad to come to camp and make it impossible for the Sens to send them down. Both should fight for a place on the top 2 lines, making the top 6 forwards pretty deep.
SHUFFLING THE DECK
Paul MacLean will be in the situation where he can play around with his lineups. Assuming Alfredsson returns, there are 7 legitimate top 6 forwards, and that is not including Regin or Latendresse, who I don’t see fitting in with the Senators’ plans next season.
Here is the lineup I would consider icing if all hands were on deck:
Silfverberg – Spezza – Michalek
Alfredsson – Turris – Stone
Zibanejad – Smith – Neil
Greening – O’Brien – Condra
I really like Zibanejad’s skill and especially his size, on the wing as opposed to centre in the NHL, and he can easily move into the top 6 in any spot as an injury replacement or when they need to mix things up. Should Alfredsson hang up his skates before the season, Zibanejad would fit alongside Turris.
The Senators thought enough of Stefan Noesen to bring him to training camp, and Matt Puempel could also push for a spot, but both prospects will likely need a season of maturation in Binghamton, before making a push for a roster spot in 2014. I have seen a lot of Shane Prince in junior and his development over his years in Ottawa was incredible and he could force MacLean and Murray to make a tough decision to send him down. He is an excellent skater with a nose for the net.
All in all, the future of the Senators up front is in good hands, although the addition of an elite scoring forward in free agency wouldn’t hurt, since you can never have too many of those.