As the days tick down to the start of training camp, the biggest issue for the Senators to settle is the signing of restricted free agent Jared Cowen. While negotiations are ongoing, reports indicate that a deal is not imminent.
Some might suggest that the Senators should go outside the organization to bring in an experienced defenseman to fill Cowen’s spot, sort of “Cowen Insurance” so to speak.
Without Cowen in the lineup, here is what my depth chart would look like on the blue line:
while with Cowen in the fold my depth chart would be:
Karlsson – Methot
Cowen – Wiercioch
Phillips – Gryba/Corvo
While some would argue that Cowen isn’t a #3 defenseman, I think people forget how good he was during his healthy rookie season. Last year you can throw out because of his hip injury, but even after coming back early he didn’t look at all out of place. A full summer of rehab and I would have no problem playing him over 20 minutes a night against good competition.
But that is beside the point of this article. Are the Senators deep enough without Cowen to avoid having to sign some help if the contract impasse is expected to be a lengthy one?
The options out there are decent but not overwhelming. Ron Hainsey seems to be a popular choice, while other options include Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, Adrian Aucoin, Ian White, Filip Kuba and Greg Zanon.
Last year, the Senators had depth players like Mike Lundin, Andre Benoit, Eric Gryba and Mark Borowiecki to overcome injuries to Karlsson and Cowen. Lundin and Benoit are gone, replaced by Corvo. Borowiecki remains, and I would be ok with keeping the promotions in-house and giving the likes of Cody Ceci, Troy Rutkowski, Frederik Claesson, Michael Sdao a chance. To me that shows the young players that the organization has confidence in them, and if they are playing well in Binghamton that their performance will be rewarded. Bringing in someone like Ron Hainsey, Ryan Whitney or Tom Gilbert would just add a one-way contract to the mix and keep the prospects down.
It would be a mistake to underestimate the carrot that having a chance to move up to the big club, if even for a couple of games, gives to those players working their tails off in the minors. Signing a veteran blueliner as Cowen Insurance and then the inevitable Cowen signing would give 7 one-way contracts plus Gryba, who (like it or not) doesn’t look like he is going anywhere anytime soon.
I would tend to lean toward keeping any needs on the blue line in-house, and not plug holes by bringing in help from the outside. That one defenseman won’t make-or-break the Senators chances at the playoffs, and should the Senators sustain a rash of injuries on the blue line, there will be those veteran players available should the need arise.