The Ottawa Senators are facing one of their most important off-seasons ever. That includes the rebuild of a couple of years ago, the summer of 3 first round draft picks, or the initial building of the team.
This is the summer where TV money and salary cap collide and the Senators fan base will no longer accept the “poor me” rhetoric coming form Scotiabank Place. Even if you believed the proclamation that Eugene Melnyk had lost over $100M in keeping the team afloat over the years (which I personally don’t buy), the time has come to put up or shut up. Shutting up will alienate a large percentage of the fan base, and it is already beginning to happen even thought the summer hasn’t begun.
The trading of Jason Spezza, whether it happens or not, can be argued as a hockey deal, depending on the quality of return. He has a year left on his deal, and with his injury history you could understand the hesitation to let him enter his final year and also the hesitation to extend him with the deal he would no doubt be looking for. There is also the segment of the fan base that would applaud the move because they don’t appreciate what Spezza brings when healthy.
However, the tipping point on the summer could be the recent breakdown of negotiations between the Senators and Ales Hemsky. Hemsky was acquired at the trade deadline and re-invigorated a stale Senators offense down the stretch. Although the playoff push wasn’t successful, Hemsky showed he still has the skill and will to be successful.
Apparently the asking price for Hemsky is in the area of $5.5M and the Senators, in their frugal ways, aren’t willing to go that high. Yet, they are opening the wallet and paying Colin Greening just under $3M per season for the next 3 years. Both Hemsky and Greening had 17 points with the Senators last season. Hemsky played 20 games in Ottawa, Greening 76. Scoring isn’t everything, but the Senators have more than enough 3rd and 4th liners, many of whom are substantially overpaid, and not enough scoring depth.
Hemsky returning to Ottawa, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Spezza’s future with the club, was far from a slam dunk before yesterday, but walking away from negotiations is a bad sign for the club.
It is going to be a crazy couple of months, and will go a long way to determining the direction of the franchise and if the money is going to be spent to make the Senators a contender. Like I have stated before, spending doesn’t guarantee winning, but not spending does guarantee not winning.
Already the fan base is on edge, and if the Senators do trade Spezza and let Hemsky walk, not to mention Milan Michalek, get ready for a rebellion in Sens Army.