With the fact that at least two-thirds of the Ottawa Senators’ top line (or 1A depending on your point of view) not likely to be in a Senators uniform next season, there is going to be a dearth of top 6 forwards on the squad.
At least, proven top 6 forwards. With the trio of Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan in some combination considered legitimate top 6 forwards, there are nothing but question marks after that.
What will the return for Jason Spezza be, and will it help in the search for top 6 forwards?
Perhaps the biggest question revolves around a 19 year old forward. Is Curtis Lazar ready to step in as one of the Senators’ top 6 forwards.?
Lazar is in that tricky position because of his age and the regulations that a player still eligible to play junior hockey that isn’t at the NHL level must be returned to junior instead of the AHL. Some would argue that he has done everything he can at the junior level and aside from a World Junior Gold Medal he would not benefit greatly at that level.
One alternative is to keep him on the Senators, but in a “get your feet wet role”. Does the team really want him playing 9 or 10 minutes a night on the 4th line? That can help a player’s development in a good team situation, but given the turmoil around the club I’m not sure you would call the Senators a good situation in the immediate future.
The other alternative is to throw Lazar right into the fire. Play him 17-19 minutes a night on a 2nd line with Zibanejad and Stone and live with the growing pains of a second line all 22 years of age or under.
There is nothing about Lazar that makes you think he would shrink under the pressure or let mistakes get him down. He seems to be ultra competitive and although he will make mistakes he seems to be the type of player that will learn from them and not repeat them.
The return on the trade of Spezza and the potential re-signing of Milan Michalek will go a long way to determining the fate of Lazar, but the fact is none of the options are perfect but the best plan in what looks like it might be a lost season anyway, is to get him into as many situations as you can now and when the team turns the corner he will be up to speed having gone through a steep learning curve.