No FA Action Expected On Senators Blue Line, Maybe Up Front


As we are on the eve of Free Agency, one place Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray is not expected to address is the blue line.

The Senators have 6 defensemen, Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Filip Kuba, Matt Carkner, Brian Lee all signed to one way contracts. With Jared Cowen, David Runblad and Partick Wiercioch all expected to compete for jobs, the blue line is already crowded.   At the most, I would expect Murray to add a veteran fringe NHL defenseman who can play in Binghamton and come up without much fear of being claimed on waivers should the need arise, much like David Hale did last season. Hale becomes a UFA July 1st and will likely see if he can gain a one-way contact based on his play for the Senators last season. He did not look out of place, and some team will probably take a gamble on him.

Finding a veteran guy who will take a 2 way contract is difficult, but Murray found one in Hale last year and could do the same again this season. I think Murray believes that the depth currently in place is is enough to last the season, and may choose to do nothing.

Up front, there are still rumblings that a top 6 forward could still be on the radar for the Senators, even after the draft day acquisition of Nikita FilatovSpezza, Alfredsson, Michalek, Neil, Foligno, Greening, Regin, Winchester and Z Smith are all on one way deals. Add to this list Filatov, Bobby Butler, Erik Condra and Stephane Da Costa and you have a good base of 13 forwards. Ryan Shannon is still a UFA and it is not clear whether or not he will be resigning in Ottawa. Consider Mika Zibanejad will be given an opportunity to make the team in camp and there might not be a need for another forward.

Who would be available, a veteran top 6 level forward who will not demand to be overpaid? If the Brooks Laich contract has set the bar for other free agents, it might be wiser to go with what you have.   Six years, $27 M for a 20 goal scorer is quite the commitment, and that is what Laich signed for.  Ottawa just traded away the same type of player because he was significantly overpaid for what he did on the ice.

The list of potential FA forwards that I think could fit the Senators plans and payroll structure include:

Eric Cole, 32 years old ($3.0 M salary last season) – Speed and experience, good for 25 goals and 50 pts, but health concerns follow him around.

Thomas Fleishmann, 27 ($2.6M) – Was a revelation in Colorado (21 points in 22 games) after coming over from Washington. A blood clot ended his season, but he has been cleared to play and could be an attractive fit.

Scottie Upshall, 27 ($2.25 M) – A gritty winger whose offense hasn’t developed as expected. Fringe 2nd liner, likely more suited to a third line role.

Nikolai Zherdev, 26, ($2.0 M) – An off year in his return to the NHL didn’t get significant minutes among the offensively talented Flyers. Has had a 60 point seasons in Columbus, which is a 70 point season anywhere else, and a 58 point season with the Rangers.

Joel Ward, 30 ($1.5 M) – Only had 30 points last season, but scored 13 points in 12 playoff games, propelling Nashville to the 2nd round. Could be ready for a 2nd line role.

The list is short, and even some that made my list might not even be considered.  Would Ottawa want an enigmatic Zherdev given their past history with Kovalev, while they are trying to make Filatov a regular contributor at the same time?  Not likely.

Fleishmann will be interesting, as he has all the talent in the world, but a small resume of being a top point producer.  He will likely command get big dollars based on the Colorado performance alone, but combined with the lack of big names, he might be out of the Senators’ price range.

Murray probably has a surprising name or two targeted, but will be cautious with handing out money.  Hopefully he doesn’t get caught up in the hype, and I think many Sens fans I have heard from would be more than happy going to battle with the present group intact.  Anything to avoid this mistake again:

Enjoy your Canada Day (aka Free Agency Day)…signings will begin at 12 noon!


Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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