In order to attract quality free agents and to avoid overpaying them, a team needs to position themselves as a desirable destination for hockey players. This can be done in many ways, not the least of which is a team’s ability to compete and make their players happy.
Well, in the early and mid 2000’s, the Ottawa Senators had put themselves in such a position by putting together a competitive team that, much like the San Jose Sharks of today, were among the elite but fell prey to massive playoff failures. The pinnacle of their success was making the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, and it has been pretty much all downhill from there.
Names like Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza have all, for one reason or another, left the Senators franchise amidst at least a little bit of controversy within the last 10 years. That is an average of one star every couple of years.
While the nature of the game is one of change and players are somewhat nomadic, the successful franchises are able to keep their core of star players together (Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston) and supplement them with quality role players who want a chance to win.
The Senators, for whatever reason, and it is tough to point out just one or two, have been unable to keep their top end talent around and happy, and the result has been a mass defection of any player who was above average in talent, and for the most part getting very little in return when all was said and done.
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IF the Bobby Ryan talks go south and/or Ryan sours on the organization before he signs an extension, it just might be the straw that broke the camel’s back and it would put the Senators in the unenviable position of being a budget team without a reason for players to come. The money isn’t there, and neither is the temptation to take less because there is a chance to win.
It is something that could hurt the Senators in both the short term and the long term, and they will go back to being a feeder team for other clubs around the league.
Players around the league talk, and they pay attention to things like this, as do their agents. No matter what people might say publicly, the constant talent drain has to be noticed and it will affect the future ability of the Senators to attract solid free agents and not to be the NHL version of a players “safe school” that students pick when applying to colleges.
That is why Ryan is in the driver’s seat and why the Senators have to be patient with him and hope he chooses them rather than testing free agency (thereby forcing a trade). If he bails, its another hole in the foundation of the Senators.
Its going to be a couple of months of chewing on nails for Senators fans, as well as the organization as they try to show their plumage and convince their most talented forward to stick around in the long term.