Ottawa Senators: Offseason Game Plan



         The glory days and the Cup run of 2007 are distant memories now.  The situation in Ottawa is probably going to get worse before it gets better, but believe it or not, that should actually excite Senators fans.  Given the vote of confidence from owner Eugene Melnyk, Brian Murray brought in a host of draft picks by sending Mike Fisher, Jaarko Ruutu, Chris Kelly and Alex Kovalev out of town.  Murray has a nearly blank slate to work with now, but probably will not look to completely revamp the team so soon.  Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and Daniel Alfredsson will be counted on to bring leadership, and make up a huge percentage of team scoring.  On the back end, key building block players like Karlsson, Rundblad and Cowen probably will not be difference-makers for another year or two.  In the interim, Murray will likely look to fill the gaps on his roster with young players capable of accruing trade value, and free agent role players who can contribute offensively.  A lottery pick is likely for the Senators following the 2012 campaign, but given the reported strength of the draft (Nail Yakupov draws comparisons to Stamkos and other young franchise players), Murray will likely not worry about that so much.  The challenge for Murray will be to make this team competitive enough that his core does not develop a losing mentality, but not so competitive that they miss out on a lottery pick.  A race for 9th place would be a worst case scenario for the Sens.

Under Contract

Milan Michalek (4.333)

Jason Spezza (7.0)

Daniel Alfredsson (4.875)

Colin Greening (0.8166)

Peter Regin (1.0)


Nick Foligno (1.2)

Stefan Da Costa (1.325)


Jesse Winchester (0.75)

Zack Smith (0.7)

Chris Neil (2.0)


Sergei Gonchar (5.5)

Erik Karlsson (1.3)

Filip Kuba (3.7)

Chris Phillips (3.083)

Matt Carkner (0.7)

Patrick Weircioch (0.875)

David Rundblad (1.5)

Jared Cowen (1.295)


Craig Anderson (3.1875)

Robin Lehner (0.9) **

CAP HIT: 46.0401 million

CAP SPACE: 16.1599 million

**Not expected to play in the NHL next season

UFA: Svatos, Shannon, Lessard, McElhinney, Leclaire
Butler, Condra, Wick

From this list, no one of the unrestricted class is likely to be retained.  Leclaire was an unmitigated disaster in Ottawa.  Svatos and Shannon have the potential to contribute if they are willing to take a league minimum, and possibly spend time in the AHL.  The Sens will not want them taking time from developing prospects.  Ottawa will likely retain the restricted free agents, particularly Butler, who was the prize of last year`s college free agent market.

Cap Reality: The Senators can spend to the cap, but likely will not do so for another couple of years as they have officially started the rebuild.  Look for them to stay closer to the cap floor during this time, and attempt to collect more high-end draft picks.

 Prospect Growth

It’s important to note that the Senators have two high quality picks in the first round of this year’s draft.  Their prospect pool is probably in the bottom third of the league as of now, but with the influx of picks, could quickly shoot up the ranks.  Brian Murray may appear a bumbling fool at times, but he certainly knows his way around the draft table.  For proof, you need only ask the Anaheim Ducks, who have Murray to thank for Ryan Getzlaf (19th overall) and Corey Perry (28th overall).  With the 6th overall pick, Murray is likely looking at a player such as Sean Couturier, Ryan Strome, or maybe even Jonathan Huberdeau.  With the 21st overall pick, Murray could be looking at players like Matt Puempel, Jonathan Miller, or Boone Jenner.  Whoever he adds, they will be important pieces moving forward.

That said, the current prospect group is developing at a fair pace.  No one is really jumping out and demanding ice time, but no one is taking a step back either.  David Rundblad might be the one exception.  His numbers took a monumental leap forward this year, but it is difficult to gauge how numbers from the Swedish Elite League will translate to the North American game.  At any rate, it seems as though Ottawa is developing a solid crew of dependable NHL players.  Take a look:

David Rundblad (D) – 6’3″, 220 pds, Age 20

  • 2009/10 – 47GP, 1G, 12A, 13Pts, 14PIM, 0 (SEL)
  • 2010/11 – 55GP, 11G, 39A, 50Pts, 14PIM, 0 (SEL)

Jared Cowen (D) – 6’3″, 210 pds, Age 21

  • 2009/10 – 59GP, 8G, 22A, 30Pts, 74PIM, +23 (WHL)
  • 2010/11 – 58GP, 18G, 30A, 48Pts, 91PIM, +44(AHL)

Robin Lehner (G) – 6’0″ 200 pds, Age 23

  • 2009/10 – 47GP, 27W, 2.80GAA, 0.918SV%, 5 Shutouts (OHL)
  • 2010/11 – 22GP, 10W, 2.70GAA, 0.912SV%, 3 shutouts (AHL)

Mark Stone (RW) – 6’3″, 200 pds, Age 19

  • 2009/10 – 39GP, 11G, 17A, 28Pts, 25PIM, +13 (WHL)
  • 2010/11 – 71GP, 37G, 69A, 106Pts, 28PIM, +14 (WHL)

Jacob Silfverberg (D) – 6’0″, 190 pds, Age 21

  • 2009/10 – 48GP, 8G, 8A, 16Pts, 4PIM, 0 (SEL)
  • 2010/11 – 53GP, 18G, 16A, 34Pts, 16PIM, 0 (SEL)

The Tweeners

On top of the young prospects the Sens have in the system, they also have a unique group of rookies or near-rookies.  While from the above group, only Rundblad and Cowen are likely to make the team out of camp, Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Bobby Butler and Stefan Da Costa are all expected to impact the Senators next season.  All four of them are from the college ranks (some drafted, some signed in free agency).  Brian Murray has essentially copied the model the Toronto Maple Leafs used with Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson.  These mid-twenties players will be used next year to fill a gap, until more adequate NHL players can be found or higher profile, younger prospects make the jump.  In the meantime, they will accrue value for the club and help them through a depleted year. 

By no means is it a foregone conclusion that these players will move on, or not be important moving forward.  However, they will have to do something substantial to endear themselves to the club, and it is unlikely all four of them will be able to give that kind of performance.  In Toronto, Stalberg was ultimately part of a package for the more talented Versteeg, and Hanson had his spot taken by free agent pest Colby Armstrong.  Brian Murray could be looking to make those kinds of deals and moves with these players in the future.

Areas of Concern

Off the Ice

 The first order of business for Murray this summer will be finding a new head coach.  That doesn’t sound like a daunting task, but when you consider the frequency with which Murray finds himself in this position, and the way he seemingly uses coaches as shields to cover up his own inadequacies, you have to wonder who is going to want to work for him.  Experienced coaches will likely not want to risk being thrown under the bus, so the new coach will probably end up being an up-and-comer.  This leads to the next concern off the ice – Brian Murray himself.  Should the architect of the disaster that was the 2011 season be spared simply because he managed to get decent returns on several roster players?  His list of faults is long enough to warrant a termination notice.  One especially blunderous move was the appointment of a trapping, systems coach, when he his team was made up of puck moving defencemen and offensive weapons with limited interest in two-way play.


 Beyond the first line, the Senators have very little they can depend on for scoring help.  They hope that Bobby Butler, Stefan Da Costa and the college crew can replicate their college numbers, but whether that is a realistic expectation or not remains to be seen.  It is likely the Senators will draft a pair of forwards in the first round this year.  They may be able to join the fray immediately, but again, what they are able to contribute is up in the air.  The market for forwards is pretty thin in free agency this year, but Murray will have to look to add at least one quality winger.  Jason Spezza appears to finally be evolving, but he can’t do it all. 

Potential Solutions (Cameron’s Take)

I should note that, in my opinion, the Senators should do very little to address their deficiencies this offseason.  I believe that turning the team around, and competing for the playoffs would be premature with the players they have and their general lack of experience beyond the Spezza line.  Bottoming out and collecting a lottery pick in a draft rumored to have several potential franchise forwards seems to me like it would be the smartest course.  However, Brian Murray rarely lets a July 1st go by without spending frivolously on declining veterans.  His most recent attempts saw him spend 10 million dollars on Alex Kovalev, and over 16 million on Sergei Gonchar.  So the following is what I believe the Senators should do, and not necessarily a prediction of what I think they will do. 

UFA Targets:

Scottie Upshall

Probably among the most sought after of free agent wingers this summer, Upshall will command a sizeable financial commitment.  It should not be an unmanageable number, but certainly a ‘UFA’ price.  Upshall would really benefit from the puck moving skills of Ottawa’s offensive defenders.  He’s also a solid two-way forward, and would be a good influence on the young players in the organization.  He is young enough that he will still be around when the Senators are competitive again.

Trade Targets:

Brian Rolston

Stay with me on this one.  Rebuilding clubs tend to want to shed as much salary as possible.  With Alfredsson likely retiring at the end of this coming season, and his 4.875 million dollar cap hit with him, there is a huge opportunity to set the stage for massive spending and acquisitions.  A trade involving Gonchar and Rolston as the principle players would free up an additional 5.5 million in cap space since Rolston’s deal expires a year sooner.  The Devils desperately need a puck moving defencemen, and the Senators are equally in need of experienced wingers.  The Devils are stacked with forwards, while the Senators should be comfortable playing their young defencemen.

Close-to-Ready Prospects

Perhaps the Senators should consider using their new wealth of picks to attain prospects closer to making their NHL debut, who have fallen out of favor with their organization.  Players like Cody Hodgson, Zack Kassian and Kyle Beach will be hard pressed to make the NHL with their current clubs, but could be given an opportunity immediately with the Senators.  Murray has the draft picks to work with, but could also deal middle of the road players like Peter Regin, Patrick Weircioch, and Nick Foligno.


7 Responses to Ottawa Senators: Offseason Game Plan

  1. Burtonboy. says:

    The Ottawa Senators have signed Swedish winger Jakob Silfverberg to an entry level contract. Silfverberg was drafted 39th overall in 2009

    • He had a pretty impressive year in the Swedish Elite League. Could be a gem, or he could be Rickard Wallin.

      • Burtonboy. says:

        Hope the info helps. I’ll do some posting here for you but I’ll keep it a factual as I can. Steer clear of too much rumor stuff.

  2. Burtonboy. says:

    OTTAWA SENATORS: Signed F Louie Caporusso to a two-year contract and F Jakob Silfverberg to a three-year contrac

  3. Burtonboy. says:

    Cameron I need an email addy to communicate with you. Fire of a quick email. You have mine I think

  4. Burtonboy. says:

    Is Jason Spezza untradeble. Some would think not.