Ottawa - Oct. 2, 2011 - The Ottawa Senators have finished their pre-season with a .500 record (3-3-1) and are preparing for the season opener in Detroit this Friday. However, with 30 players still in camp Bryan Murray and Paul MacLean still have some tough decisions ahead of them to decide the final roster spots.
Lehner to be sent down
The Senators currently have three goalies in camp- Craig Anderson, Alex Auld and Robin Lehner. As mentioned in a previous article I wrote, Craig Anderson is clearly the number one goaltender for the Senators and his stellar play since arriving in Ottawa last season has left no doubts. Signed to a four year $12.75M deal, the Senators expect Anderson to be their starter for the next few seasons. The signing of Alex Auld to a one year deal, signifies to me that the Senators plan on Auld as the backup for this season meaning that Robin Lehner will be sent down to Binghamton for one more year.
Log jam on defense
The Senators still have a log jam on defense, with no less than 10 defensemen still in camp. However, six of those 10 players are under one way contracts. Chris Phillips, Brian Lee, Filip Kuba, Matt Carkner, Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson all have at least two years left on their contracts and both Lee and Karlsson are restricted free agents. That leaves four defensemen fighting for the final two spots.
Jared Cowen has been the best of remaining defensemen and has not only adjusted nicely to the pace of NHL hockey but he’s even thrived. This leaves David Runblad, Patrick Wiercioch and Mark Borowiecki. To me it’s a fight between Wiercioch who has been steady and Borowiecki who has shown good puck moving ability.
Injuries open spots up front
The Senators still have 17 forwards in camp. Most NHL teams will typically keep 22-23 players on their roster, dressing 20 players (2 goalies, 6-7 defensemen and 11-12 forwards) on any given night. If the Senators do decide to keep an 8th defenseman on their roster, then that leaves 12-13 forward spots on the team. Both Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin are injured and may not start the season which could open a few more spots, at least for the short term. If that’s the case the Senators should cut one or two more forwards. However, it is possible that the Senators might keep all 17 and wait to see what will happen with Winchester and Regin, and how Zibanejad copes with playing in the NHL.
The Senators should end up with a total cap hit somewhere around $50M, so they have about $15M of cap space left and can afford to keep a few extra bodies for the start of the regular season before they decide what to do. I still suspect though that one or two of the following players will be sent back down to Binghamton - Kaspar Daugevins, Stephane Da Costa and Mike Hoffman.
Mika Zibanejad, the Senators first round pick this season has made a strong case for himself to make the team this season. The question isn’t whether Zibanejad will make the NHL or be an excellent pro, the question is when. With the injuries to both Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester who is a centre, the Senators have room to keep Zibanejad. The Senators can keep Zibanejad for 9 games before making a decision to send him back, and judging from the comments made by coach Paul MacLean, that’s what the Senators intend on doing. So Zibanejad will now have a 9 game regular season tryout to make the team full time. At the age of 18, the Senators will not keep him as a 4th line player or a taxi squad player, so if he cannot make it on the 2nd or 3rd line then he’ll be sent back to Sweden.
New Vintage Jersey
The Senators unveiled their new vintage third jersey today at a special ceremony at practice. The jersey combines a large ‘O’ on the front designed to emulate jerseys from the early days of the Senators, on top of barber pole stripes. The debut for the jersey will be the home opener on Oct. 13 against the Colorado Avalanche. The jersey’s will be wore on 11 nights during the season which symbolizes the number of Stanley Cups won by the original Senators , a tribute to the NHL’s first real dynasty.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments last week in relation to my article. Here is the best response which I thought I’d answer this time:
“Great article. Nice to follow my Sens.” - Kevin Dean
Thanks for the comments. Remember if you’d like to make a comment and possibly end up in this article e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org