Sens Thoughts – June 13th, 2015

1. There’s been some discussion between fans whether or not Curtis Lazar should begin next season in the AHL. Had you asked me earlier this season, I would have fully agreed. However, Lazar impressed me in the late stages of the season, showing much more confidence in making plays. I don’t see him rising any higher than a 3rd line centre while Turris/Zibanejad are on the team. So with that being said, I don’t think there’s as much to gain for him playing in the AHL. As long as he continues to show improvement, let him continue his development in the big leagues.

2. Speaking of the AHL, I feel like Cody Ceci should have been there this season. He’s a player that could become a strong offensive defenceman, which is exactly what the Senators need right now, especially if Karlsson were to ever suffer an injury. Watching him play, you see flashes of skill, especially with his ability to skate the puck out of the zone with speed. Those moments are few and far between right now though. It would have been beneficial for him to play top pairing minutes with Binghamton (including PP time) where he wouldn’t have to play as safe for fear of making a mistake, allowing him the chance to improve his offensive game.

3. Had Ceci been in the AHL, we likely would have seen Chris Wideman make his first NHL appearance. Instead, he’s set to be a UFA with zero NHL games under his belt. I’d be very surprised if he accepted a two way contract with the Senators prior to free agency, unless they guarantee him an NHL stint. I still have my doubts whether he will be a Senator next season, but it would be a shame to have developed an Eddie Shore winning defenceman and not see how he performs at the next level. I would give him the one way and take the gamble, the team has made worse.

4. It’s funny how a string of injuries in 2012-2013 opened the door for Eric Gryba to become an NHL defenceman. Nobody really saw that coming. It’s unfortunate for Fredrik Claesson that it would have taken a devastating toll of injuries for him to get a call up this season with 8 defencemen on the roster. Like Wideman, he’s another player I would have loved to see at the next level. Talking with a few Binghamton fans, besides the grit portion, they all believe he’s a better player than Mark Borowiecki. It’s good to know he’ll be back for at least one more year, and can hopefully get a taste of the NHL and maybe stick around.

5. Making the jump to the NHL as a bottom six forward or bottom two defencemen from the AHL isn’t really looking all that hard based on what we’ve seen from the Senators the past few seasons. Players like Gryba, Borowiecki, Benoit, Pageau, and Dziurzynski never looked out of place when they were called up. It makes one wonder whether a line consisting of Prince-Grant-Puempel would be able to find success as a fourth line. It would certainly be a low cost option for the team.

6. I hate to bring up the “B” word, but the budget is certainly going to determine some of the moves made this offseason. We’ve already heard that Murray is looking to potentially package an unwanted player with one of the goalies via trade. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually buy them out or try and trade them by retaining salary. There’s a lot of bodies the team has to try and move this offseason.

7. Maybe we will be surprised by the moves made this offseason. A redditor claimed to have run into Bryan Murray where he apparently told him “we’ve got some surprises in store leading up to the season“.

8. There’s been some debate whether or not the team is ready to compete for a Stanley Cup. With the addition of a top six forward and a top four defenceman, I do think the team would certainly be capable of contending in the East.

9. It certainly sounds like Craig Anderson is the goalie the Senators are going to keep. He may very well be the best goalie we’ve had in franchise history. Despite that, he likely only has a couple of prime years left (if we’re lucky). If the team decides to keep him, the window to win would have to be now.

10. Not that Anderson is the only factor in the window to win. Marc Methot is 29, Clarke MacArthur is 30, and Bobby Ryan is 28. Those are players that could potentially be hitting a wall in the next few years. Erik Karlsson at 25 is close to hitting his prime as well. Not to mention having the number one centre (Kyle Turris) only being paid $3.5 million. Depending on how the contracts of Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Mika Zibanejad work out, the right pieces on the team are in a good position to win now with a few other moves.

11. The thought of getting a legit top six player (not Chris Stewart) is certainly exciting. It would mean being able to move one of Hoffman/MacArthur to the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

12. Ideally the right winger for the third line would be Erik Condra who’s set to be a UFA. The thought of potentially losing him because of a 0.5-1.0 million dollar difference is all it takes to make me remember why we likely won’t be competing for the Stanley Cup.

13. Despite all the talk about a top six forward, the team’s true need is a top four decenceman. Would a player like Christian Ehrhoff or Zbynek Michalek fit that need? Or will the team acquire one via trade? It’s still disappointing that the team missed out on Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy last year.

14. One player that hasn’t been discussed much is Milan Michalek. Where does he fit on the team? You have to think he’s a player the team will try to move, but will there be any takers with his $4 million salary. He still has some skill, but the big problem I find with him is he can’t make other players better. He needs to be paired with better players to have success. Maybe it’s worth looking at keeping him with Turris/Stone where he found most of his success this season.

15. What to do with Alex Chiasson? I think in the end, asset wise as an RFA, you have to sign him. He certainly wasn’t getting any of the bounces he had early in the season and should have probably ended with a couple of more goals. He’s still only 24, so there is room to improve. At the same time, I can see him going the ways of Cory Conacher. Realistically though, I think he’s a player the team could move for a late draft pick if he doesn’t work out.

16. The rumour of the day is that the Edmonton Oilers are willing to part with the 16th overally pick for Cam Talbot of the New York Rangers. In my mind, that should be in the ballpark range of what the Sens should be looking for in return for Robin Lehner. Is that realistically going to happen, probably not. Thing is, I wouldn’t let Lehner (or Anderson for that matter) go unless it was an overpayment. Is it really worth letting a 23 year old goalie with a Calder Cup and Calder Cup MVP under his belt go for just a 2nd round pick? What a developmental waste that would be.

17. I can see Lehner being packaged up with a pick and/or roster player to land that coveted top six forward though.

18. If the team doesn’t get a solid offer for either Anderson/Lehner, you have to ride three goalies heading into training camp. Can’t have another Bishop situation. Alternatively look to trade Andrew Hammond.

19. Do I have confidence in Hammond next season. Personally, no. I prefer looking at the long term stats for a goaltender, and it will probably take another full season in the NHL to prove to me he wasn’t a one shot wonder. It was a great story that miracle run, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he struggles next season.

20. Last thought. Are you looking to pick up some cheap Sens merchandise? The NHL’s online shop is clearing out merchandise at up to 75% off and the Sens have one of the larger selections, especially in terms of women’s clothing, youth clothing, and men’s shirts.