It’s been awhile since I did a general news update on the Sens, but there’s enough accumulated news and thoughts to warrant it.
The overhaul of the Binghamton Senators is well under way and let’s take a quick overview of where things stand. Additions: Aaron Johnson (FA), Carter Camper (FA), and Alex Guptill (trade); Deletions: Nathan Lawson, Ben Blood, Tyler Eckford, Corey Cowick, Stephane Da Costa, Wacey Hamilton, Ludwig Karlsson (trade), and Jim O’Brien; I’ve excluded players on AHL contracts who spent most of the season in the ECHL (like Scott Greenham). Among the RFA’s, Mike Hoffman, David Dziurzynski, Cole Schneider, Chris Wideman, Patrick Mullen, and Michael Sdao have re-signed; Derek Grant filed for arbitration, but settled today.
So the roster would look like this (I have Stone and Borowiecki in the NHL):
Forwards (15) – Hoffman, Robinson, Thompson, Prince, Pumpel, Guptill, Grant, Dziurzynski, Schneider, Dzingel, McCormick, Pageau, Camper, Kramer, Culek
Defense (9) – Borowiecki, A. Grant, Wikstrand, Johnson, Mullen, Wideman, Claesson, Sdao, Rutkowski
Goalies (2) – Hammond, Driedger
[Quick edit: everyone was telling me Wikstrand was returning to Sweden and at last, via Scooter Lazar I got the link to the Ottawa Sun article that confirmed it]
As for the NHL roster, here are the Additions: David Legwand (FA), Alex Chiasson (trade); Deletions: Jason Spezza (trade), Ales Hemsky, Matt Kassian; the only unresolved contract is Robin Lehner’s, but there’s no reason to expect that not to get done. Given that, here’s the current roster (I’m excluding Lazar):
Forwards (12) – Ryan, Turris, Michalek, MacArthur, Zibanejad, Condra, Chiasson, Smith, Neil, Legwand, Greening, Stone
Defense (7) – Karlsson, Methot, Cowen, Gryba, Wiercioch, Phillips, Ceci, Borowiecki
Goalies (2) – Anderson, Lehner
The roster above is just a guess on my part and all sorts of parts could be moved around. I think the Binghamton forward roster remains bloated, but the odds are good that Culek, Rutkowski, and maybe Kramer will get loaned to the ECHL to alleviate the pressure. If the Sens weren’t on a tight budget you could throw in an extra forward, but it seems unlikely unless they need the body to hit the cap floor.
As for the additions themselves, Nichols offers a tepid endorsement of Legwand:
Looking at his underlying numbers, Legwand’s past seven seasons have been a bit of a mixed bag – good seasons interspersed with some bad and his last good season from a puck possession standpoint was two seasons ago. It’s worth keeping in mind however that Legwand’s usage has been that of a defensive center – playing tough minutes against the opposition’s best forwards and with a low percentage of his shifts starting in the offensive zone. At 33 years of age, the risk of a decline in play will be there, but there’s been enough consistency in his game and numbers to suggest that he can be an effective player for the Senators.
I felt no excitement at all for the addition, but Bryan Murray has long been fond of adding fading veterans to his roster (Jason Smith, Luke Richardson, Martin Lapointe, Shean Donovan, etc, etc) and since there’s no expectation that Ottawa will challenge for the Cup it probably doesn’t matter very much (Travis Yost is much more optimistic about the signing, incidentally). As Nichols point out, the addition might mean less of the horrific Greening-Smith-Neil combination that Paul MacLean loves so much. As for Chiasson, his underlying numbers are unimpressive, although as a younger player there may be room to improve (Yost called the entire Spezza deal a disaster, so his thoughts on Chiasson aren’t any more positive). I have no idea why Michalek and his bad knees were brought back; I don’t dislike Milan, but when he’s not healthy he’s not effective and those times are more common than the former.
As for the AHL additions, Guptill had just signed his ELC with Dallas after three years in the NCAA (you can hear what scouts thought when he was drafted back in 2010); a big winger who put up decent numbers in college, he should be a useful player for Binghamton, even if his NHL-potential is doubtful. Carter Camper is a different acquisition altogether, as the diminutive forward spent the better part of three years playing in Boston’s organisation before a deadline deal with Columbus (in exchange for another minor leaguer). His AHL stats are good and I’d guess he’s intended to replace Da Costa‘s production–I see virtually no chance of him playing in Ottawa. Aaron Johnson has been around a long time, but his days as a NHL player are gone (he played a few games with Boston two years ago, but spent all of the past season in the AHL while signed with the Rangers); he should be a dominant AHL defenseman and helps solidify Binghamton’s blueline which, unlike last year, has a strong veteran core (Johnson, Grant, and Mullen).
With the rosters essentially complete, how do they stack up to last year’s squad? Ottawa has lost its #1 center (I’m not considering Hemsky a loss given that he was a rental) and replaced him with a project prospect and an aging veteran. It’s not better on paper, so the team has to rely on internal improvement which is a difficult thing to judge. Whether management wants to admit it or not, the upcoming season is a rebuilding one. Binghamton, conversely retains a strong core of forwards and has improved its blueline, so the questionmark is in net. I’m not sure if the Hammond-Driedger combination can carry the mail, but semi-competent goaltending is available later in the year if the team needs to go that way so I fully expect Binghamton to make the playoffs again.
Finally, Development Camp has come and gone. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend this year, although the Sens posted the entire five-on-five scrimmage online which was a great decision. I’ve learned over the years not to take performances at the camp that seriously (generally those who are very good and those who are very bad might mean something, but not much), but Curtis Lazar was awarded the Hardest Worker trophy (also considered were Garrett Thompson and Max McCormick). A number of free agents attended the camp, but this rarely means anything (the only surprising attendee for me was goaltender Tomas Kral–it’s not often someone playing Czech tier-2 travels across the Atlantic to attend a camp). Overall, the impressions I’ve had (and read) confirm that it was a good camp.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)