Free Agency: Day One for the Ottawa Senators–Shifting Focus

The first day of free agency is in the books and as expected the Ottawa Senators were not major players.  Previously, management had indicated a need for a back-up goaltender and a top-six forward in his prime.  The first need has been filled with former Senators goalie Alex Auld (about whom more below), but Bryan Murray made some very interesting comments today that indicates they are looking for something other than a top-six player.

During the interview (http://video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=1196&id=120162&navid=DL|OTT|home, the relevant bits I’ve transcribed below) Murray made a number of points:
-the key element to signing Alex Auld was term (a one-year deal)
-the acquisition of Filatov means they are not looking for another top-six forward (adding further that the performances at the development camp have presented the possibility of a prospect making the team besides Filatov)
-he said they are still looking for “one specific role” on the team that he wouldn’t specify, only saying that the player could grow and develop into his role
-in regards to Ryan Shannon he said he wouldn’t be a regular player with Ottawa, but if he failed to find an opportunity elsewhere they might bring him back (saying they wanted a young player in his spot)

From Murray’s comments it seems clear that he believes they have their top-six group for next year.  Who is this group?  Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Milan Michalek are the no-brainers.  We know Nikita Filatov is going to be given the opportunity and I have to think Bobby Butler and Peter Regin are the other two players.  I’m not sure what the missing ingredient is–unless Chris Neil, Zack Smith, and Matt Carkner don’t provide enough toughness–but it may be a penalty-killer.

In Alex Auld the Senators have acquired a player who is a capable back-up.  He poses no threat to Craig Anderson‘s starter status nor Robin Lehner‘s position as the goaltender of the feature.  Auld‘s previous stay in Ottawa (2008-09) turned out badly largely because of Martin Gerber‘s struggles.  With the defensively minded Montreal Canadiens his numbers were: 16-6-2-2, 2.64, 0.914.

Ottawa also re-signed pugilist Francis Lessard to police Binghamton next season.  Lessard put up the following numbers between Binghamton and Ottawa: 36-2-1-3 and 24-0-0-0, with 187 pim’s in the AHL and another 78 in the NHL.

Murray quotes:
Alex Auld: “he fit our criteria–he can play, he can play well in the league.  He’s a guy that understands his role, that…he understands we have Robin Lehner waiting in the wings to come and play within a year and…I didn’t want to go for term for the backup guy, and Alex was very receptive to that.” And “I thought we were in the market with several other players, but it came down to term.”
Top-six forward: “I thought about it and we’re still talking about one role on the team, but…when we added Filatov–and I think the good thing that’s happened here is we’ve had our development camp going on before this and I see possibilities with young people.  Our plan starting at the trading deadline last year was to put some young people on our team and compete because of energy maybe not experience and that’s what we’re going to try to do.” And “I think early on I said [we were looking for a] top-six [forward], but by getting Filatov here we’re going to give him that chance or one of the other young guys and then we’ll see if we can find the right fit to…kind of round out the roster.”
Ryan Shannon and who they are looking for: “We thought it was fair to Ryan to let him shop and see if he can get a job where maybe he would be a regular player.  He’s used to playing somewhat regular over here and has done a good job and I hope he gets something for him.  If at the end of the day he can’t find a role we might go back to him, but my intent is to put a different type of player in that spot and see that they can grow so that in the second half of this coming year we’re a very competitive hockey team.” And “We’re looking at a particular type of player, yes.”