Senators Sign Mika Zibanejad

The Ottawa Senators have announced the signing of sixth-overall pick Mika Zibanejad (senators.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=569213).  The Sens had until July 15th to get him signed or else have to pay 100k to his club team.  This means Zibanejad can compete for a roster spot in training camp (if he fails to make the team he will be returned to Djurgarden to fulfill his contract with them for the 2011-12 season).  According to Capgeek (http://www.capgeek.com/players/display.php?id=2090) Zibanejad has a cap hit of 1.775/yr.

Senators Player Profile: Brian Lee

This is the seventh in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Brian Lee, D, Contract: 0.875/12 (RFA)
Drafted 1-9/05 (Muckler), 6’3, Shoots R, YOB 1987, Fargo, ND
2007-08 AHL 55-3-22-25 -4 51pim, NHL 6-0-1-1
2008-09 53-2-11-13 -2 33pim (1 fight) TOI 18:53 BkS 67 Hits 58, AHL 27-2-10-12
2009-10  23-2-1-3 -5 12pim TOI 15:33 BkS 27 Hits 33, AHL 41-3-12-15 -11
2010-11 50-0-3-3 -10 24pim (2 fights) TOI 17:07 BkS 77 Hits 88

When Ottawa selected Brian Lee with the 9th overall pick of the 2005 draft, it was the highest selection they’d had since trading for the Islanders 2nd overall pick in 2001 (Jason Spezza).  It remains the highest draft selection by GM John Muckler and has been controversial ever since.  Why did the Senators take Lee?  Reading the early parts of his old prospect page (http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospect/brian-lee) helps explain it.  A partial quotation: “Minnesota’s 2005 Mr. Hockey and Associated Press Player of the Year was the first high school player selected in the 2005 NHL draft.  Lee had an accomplished senior season at Moorhead.  Although his point total dipped from 48 to 37 in five fewer games, Lee lead Moorhead to the championship game of the state AA high school tournament.  Upon completion of the high school season, Lee joined Lincoln in the USHL and finished the season strong with 5 points in 4 playoff games.  Lee also became only the 13th high school player to make the USA roster at the World Junior Hockey Championships.”  Muckler was certainly enthused with the selection (http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/Draft/2005/07/31/1154736-sun.html).

Lee would spend two years playing in the NCAA before turning pro (82-6-47-53).  He then joined the 2007-08 Binghamton Senators for coach Cory Clouston’s innaugural AHL season.  Lee wound up tied for second in points by a blueliner (behind Lawrence Nycholat) and earned a late season call-up where he played well enough for Bryan Murray to declare him to be an “NHL player” (http://communities.canada.com/ ottawacitizen/blogs/hockeycapital/archive/2008/03/27/ottawa-senators-notes-from-the-morning-skate-march-27-2008.aspx).

The following season Lee was expected to be a full-time NHL player and progress, and while he did set what are career highs in games played (53) and points (13), he could not avoid assignments to Binghamton (this was the year that Brendan Bell seemed to have a breakout season).

Entering 2009-10 Lee failed to make the team and spent most of the year in Binghamton (he’s not even listed in ESPN’s season preview, http://sports.espn.go.com/ %20nhl/preview2009/team?page=nhlpre09/ott).  His play was mediocre at best (Erik Karlsson almost out produced him with 11 points in 12 games versus 15 points in 41).  Despite an inability to either dominate in the AHL or establish himself in the NHL, Lee was given a two-year, one-way contract.

With a one-way contract there was no doubt that Lee would be on the roster for the 2010-11 season, but even so he still didn’t warrant comment in season previews (this is Pierre LeBrun’s http://espn.go.com/nhl/preview2010/team/_/name/ott).  He played seven games in October, but Clouston was not happy with his performance (he played a grand total of 1:28 on October 22nd) and thereafter he was scratched for what might be an NHL record 25 straight games.  In the midst of the stretch, unable to trade him, Bryan Murray waived him around the league (http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/33526475/ sports/player_news), but there were no takers for the former first round pick.  Lee, to his credit, said virtually nothing pubically (http://www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2010/ 12/15/16567646.html).  When he finally returned to the lineup in December his play had improved (http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/Ottawa/2011/02/23/17386476.html).

One of the biggest problems with Brian Lee is figuring out what he is.  Over his first four professional seasons it’s clear he’s not a dynamic offensive player, but despite his size he’s not overly physical either.  He did increase the number of hits and blocked shots last year (although if you read the Don Brennan article carefully you’ll see his pace for the former fell off at the end of the season).  If Lee does have a role to play in the NHL it has to be as a shutdown defenceman with a good stick.  The odds are very slim he will find that role with the Ottawa however, and I believe that if he remains with the team throughout next season it will be his last.  There are just too many good blueliners knocking on the door.  As for projections, should he play the full year 10 points seems reasonable.

Profile of Lee at the end of 2008: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xp0YQDGTks
A good hit and lousy fight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InzY0baLE8M

Next up is Erik Karlsson.