Ottawa Senator Roster Decisions for 2012-13

With Ottawa’s 2011-12 season complete the team faces a number of roster decisions.  The organisation is starting year two of the rebuild (or re-tool) and other than wanting to sign a veteran defensive defenseman Bryan Murray has given few indications what changes they will make.  Their UFA’s and RFA’s are listed below (NHL to AHL, from oldest to youngest), with those likely to depart in red and those likely to stay in green (I’ve missed my chance to look smart in predicting Peter Regin would be re-signed as the Sens have done so before I posted this).  I’ll also look at players still under contract who may be moved.

Forward UFA
Zenon Konopka (31) – scratched for more than a quarter of the season, his playoff performance is not enough to save a player who didn’t show up for the regular season
Jesse Winchester (28) – concussion problems and a consistent lack of production means he won’t be back
Rob Klinkhammer (25) – a spare part on the roster, I think the influx of young talent will see him let go
Mark Parrish (35) – the veteran couldn’t stay healthy and his production was subpar, so he’ll be gone
Francis Lessard (32) – the pugilist was scratched for a third of the season and won’t be back
Corey Locke (27) – arguably the best player in the AHL and while I’m sure they’d love to retain him, if he wants NHL games he’ll have to go elsewhere

Defence UFA
Filip Kuba (35) – had a great year and contributed to Karlsson‘s development, but with Melynyk looking to save money he will likely move on
Matt Carkner (31) – has bad knees and was scratched for a quarter of the season; may be kept to fill the heavyweight role, but is otherwise gone
Matt Gilroy (27) – deadline acquisition was invisible and won’t be retained
Tim Conboy (30) – performed up to expectations and could be retained, although the priority for an AHL vet on the blueline is an offensive dynamo which he is not

Forward RFA
Nick Foligno (24) – consistently inconsistent, but will definitely be back
Kaspars Daugavins (23) – not many undersized players earn checking roles, so he’s iffy
Jim O’Brien (23) – was excellent this season and will be retained
Pat Cannone (25) – a solid season for the college grad will see him retained
Stephane Da Costa (22) – despite some struggles I don’t see the Sens giving up on him after one season
Nikita Filatov (21) – he’ll be qualified, but will play in the KHL

Defence RFA
Erik Karlsson (21) – no question he’ll be re-signed
Eric Gryba (24) – the organisation likes him so he’ll be retained
Craig Schira (24) – has never really progressed so he’ll be let go

Goaltender UFA
Alex Auld (31) – was awful and will walk
Mike McKenna (29) – was solid, but I don’t see him being retained as the organisation will want Lehner to be the undisputed starter

Players under contract (discussion below):
Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson (39), Chris Neil (32), Jason Spezza (28), Milan Michalek (27), Colin Greening (26), Peter Regin (26), Erik Condra (25), Bobby Butler (25), Zack Smith (24), Kyle Turris (22), Corey Cowick (23), David Dziurzynski (22), Mike Hoffman (22), Louie Caporusso (22), Derek Grant (22), Cole Schneider (21), Andre Petersson (21), Jakob Silfverberg (21), Wacey Hamilton (21), Mark Stone (19), Mika Zibanejad (19)
Defence: Sergei Gonchar (38), Chris Phillips (34), Jared Cowen (20), Ben Blood (23), Mark Borowiecki (22), Chris Wideman (22), Patrick Wiercioch (21)
Goaltenders: Craig Anderson (30), Ben Bishop (25), Robin Lehner (20)

There aren’t many question marks among the players under contract (I think Alfredsson will return, incidentally), but Bobby Butler is coming off an atrocious season while in the minors Corey Cowick has yet to become an AHL-regular.  I believe Butler will be moved (as early as the draft, as late as training camp) with a chance that Cowick will be sent to another organisation as well.

There are prospects who must be put under contract or the team will lose their rights: Jakub Culek, Marcus Sorensen, and Darren Kramer.  The latter is expected to be signed and help police Binghamton, but the two 2010 draft picks are bigger question marks.  Culek and Sorensen haven’t grown as expected and I suspect in the case of the undersized Swede he will be let go.  Culek‘s potential (and size) might earn him a contract.

A few other prospects are eligible be play in Binghamton due to age (Shane Prince and Jean-Gabriel Pageau) or being drafted from Europe (Fredrik Claesson).  I don’t see room for the former pair, particularly given how small Binghamton’s forward group already is.  Claesson is an interesting case however, given that Djurgarden has been relegated and Binghamton is short on the blueline.  There’s a decent chance he’ll be signed to play in the minors.

Finally, a couple of notes: there’s a possibility the Sens might sign Jack Downing to a contract.  Playing with an AHL-contract this season, he showed a great deal of improvement and Binghamton could use his size in their lineup.  As an older player however, it remains an “if”.  On a different note, former Binghamton blueliner Geoff Kinrade was qualified as an RFA last year, but chose to go to Europe.  He has a contract in the NLA with Bern, but it’s always possible he has an “out” clause and that the organisation could convince him to return.

Overall I believe only four regulars from the Sens lineup will change with the effect greatest on the blueline.  This would be the hypothetical roster based on my assumptions:
NHL forwards (13)

NHL defensemen (6)
*defensive defenseman*

NHL goaltenders (2)

AHL forwards (14)
Da Costa

AHL defensemen (7)
*offensive defenseman*

AHL goaltenders (2)


Prospect Profile: Darren Kramer

Darren Kramer (C-L, 6’1, DOB 1991, 6-156/11)
2009-10 AJHL Grande Prairie 58-19-11-30 331pim (ppg 0.51) 7th pts
2010-11 WHL Spokane 68-7-7-14 +10 306pim (ppg 0.20) 18th
2011-12 WHL Spokane 71-21-19-40 +4 200pim (ppg 0.56) 7th

The unranked overage draft pick was considered the best fighter in the draft (47 majors!) and a great team guy.  The Sens sent him to Spokane for his final year of junior with instructions to work on his skills and he responded with a career best in goals and assists (reducing his fisticuffs down to 26).  There’s no doubt he will be signed and join Binghamton in the fall.  Describing himself he said, “People ask me why I do it and I say ‘if I could score 47 goals, I’d do it that way. But after you get to a certain age, you see the guys get better and spots become limited on teams. So I figured out (fighting) was something I enjoyed doing and I wasn’t too bad at it, either. I started fighting and playing an energy role. But I didn’t fight just to fight. I did it for the right reasons and tried to pick my spots properly and try to motivate the team and the crowd at times.”  His coach Don Nachbaur said “He’s been a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t wear a letter but this is a credit to him, I’d name him as one of the leaders on this hockey team and I think every guy in that locker room feels the same. He’s an intelligent player. He knows the situation. He doesn’t fight for himself. He’s the ultimate team guy, he does it for his team. I can’t think of an instance he got into a fight because some guy hit him too hard. It’s always been about the team first.”  Here’s Kramer fighting Dalton Thrower earlier this season.  Finally, I can’t help but reference Kramer’s invention (a new kind of peanut butter jar).