Senators News: July 11th

-According to multiple reports Ottawa has re-signed Chris Neil to a three-year deal that should see him finish his career with the Sens.  If the salary reported is accurate it’s a good deal for the Sens, although given Neil‘s rough and tumble style I wonder if he’ll play through it all.

Capgeek provides the numbers for Tyler Eckford: 600k/175k.

-I meant to comment on Nichols article about the Sens for the upcoming season, but I forgot in the excitement of the Tyler Eckford signing.  With that out of the way, Nichols has a lot to say that I’ll do my best to summarize the massive amount of text:

For all the praise that we can bestow upon management for finding good value on the free agent market, it’s not like the organization didn’t try to pursue some expensive, big name talent.  According to reports out of Columbus, Bryan Murray got deeper into Rick Nash trade negotiations than any other team. It is entirely possible however that their level of interest in Nash was partially driven by optics. The same optics that Tim Murray acknowledged in a radio interview – explaining that management has to kick the tires on these sorts of players because they do have to answer to ownership and a demanding fan base. The Senators are willing to move young assets in a package to land a quality talent whose best seasons lie ahead of him and will likely align themselves with the young talent that the organization has done an excellent job of stockpiling. It’s somewhat staggering to see the number of people who have emphasized the need to find another top six forward who can help the organization take that progressive next step towards contention. Over the past few weeks, bloggers and the traditional media types have been spit-balling ideas and concocting unlikely scenarios that could net the organization productive wingers. Nevertheless, even without adding one of these players, the optimism surrounding next year’s Senators team is unmistakable. And it’s for that reason that it pains me to bring up a filthy word like regression during the offseason -that time of year when the standings reset and every NHL fan base should be filled with renewed optimism and hope for how the next season could unfold. With 192 man games lost due to injury during the 2011/12 season, the Senators were tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the fifth lowest total in the league. In looking at the injuries that Ottawa accumulated, they were fortunate enough to have their best players go through the season relatively unscathed. With the career years that Michalek and Karlsson enjoyed while veterans like Kuba, Spezza and Alfredsson flourished, Ottawa was fortunate that their best players were able to stay healthy and productive. One of the most common arguments that I have heard fans allude to when describing why Ottawa can be better next season pertains to Craig Anderson. From October through December, the Senators’ number one goalie sported some ugly [numbers]. From January through April however, Anderson’s [numbers improved]. Interestingly however, his record during these two splits is almost identical – a 17-12-3 record from October-December versus a 16-10-3 record from January through April. In other words, despite Anderson’s poor individual performance, the team still won a similar proportion of the games in which he played because he was bailed out one of the league’s highest scoring offences.

Nichols goes on to say he’s more concerned about the Sens blueline than its forward group, fearing that age will mean a drop in the performance/production of Gonchar and Phillips, that there’s no guarantee Methot will be able to handle top minutes, that Erik Karlsson can repeat his numbers, or that Jared Cowen is ready for the next step.  He’s also concerned that Ottawa’s prospects aren’t yet ready to make up for lost production, but does believe the players lost to free agency and via trade should cut down on the number of penalties the Sens take.

So what do I think?  I largely agree with Nichols.  In many ways things did go the Sens way this past season.  There were minor bumps in the road–Filatov went back to the KHL, Zibanejad and Da Costa weren’t ready for prime time, Binghamton had an abysmal year–but all the NHL veterans rebounded and the Turris trade made a huge impact on the team’s success.  Coming into the 2012-13 season the Sens have the opposite problem as the year before–they have a shortage of puck-moving blueliners which may hurt Paul MacLean’s system.  Conversely, they have an abundance of forward prospects while remaining thin on definitive top-six forwards and have solidified their goaltending.  It’s easy to imagine the Sens slipping back into the pack, if any key player (Karlsson and Spezza in particular) has injury problems or an off year.  Regardless, I think they will remain an entertaining team to watch.

Darryl Dobbs takes a fantasy look at the Sens and offers the following:

Mika Zibanejad will be a top-six forward in the future, but he also has the skill set to hold his own on a checking line. That should be enough for him to get a long look in camp as the possible third-line center. He made the team last year, but the Sens got off to a slow start and felt it was best for him to put in another year in Sweden. Between Zibanejad and Peter Regin, the third-line center battle in training camp will be interesting. Jakob Silfverberg won every award possible in the Swedish League last season. He captured player of the year as voted by the league and a similar award as voted by his peers. He finished second in league scoring and later led his team (Brynas) to the championship, earning playoff MVP honors. Then he joined the Sens and was tossed right onto their NHL playoff roster for the last two games (pointless in 18:21 of ice time). He’s as ready to slide into a second-line role as an unproven player can be and I recommend drafting him in all keeper league formats. Although Mark Stone acquitted himself well during his one playoff game with Ottawa, in which he notched an assist, he is best off playing a full American League season. Assuming Daniel Alfredsson returns, I really like Ottawa’s top six, though they could run into trouble if Latendresse spends the majority of the season on the IR. I like how the Sens’ goaltenders are set up from No. 1 to No. 3 and any team with Erik Karlsson on the blueline has offensive spunk. The pipeline has above-average promise in terms of fantasy appeal. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was a D+).

I’m not so sure Zibanejad will automatically makes the club, although the possible departure of Kaspars Daugavins would help his cause.

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