Senators News: July 10th

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)

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Scouting Reports on the Players Acquired in the Spezza Deal

Alex Chiasson was drafted in 2009 (2-38), which is before I started doing my draft analysis so I don’t have scouting reports on him.  Alex Guptill was not highly touted so information is sparse, but included below.  There’s more on Paul although he’s not a high-ender either.  All three players are big wingers, so there’s a clear desire on the part of the organisation to have size on the boards (insert your favourite Colin Greening joke).  Chaisson is already in the NHL (79-13-22-35) and better analysis on him will soon be available.  Here are the two prospects:

Alex Guptill 3-77/10 LW 6’3 (NCAA Michigan 31-12-13-25) Ranking: CSNA 99 RLR 159 ISS 164
Turned pro after his third year in the NCAA; this past season he was tied for third in scoring on a team lead by J. T. Compher; lead Michigan in points when playing with Jacob Trouba on the roster the previous year.
RLR: Jr. A goal scoring machine is rather one dimensional
ISS: Good offensive upside Nice mix of speed and skill Very good skater Good shot, can score Good size/solid frame Verbal – University of Michigan Protects the puck well  Needs to improve defensive game

Nicholas Paul 4-101/13 LW 6’3 (OHL North Bay 67-26-20-46) Ranking: ISS 82 HP 106 CSNA 124 FC 137 RLR 142
Finished third in team scoring, making significant strides over his rookie season in the OHL (66-12-16-28).
ISS: Paul made a name for himself this year as a quality shutdown forward who shows tremendous smarts in the defensive zone. He possesses an incredibly active stick and with his tall, lanky frame he utilizes his big wingspan to get his stick on pucks. Nicholas has shown positive strides in his offensive development although his upside is primarily his defensive game, his offensive tools including shot and hands have come a long way. Will need to focus on his foot speed and stride.  Size/Strength Very Good Skating Average Puck Skills  Good Shot Good Hockey Sense Very Good
HP: Nicholas was selected in the 5th round of the 2011 OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Brampton Battalion out of the Mississauga Senators Minor Midget program. Nicholas continued to develop his game playing for the Mississauga Reps AAA Major Midget and got a brief and successful stint with the Mississauga Chargers of the OJHL. Nicholas went into the Battalion training camp and earned a spot on the roster. In early and especially mid-season viewings, you could always find Paul playing physical, and showing a nice pair of hands in front of the net. He was not a good skater but was always able to remain involved in the play. However, towards the end of the season, he seemed to hit a wall likely due to playing his first full season at this level of play. He became a little more perimeter oriented and he essentially got away from his strengths. He is a strong player, who has a good chance to hear his name called at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. When he sticks to his strengths he’s an extremely effective player who plays a power game. However he needs to use the next season as an opportunity to elevate his play and show his true potential.
FC: Paul is a good-sized winger who gets around the ice efficiently. He has some solid puck skills and can be strong on the cycle. He uses his size well and has shown an ability to finish, albeit inconsistently.
RLR: Strong, skates well, & has untapped offensive potential

So there you have it–a quick peek into the assets added through trading Jason Spezza (and the disappointing Ludwig Karlsson).  Paul will play in the OHL this upcoming season, while Chiasson will be on the main roster and Guptill joins the B-Sens.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)