Saturday, July 04, 2009

Can we stop talking about LA now?

Since before the draft, I didn't buy into the LA rumours about the future home of King Heatley. Right before the draft, the Kings held their State of the Franchise conference call and it was then that Assistant GM Ron Hextall referred to King Heatley as a 'red flag'. Despite publicly asking for a top line left winger via trade or UFA, Hextall's comments made it clear that LA wasn't into the questionable attitude of our trade bait. Had Hextall just said that he wasn't sure if they could afford his salary or have the assets to trade, that would have been considered posturing. But he spoke directly about character and attitude concerns. In my opinion, the trade fodder was just a result of us finding a team that had a need, had cap space, and had a series of young prospects. Looked right on paper, but Hextall nuked it ASAP. Ryan Smyth just validated that. Can we leave that one alone now?

In a slightly related story, talk today mentioned that we were one of a few teams talking to Pinball Mike Comrie. Awesome! When we re-acquired him this season, he sounded as if he acknowledged that he should have waited a bit longer last time to see if the Sens could find the money for him. Instead, he took the Islanders deal. Let's hope he likes the Sens as much as he says he does and gives Murray time to see if we can fit him into our cap. Comrie at $2M is a great fit and a legit top six forward.

Finally, it sounds like Wiercioch and Karlsson are turning heads at the prospects camp. All the more reason to lump Gator into any Heatley trade. Gives us the $2.6M in cao space AND holds a spot in case one of those two continues to dazzle in September.

Dear Jason Spezza - an open letter

Seems like we've written a lot of letters to Dany Heatley and his group of nitwits lately, so why not give a quick shout out to the 'other' Sens player most affected by the trade request. Here's our open letter to Sens top centre, Jason Spezza.

Dear Jason,

Boy, have you had an interesting off-season for someone that had no intention of being newsworthy. You aren't necessarily grabbing headlines (which might actually be a relief for you), but you have started to find your way back into conversations. What is different this time around is that instead of people angrily talking about your complacent backchecking or ill-advised passes, people are praising you for the maturity you have shown in both the Dany Heatley shenaningans and the Team Canada Orientation Camp snub.

At the height of popularity of the Pizza Line in the past few seasons, you were always seen as the goofy one, the one that was more about dipsy-doodles than about winning the big game. This was unfair of us, without question, but it was the reality of being lined up alongside our biggest hero in Daniel Alfredsson and our biggest scorer and national team fixture in Dany Heatley. Spotting 90 points in injury-plagued seasons wasn't enough for us, apparently.

But looking back over the years, there have been some critical moments that should have shown us how great you will truly become as an Ottawa Senator. Whether it was the maturity you displayed in handling the scorn of Jacques Martin in your early years or your patience in being asked the same questions week after week about any flaws we could find, you've always shown an ability to stand up and speak for yourself. Never have you hid from the camera and microphone, never have you asked your agent to do the talking for you.

And you've also had some spectacular 'team-first' moments on the ice. Game Two of the Buffalo series, you grinded your way to a critical faceoff win that got the puck back to Corvo for the winning goal. In a regular season game against those same Sabres this past February, you took a vicious hit in the offensive zone just to get a pass to your linemate, who scored a game-tying goal before we won in the shootout. And what about the time that you went after Dion Phaneuf after his rocking hit of your 'teammate' Dany Heatley in a late season loss to the Flames. My point is, we are so lucky that you've followed the leadership of Daniel Alfredsson and not Dany Heatley. Even though you and Heatley are magical on the ice together, what a shame it would have been had you developed his me-first attitude, as well. No, Jason, you are an Ottawa Senator!

Your comments this week show another step in your development as a leader here. Not only are you taking the silly Orientation Camp snub as motivation (others would take it as defeat), you are also showing incredible poise in commenting on Heatley. He is your teammate and good friend, but you fully acknowledge that he needs to move on and let you and your colleagues do the same. I love it!

With this new development in the roster, your role will undoubtedly change, as well. I'm not suggesting you're quite ready to adorn the 'A' in Heatley's absence as Mike Fisher probably should have worn it even last year. But we now have a clear path of who will take the torch from Alfie in the next few years. We are down to a manageable Two Superstar team - one in his mid-30s and one in his mid 20s. The old and the young. While our young prospects have watched in awe of Alfie over the years, they will begin to look to you for guidance. Jim O'Brien, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Jared Cowen, Cody Bass, Peter Regin, even roster guys like Nick Foligno and Jesse Winchester - you are their motivator now. Both on the ice and off the ice, these guys will watch your every move to see how they should play and perform. Given your ability to step up and accept this role this summer, I know that those prospects are in great hands.

This is officially your first season as 'the man' in Ottawa, Jason. You'll look down the gauntlet of this pressure cooker every single night, without question. The same questions that Alfie has been fielding over the past decade about the team's struggles are now going to be asked to you. This is your chance to establish greatness in a city that so badly needs more heroes. We're fickle and we'll keep you in line should humility fly out the door from time to time. Don't take it personally as your teammate has done. If we didn't criticize you, it would mean that we had no expectations of you.

Jason, we can't wait for the season to get started. This is the longest off-season we've had in 12 years and has been filled with drama and distraction. Here's to hoping that you can jump into training camp and give us validation that this team is headed toward redemption. Play like the leader that you're becoming and we'll sing your praises and give you a key to the city. This will become your team, Spetz. Go ahead and begin that transition as Alfie hands you the torch over these next few seasons. We'll stand beside you every step of the way.

Best regards,

Ottawa Senators Fans.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Have you seen my contract?

By my calendar, it is now July 3rd. Bryan Murray's quest to add a forward has hereto now gone unfulfilled and a quick glance over the remaining UFAs shows a dwindling list of antsy forwards. Here's who is left:

Mats Sundin: The Sun printed something about him coming to Ottawa. It would be neat to have him and Alfie play together and a small FU to the Leafs, but we ain't a contender and we ain't throwing a lot of money at him. Not sure why he'd choose us.

Alex Tanguay: Probably the best forward out there. If Gionta got $5M and Antropov got over $4M, then Tanguay will get at least 5M from somewhere, probably putting him out of our range. He was one of the five forwards on our list earlier in this process as a good setup guy. I don't see us being able to afford him.

Mike Comrie: I'm pretty biased here and flat out want this guy back. I know he's small, doesn't kill penalties or veer much into the corners, but I'm chalking that up to the bum hip last year. I defend this guy a lot and take a lot of flack for it because he finished so poorly. Give him $2M and a full season and see if he can put up 50pts again. Would you pay $2M for 50pts?

Robert Lang: Is this guy still around? Not sure what it would cost to get him and he's coming off major surgery, but he might be a Plan B. I'd rather we get someone younger that can be around for a while and Lang is a 1-year guy at this point. Someone desperate will throw him 3M and I hope it isn't us.

Maxim Afinogenov: Afino was also on our list earlier as a total castaway. Insanely fast and offensively gifted, yet one of the laziest guys out there. Lindy Ruff, as much as we hate him, knows heart and he knows that Afino doesn't have it. Ring, ring, "Hello? Yes, I'll sign in the KHL..."

Ales Kotalik: Great slap shot, not much else. He could be a guy that could be on the point on the powerplay, but I don't think he brings enough to the table on a consistent basis.

Todd Bertuzzi: Why not? This is Muckler's dream player and he can still bang his way to 40-50pts and knows that the money days are over. With the slim pickings out there, why not throw this guy a contract for a year and let him and Fisher bang it out. If the Edmonton deal had gone through, you could Penner on there and let them hit a few people.

Mikael Samuelsson: Update: 12:45 7/3/09 - just signed for three years in Vancouver, $2.5M per year.

There are a few others like Mike Grier, Brendan Morrison, PJ Axelsson, etc., that are third liners that we dont' need. Then there's Koivu and Kovalev that we just don't want. In terms of players that are on the radar, I think this is it, folks. Anything decent in there? I still hope it's Comrie.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Spezza left off Olympic orientation camp list

But centres that did make it include Andy McDonald, Jordan Staal, Patrick Marleau, and Patrick Sharp. Wow.

Great week for the Sens, eh?

What's Next For King Heatley?

In what has most certainly been the most FUBAR story in hockey in years, Dany Heatley will wake up on July 2nd $4 Million richer and still a member of the Ottawa Senators. Make no mistake about Dany Heatley - this guy just does not want to go to Edmonton. He knows that with five years remaining and a no-movement clause (funny how those work) in effect, he would have to spend the next half decade as an Oiler. On one hand, he'd be the go-to guy, just as his neighbour said he wanted to be. On the other hand, he would for sure get Roy Munson'ed out there. His feelings against becoming an Oiler are so strong that he'd rather risk having to come back to Ottawa and be driven to tears nightly than become a hero up there. How does that taste, Edmonton?

All sorts of quotes came out of the meetings where Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe flew to Kelowna to beg and grovel for the star winger. Some thought that Heatley was trying to stick it to the Sens one last time by making them pay the $4M advance. Others thought they heard him say it wasn't fair that Edmonton should pay the bonus that he earned in Ottawa. And his agents have said that Murray just didn't work hard enough to find another suitable option for Heatley. I'll pause for a moment while you let that sink in, remembering that the supposed Rangers offer included the likes of Michael Roszival, a $5M defenceman, and Nikolai Zherdev, and RFA that is slightly more popular in the league than Alexei Kaigorodov. Sorry JP.

I can sit here and blast Heatley for hours about his behaviour through all of this but it doesn't change the fact that our team looks like absolute hell this year. The supposed return from Edmonton doesn't make us much better, either. Face it, we're gonna be bad. It makes this Heatley/Edmonton rejection somewhat palatable because the cock-eyed optimist in me hopes that some other team steps up and takes this mook off our hands.

Two weeks ago, I printed a list of the 29 teams and analyzed what their interest would be in his royal highness. This was done pre-draft and resulted in ten teams that I thought had the tools, the cap space, and the need for Heatley. Those teams were Anaheim, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, NY Rangers, San Jose, and Vancouver. Let's take a deeper look at each of those again after a day of signings, shall we? The difference between then and now, of course, is that Heatley's handlers have done far more damage to his reputation and character today then they had done last week.

Anaheim: The premise is still there - Perry and Getzlaf is good but Heatley and Getzlaf could be great, and it only costs the Ducks $2M more. This is still out there.

Boston: My thought was that Murray would take the best return, regardless of division of the trading partner. Boston has contract issues with Kessel and we'd be happy to take a Wideman off their hands. There was also talk that Marc Savard might be on the block for cap reasons. Obviously, Heatley is 2.5M more than Savard, but toss in a dman and it helps them a bit. The problem is that Boston's need is on the blue line to set up Chara.

Chicago: Cooked. Hossa took that spot and will be there til he hits 50.

Dallas: Still out there. Quiet day for the new GM. I wonder if after the AVery saga last year, they're hesitant to take on a basketcase like ours. Their needs are more on the blue line with Zubov checking into a nursing home, but there's still room for him beside Richards on the top line. Please just tell me we don't have to take Ribeiro back.

Edmonton: Really? Are we really going to talk about this?

Florida: Another team in need of a superstar. Would Heatley take a trade into total oblivion and miss the playoffs for the rest of the contract? And I'm not even sure if Florida has the stack of chips to sit at the big table, anyway.

Minnesota: Cooked. Signed Boots tonight for 6 years.

NY Rangers: Cooked. Signed Gabby for 5 years at Heatley money. Slap in the face to you, Dany. They'd rather take a guy actually made of papier maché instead of you.

San Jose: Still out there. Quiet day for the Sharks except for Blake, but it doesn't appear that they really want to shake it up out there. If the return included Patrick Marleau, I'll throw up. Ehrhoff would have to come back and I'd much rather have a Clowe plus prospects/picks. Apparently Heatley and agents are waiting on this one to materialize.

Vancouver: Cooked. The Sisters are back, aren't they, Burkie?

So what do we have? Anaheim, Boston, Dallas, San Jose? Is Edmonton still in this?

My hope at this point is that Murray sticks to his public comments that the price will go up once Euge slips him that $4M. Never has an individual player so badly screwed his team and teammates like this since Eric Lindros was traded for a bunch of things (read: Stanley Cup). My guess is that Yzerman doesn't give a shit about this, but I truly hope that they at least think twice about locking this clown onto our top line in Vancouver.

As a quick aside, to celebrate Canada Day I watched my DVD of the 2002 Gold Medal Game. Ironic that Pat Quinn coached that team so well and brought a bunch of egos together for one common goal. Ironic, of course, because Pat Quinn was the same person about to be tasked with tightening the screws that have gone loose in Heatley's head since the season finished. One thing is for certain, I don't think I want to see Dany Heatley ever posing in a picture like this:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The houseguest that won't leave. Just Beat It, Beat It, Beat It, Beat It...

Oilers brass has flown to Kelowna to meet with his royal highness to beg him to join the Oilers. Apparently, his highness has been on the horn today with Oilers management and players to see if perhaps Edmonton isn't as bad as every other player in the league thinks it is. This story has so many pathetic twists it makes me sick. I'll repeat that first line - the Oilers are flying to see his highness to beg him to accept a trade he's already 'slept on' (read: waited to see if the Rags would up their offer). Later tonight, we'll see if this cockroach has made his way out of our home yet.

In the meantime, we're out $2M on Neil's extension. Dude had better fight 15 times and pot 15 goals...but thanks for the huge 300k discount. We'll be sure to nominate you for the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

Heatley Non-Update - 7:36pm

Okay, get your pencils out:
1. Edmonton has kept the offer on the table for Heatley, even though he's essentially given them a bigger F-U than he is to Ottawa. They are awaiting his response and golly gee they hope he says yes.
2. Ottawa is pressuring Heatley and company to take the Edmonton deal as it is the ONLY deal good enough for Ottawa. This is Murray's angle and he's saying it is Edmonton or Ottawa, pick where you're hated less right now.
3. Heatley's agents continue to try and negotiate with the Rags and the Wild behind the scenes as they both offer a better living situation for their client. If they can coax the GM's to give a better off to Murray than what he's getting from Edmonton, then it goes. So far, neither the Rags or the Wild have budged.
4. But what if both the Wild and Rangers are courting Havlat and are waiting for his decision? The loser of the Havlat sweeps comes back to Murray for Heatley, right? But now you're dependent on Havlat making a decision before midnight.
5. If Havlat doesn't make his decision today, then Murray's asking price for Heatley goes up because we've just cut him a cheque for $4M. So in a sense, Slats and Fletcher are kinda pressuring Boots Havlat to sign tonight so they'll know whether or not they need to make the Heatley trade as a consolation.
6. So as it stands, it is almost as if the interested teams (save Edmonton) are pursuing other UFA options for scoring since it costs them cash only. Once the elite scorers go, Heatley's camp assumes he'll be in greater demand, thus giving him more options than what he's faced with now.

Looks like another night of watching the web past midnight to see what trickles in. In the meantime, here's a quick roundup:
- Toronto gets tougher with Komisarek and Exelby (face it, Orr won't even dress)
- Montreal spends a fortune on Gomez, Cammalleri ($6M?), Spacek, and Gill
- Ottawa reaffirms that their highest paid player is a genuine assbag.

Heatley to Edmonton? Or no? Yes? WTF is it? (4:48 update)

4:48 Update from Senschirp that McKenzie said it is Edmonton or Ottawa at this point as the Rags won't up the ante. Does this now make sense how cops can get confessions out of guys after shining a light on them for 36 hours? You pound the same stories into our heads for a week and at this point, I think most of us will be relieved to have Dustin Penner on this team! Not really, but you get my point, eh? Let's just end this. He and Khabibulin can rent a place.

227pm - According to the mecca of Sens Beat, Heatley is now once again considering the Oilers deal. So is this a sad story of Heatley and the Rags wanting each other, but Murray and the Oilers wanting each other, and who will blink first? After seeing how Murray handled Meszaros, and seeing how he tore apart Jim Fox, my money is in his corner. Interested to see if Heatley's agents are still negotiating with Slats or not.

Stay tuned. Isn't this fun?

How are you feeling today, Bryan Murray?

Kinda like this, methinks.

In the meantime, it is back to the drawing board for our GM. The latest rumours are flying that Heatley held on to the last minute last night (kind of a BS move) and is now waiting to see if the Rags come in with a better offer that Murray will take. This has now turned into the ultimate game of chicken. Will Heatley risk waiting on a Rags deal knowing that it might never come, thus keeping him in Ottawa and taking over the most-hated man spot from Yashin? Will Murray hold him up and say that it's Edmonton or Ottawa and also risk having this buffoon on our team next year? One thing we know for sure is that nobody in Ottawa likes Dany Heatley anymore. At least he has solid neighbours out west.

Shock and Awe

At first, I thought it would be best to let the night pass before putting thoughts together on the Dany Heatley saga. But then I started thinking about George W. Bush's Shock and Awe approach to Iraq and how it kinda relates to Dany Heatley's Shock and Awe approach to farking the Sens on multiple occasions. If Eugene Melnyk was upset this morning, just wait until he wakes up under his barstool at Bert's Bar and gets his Ottawa Sun Sports hand-delivered to him. Billionairs have egos, folks. Eugene's ego is taking a kick right on the button at the hands of a guy that he has gone to great lengths to protect.

Unless we hear some sob story about why Heatley really wants out of Ottawa (his piano teacher broke off their affair, something like that), then the dude has ensured that he is the most embarassing player in hockey. Quick recap in case you've lived under a rock since the beginning of the Cup Finals. Heatley comes to Ottawa in shambles after begging for a trade out of Atlanta. Has a great few years, gets a free pass in the media on his past, signs a long-term deal with his boyfriend in tow, insists on a no-movement clause, then asks to be traded anyway, then nixes a deal to be traded (even though, if you were reading, he just asked for a trade). Oh yeah, he'll also collect $4M Wednesday night at midnight (not Tuesday night at midnight as we had all previously assumed).

Shock and awe, Dany. That's what you've done for us in the past month. You stood quietly in your stall in the locker room while your cloest ally, Jason Spezza, was getting shredded on a nightly basis. Your only sound bytes were quick shots at the press for trying to make a story out of nothing. At no point did it occur to you that you hadn't been blamed for a single piece of the Shakesperean collapse of this team over the past two years? You picked a strange time to be this arrogant, coming off of two straight years of declining production going into Olympic season. You picked a strange spokesman for your point of view in your asenine neighbour that defends your kindness in gracing our national team with your presence.

I can't lie - I was a Dany Heatley fan since the day he was traded here until the minute EJ Hradek broke the trade request story. I go to Ottawa/Atlanta games in my Sens Heatley jersey and take abuse from the few fans that still remember he played there. I love that youtube clip that cut together all 50 goals he scored in 2005-06. But this has gone so far beyond respectable behaviour, I'm kicking him out. The trade request based on feeling slighted by the coach is a bad sign of sportsmanship and character. The silent treatment he's put on in the past few weeks has shown a lack of balls and courage. And the rejection of a deal after four hours of pondering, just to take it up until the supposed midnight deadline for the $4M payout is absolutely and positively criminal. He's brought such incredible shame to himself in the past month that I'm prepared to trade him for a burning bag of shit just to get his name off our roster and move on to a team that wants to be here and play together. speaking for most Ottawa fans, how can we ever, EVER look at Dany Heatley in a positive light after this?

Shock and awe, buddy. Congrats.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rumour Has It (Updated: 12:35am)

(Update: 12:35) Per Bob, the $4M bonus is actually not due until TOMORROW at midnight, not tonight (half an hour ago). This changes things a bit. Not much, but a bit. On one hand, we still have time to move him before Euge strokes his pen for $4M. On the other hand, he's still a Senator and he still did just turn down a deal to the Oilers. Not sure his neighbour can defend him on this one, eh?

(Upadte: 12:10) Wow. Heatley nixed the deal. When put in a position of rot in Edmonton or rot in the hell that you've created for yourself in Ottawa, he chose the latter. This is absolutely insane! If he hadn't already done irreperable damage to his character before tonight, his neighbour and he certainly finished off the remaining believers. One day, I hope we get to the bottom of this sad, sad story.

(Update: 10:56) All the credit to Garrioch on this as all the majors are picking this up. Eklund added a tidbit that apparently Heatley rejected a trade to Edmonton two days ago. That obviously is not true, just based on the source. But in all seriousness, this sucks for Heatley. Not that I feel sympathetic at all. I actually love it! The dude wants out of Ottawa and will now spend the next five years in a truly miserable city. You think he can talk his way out of there next year? I see the power of the NMC - it ensures you don't get Munson'd out to awful cities. This is obviously an exception because he demanded the trade, so again, no sympathy from this guy. But 5 years in Edmonton? Wow.

(Update: 10:32) Even TSN is getting in on the action and are siding with Garrioch.

So we officially have a stand off of rumour-mongerers. In one corner, Booboo Garrioch professes that a deal is pending Heatley's approval and he's likely headed to Edmonton for a steaming pile. In the other corner, exiled HB blogger Kevin Lee is swearing that he's already been dealt to the Rags. One is a respected member of the least respected newspaper in town, the other couldn't keep it together long enough to stay on an anonymous hockey blogger's site.

After much thought and sway, I am starting to think we're stuck with this contract past the beginning of UFA period tomorrow. I have made it a habit to be 100% inaccurate in all predictions and guarantees, so let's see how this one plays out.

In the meantime, Chris Neil did us all a favour and rejected a supposed 4-year, $1.7M per year deal. I liked Neil and was hoping we'd keep him, but that contract rejection is ridiculous. Perhaps that isn't what BM is actually floating out there. Hossa has also turned down the lifetime contract with Detroit ("you told me you'd beat Pittsburgh again, you bastard people!"), Komisarek is going UFA, and tomorrow might turn into a pretty spectacular day.

One thing is for certain in all these Internet rumours - we're going to be taking back a bad contract. We're just not going to get out of this without taking one back, folks. Another thing is for certain in these Internet rumors - Jeff Goldblum is still alive.

NYR no longer have cap issues

Gomez to the Habs for Higgins. If the Rags send Redden down, then they've just dealt with $14M in salary. Personally, I think Slats just jobbed Bob Gainey. Talent aside, Gomez for another 5 years at $7.3? Yikes! Obviously, the rumours are flying about how this opens the door for Slats to go get Heatley without the salary dump coming back our way. I don't know if that's as big of a deal as much as it allows Slats to play in the UFA market tomorrow.

Top 5 UFA Forward targets for Ottawa

Editor's Note: Okay, so this is pure recycling on my part. I posted these UFA target pieces a week ago and wanted to get them back up on the main page heading into tomorrow's UFA Frenzy. Enjoy.

Even though the draft comes before the UFA period, there seems to be plenty of coverage on the players we might take at the #9 spot for me to try and rehash some of it here. I also am convinced that we’re going to trade up in the draft, anyway, so perhaps we swap that #9 pick for something higher and we pick a player that none of us are expecting to be on the board as it stands.

That being said, I want to look at five potential UFA targets for both the forward and defence positions come July 1st. This first of two installments will look at the forwards. Please note that I haven’t bothered to put guys like Hossa, Sundin, and the Sedin sisters because we can’t really afford them. These five players all fit the top 6 forward billing that Murray has publicly sought and can potentially be signed for a salary that fits our payroll post-Heatley. Let me also say that I’m strongly for keeping Mike Comrie at somewhere in that $2M - $2.5M as a playmaking winger on the second line. With a healthy hip and a renewed season in a strong program, Comrie will come back strong.

1. Mike Cammalleri (last year: CGY, 39g, 43a, 82pts, -2, $3.35M cap)

A healthy Mike Cammalleri is an 80-point player. In the last three seasons, he’s accomplished the feat twice, once in LA and again last year in Calgary. In Ottawa, he would be the first ever ‘second line centre’ that we’ve only heard about in campfire stories. Sure, you could try and bump him to the wing with Spezza, but I think he’d be better suited on a second line with a Mike Fisher type. He has proven that he can handle the heat of playing in a hockey-crazed city, as well, and at 28 years old, he’s got a way to go. The burning question is about his salary demands. We already have a $4.2M second liner in Fisher, so can we really afford a $5M second line centre? In my opinion, he lets you have two legitimate lines that are a threat to score and you really just need to fill the top line with a kid that can keep up with Spezza and Alfredsson.

2. Brian Gionta (last year: NJ, 20g, 40a, 60pts, +12, $4M cap)

This is one that might sneak in under the radar for us. Gionta doesn’t put up Cammy numbers and isn’t a full blown replacement for Heatley, but he’s a guy that has the potential for 70+ pts and is most certainly fast enough to keep up with Spezza. He has the hands for it, too, but he’d have to play on the top line to be worth the salary for $5M that it is going to take to get him. He also turned 30 this year, two years older than Cammalleri. A natural winger, he’d be the forechecker that Heatley wasn’t and while he doesn’t have the same shot as his predecessor, he has far better speed and vision and could fit in better with Clouston’s pressure system. Again, though, we’d be looking at $5M for this one.

3. Alex Tanguay (last year: MTL, 16g, 25a, 41pts (50 games), +13, $5.25M cap)

Here’s another winger that can put up points and he’s been doing it for longer than both of the first two. He’ll also cost that same $5M and doesn’t necessarily have the speed to guarantee him a spot on the top line. Another positive with Tanguay is that he’s a very reliable two-way player that knows his way around his own end and isn’t a liability out there. The one question mark is that his career has been just as much about playmaking as it has been about burying pucks. That’s all good and well, but that doesn’t mesh great with Spezza, who is already one of the top setup men in the entire league. Instead, he might have to play on the second line and that begs the question of who will finish the plays there. Tanguay is a player, no doubt, but he’ll need to score more to really fit our needs. Turning 30 this fall might tell us, though, that what you see is what you get with Alex.

4. Maxim Afinogenov (last year: 6g, 14a, 20pts (48 games), -7, $3.33M cap hit)

Finally, a controversial pick! Afino fell out of favour with the fans in Buffalo a few years ago and hung around simply because nobody wanted to trade for him. There were times when he was rumoured to be headed to waivers just so the Sabres could move on. One thing that can’t be denied, though, is the Afinogenov possesses great hands and great speed. What he seems to lack, though, is heart and desire. Is this because he had to live in the armpit of America for years and was just waiting to get out of Buffalo, just like most of his other teammates? Or does this guy just suit the old stereotype of being a European disinterested in the North American game? The bright side here is that his salary is about to get cut significantly, probably down to $2M or less. Given the talent that is buried in this guy’s psyche, that might be worth a flyer to see if he thrives in a new environment where he is counted on for secondary scoring, not primary scoring. His life on the top line is over, but he’d be a steal as a second liner with 50 point potential. High risk, high reward. Turning 30 this year, Afinogenov has a ton to prove on this next contract.

5. Mike Knuble (last year: 27g, 20a, 47pts, +5, $2.8M cap hit)

Okay, so I’ll admit that the talent and upside has dropped off significantly from the first few guys like Cammalleri and Gionta down to Knuble. But Mike Knuble, who is hitting 37 years old this summer, is your dreamy underrated second liner. He has been averaging a better than decent 54 points over the past 6 years and probably has 2-3 good years left. The only way that we really have a need for Knuble, though, is if we determine that we’re ready to contend within the next few years. If the return from the Heatley trade doesn’t give us roster players and if Leclaire isn’t a top ten goalie, then Knuble is wasted money for us. If we can write off last season as an anomaly and Clouston gets us back into the upper half of the Conference, then Knuble is a great fit for $3M or less. Our hope should be that we see how the first day of the UFA period goes to see where we fit in the conference, then determine if Knuble is a fit.

Left off the list:
Martin Havlat – too much money and he’s as injury prone as ever. Sure, you can drop $6M on a scoring winger that knows the city, but the kid doesn’t play a full season.
Erik Cole – again with the injuries, eh? This guy has shown that he only does well playing as a smaller Cam Neely in Raleigh. Not worth the $4M that he’ll get.

Anyone else at forward that we can get? Let me know.

And now the defencemen - 5 targets for the Sens

This is the second installment (of a massive two-part series) where we identify five targets at forwards and five targets on defence that can fit in with the Sens needs and their payroll come July 1st. Check yesterday’s installment for the five forwards. Today, we’re looking at that ever-elusive puck-moving defenceman. We have the makings of one all over our roster as it stands today. Chris Campoli is an offensively-gifted player, but it doesn’t look like he’s a top pairing type of player. Filip Kuba is a great passer but isn’t necessarily that blue line leader. Brendan Bell? He’s just a seventh defenceman in this league and the icetime he received last year was because we stunk. And Picard? He is like a less-talented Campoli. So where does that leave us? Same as last year, wishing we had kept Chara and scouring the league for an elite puck mover to start the rush. Here are five guys that can tentatively fit that bill.

1. Jay Bouwmeester (last year: FLA, 15g, 27a, 42pts, -2, $4.875M cap)

Alright, he’s the obvious target for just about everyone that can find the cap space to fit a $7M player on a long-term contract. Bouwmeester is the prize of the off-season as far as defencemen go. He’d instantly become Ottawa’s best defenceman and the cornerstone of our blue line for years to come. But there are still question marks – can he play in a hockey market, can he perform in the playoffs, and can he step up his game to hit that 50-60 point plateau that we’d like to see in a $7M+ blueliner? Bouw turns 26 this fall and this is his biggest chance at making a payday, given that most contracts for stars nowadays are for 7 or more years. I think the Brian Campbell contract ($7.1M over 8 years) is close to what we’ll see here. The difference this time is that Bryan Murray has publicly stated his interest and might not shy away from the long contract. And finally, the ONLY way this signing could happen is if Heatley is dealt for prospects, picks, and the ever-important cap space. Few teams can take Heatley’s contract without dumping something back, so we’d have to take less return for Heatley in order to have cap space to sign Bouwmeester. Worth it?

2. Derek Morris (last year: PHO/NYR, 5g, 15a, 20pts, -10, $3.917M cap)

Wow, this really drops off here, eh? I chose Morris over a guy like Ohlund just because I think he’ll be taking a significant paycut and can provide similar numbers. Morris has been doing this for a decade and what you see is what you get – a 35-40 point defenceman that has played all across the league and is still only 30 years old. His days of making over $4M are gone and Morris will have to settle from something under or around $3M in his next contract. The problem here, and the issue I’ve seen in all the available defencemen after Bouwmeester, is that I wonder if they’re really better than what Filip Kuba already does for Ottawa. If nothing else, though, it gives us a replacement for a guy like Gator Smith or Brendan Bell. Morris also gives us a Western Canadian toughness, kind of like a Gator but with more of a knack for the net. He’d be a good partner with Campoli.

3. Mattias Ohlund (last year: VAN, 6g, 19a, 25pts, +14, $3.5M cap)

Here is my concern with Matty Ohlund – he turns 33 years old this year and his career high in points is 36. For a guy that is about to get a raise to something slightly north of $4M, I’d like to get more offence out of him. Ohlund’s strength is that he’s defensively responsible and can quarterback the powerplay. But just like with Morris, can he provide something that Kuba can’t? In a word, no. But he could just add to that strength and give us far more depth on the blue line. In terms of his contract, this is probably his last big chance at a payday after spending his entire career in Vancity. Does that mean we’ll have to overpay and give him more term than we’re comfortable with doing? I’d be open to giving him the same contract as Kuba has, but on the condition that Gator is moved and we have money left over to stockpile some forwards that can score. As much of a novelty as it would be to have a lot of blueliners that can move the puck out of the zone, I cringe at the thought of Chris Kelly being the one of ‘secondary scorers’ taking those feeds. In other words, don’t stockpile defencemen at the expense of our bigger need up front.

4. Jordan Leopold (last year: COL/CGY, 7g, 17a, 24pts, -15, $1.5M cap hit)

This dude got in 83 games last year! What appeared to be a very promising career for Leo was rudely interrupted with a trio of injuries (hernia, groin, wrist) and he has struggled getting his game back on track. That being said, he appears healthy now and finished last season where he started his career in Calgary. The price will be key on this guy because he can’t demand Ohlund money or Bouwmeester term. Teams are going to want to give him a short contract, one or two years, to see if he’s truly healthy and if he can regain his form. Enter the Ottawa Senators – throw this guy a $2M offer over a couple of years, which is potentially more than the Flames can afford, and see what he can do. He can handle the heat of a hockey city (played in the Cup Finals with Calgary in 04) and is still just 28 years old with a ton to prove. $2M is a lot to give a guy that hasn’t even hit 30 points in over five years, but he could potentially give you everything that Morris and Ohlund have at half the price. This is my sleeper pick.

5. Marc-Andre Bergeron (last year: MIN, 14g, 18a, 32pts, +5, $1.116M cap hit)

I was kind of shocked to see that MAB actually put up a very impressive 46 points in 2006-07 in his tenure with Edmonton and the NY Islanders. The kid is 28 years old and while he isn’t necessarily under the radar, I don’t think people realize that he has put up points on bad teams for quite a while. 32 points in Minnesota while playing down in the depth chart? Not too shabby. Then again, this might be the case of Tom Preissing where he gets a ton of powerplay time and minimal defensive responsibilities late in the game. Either way, he’ll be signing for less than $2M somewhere and he has shown he can produce in this league. I’m not sure that he’ll be much different than a Chris Campoli, but again, it is solid depth on a blue line that needs puck movers. Along with Leopold, I think MAB could be a very nice pickup at a very nice price.

Left off the list:
Francois Beauchemin – I see comments from people begging for us to sign this guy. Why? He is a younger Jason Smith and has no offensive abilities whatsoever. People need to remember that so long as Volchenkov and Phillips are in Ottawa (and they are both potentially lifers here), we have zero need to get another shutdown guy. Beauchemin is a good player that has no purpose in a Sens uniform.
Mike Komisarek – this dude is going to cash in at $5M and become a total bust. He had the luxury of playing a tough guy role while leaving the offensive duties to Markov. He’ll leave Montreal this year and become ‘the man’ somewhere else and simply can’t live up to the billing. He’ll want to play a shutdown role but coaches will demand more points and he’ll turn out to be a long-term mess. In the words of Ron Burgundy, he will become a financial and cultural disaster.

Have I missed someone?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Musings

So first, there's the obvious emotion of the draft fallout and still having Heatley on the team. Even if you were sure without a shadow of a doubt that the offers weren't there, we're all still a tad upset that this will drag on and potentially hamper our abilities to plug holes on July 1st.

Here are some other thoughts:

1. Pardon me for thinking that Philly really didn't overpay too much for Pronger. Look at what they gave up in detail:
- Luca Sbisa, a big defenceman with top four potential. I actually think this is the biggest piece based on his age, his size, and the fact that he's already playing up in the bigs.
- Joffrey Lupul, a 50-point castoff that costs over $4M and has consistency issues. Sorry if I just don't like Joffrey Lupul. He plays soft and to be completely honest, I'd rather pay that amount for Fisher and get some grit and 40-50 pts. Lupul was purely a salary dump.
- First round 2009 pick - 21st overall. Good, but far from a sure thing. The Flyers ended up trading down anyway.
- First round 2010 pick - we have to think that Philly is a top half team and that pick will also be in the mid-twenties.
Listen, I'm not suggesting the Flyers got a steal here. I'm just saying that they picked up one of the most dominant defencemen in the league for a kid, a salary dump, and some late first round picks. It's a win-win here.

2. Teams that can afford the Sedins at over $12M on Wedesday include Toronto and Montreal. One reunites them with their old buddies Burke and Nonis, the other puts them in a saviour role with a franchise desperate for one. Can they learn French? I bet Toronto gets 'em and we can further question the 'Brian Burke player' as he loads his Leafs with sissies.

3. What if BM actually does know what he's doing with Heatley's trade request? If Murray truly saw something he liked in the UFA narket, like Gionta or Cammalleri, he'd have dropped his pants Friday night to make cap room and get Heater off the books. Instead, perhaps he knows that there are more teams in need of top scorers than there actual top scorers available. We pay the $4M, let other GMs panic over the free agents, and then recoup through trades. If Minnesota misses on Hossa, the Sedins, etc., you have to think Fletcher comes back a bit more aggressive, no? We have to hope that Heatley is still plan B for more than a few teams. Plus, as I said, maybe Murray doesn't really care to dabble in the UFA market anyway.