Hi there, WTYKY readers. Sorry for dropping off the face of the earth. As is tradition following each Ottawa Senators playoff exit, we retreat to a sweat lodge in Muskoka, take massive amounts of peyote, and shoot crossbows at trees from ATVs. Following that we curl up into a ball and mutter, “Please don’t sign Penner…please don’t sign Penner…Kovalev ten million over two…Kovalev ten million over two…” Judging from the fact our site traffic dipped down to negative a billion hits, I take it this is roughly what we’ve all been doing.
So anyway, we all feel much better now. And I note that other, more dedicated and professional Senators blogs have dipped their toes into free agency. WELL WE HAVE OPINIONS TOO GUYS.
Bryan Murray (he’s still the GM, right?) mentioned something about wanting a defensive defenceman and a top six forward from the free agent market this offseason. Well, I’ve got news for you, Bryan Murray, and I’m sure nobody else has pointed this out: you and everyone else. Plus Ottawa is a small market team whose owner is continuously talking about not being able to spend like other teams. (Because, as we all know, a team that sells out every single home game needs to make it to the second round of the playoffs just to break even.) So let’s get this out of the way: yes, Zack Parise and Ryan Suter are really good. A quick look at their stat lines and CORSI confirm it. We’re not getting either of them. Some idiot team is going to spend way more than even these two players are worth to bring them in.
So who’s left? Well, take a look at this list. First reaction is of course to vomit all over myself. (Again.) Alex Semin, he of 21 goals and $6.7MM salary this season, will be the fourth most sought after player? A 40 year old Jaromir Jagr who’s treated like a revelation for getting 54 points on a line with Claude Giroux? (Nick Foligno got 47 points.) You know how you can tell the UFA market is screwed up? 33 year old Olli Jokinen can put up 23 goals 61 points and everyone will say “he’ll get signed if he keeps his demands reasonable,” but an older Jagr is considered a pleasant surprise at more money and less points. Reputation precedes logic.
Anyhoo, the thin market is made especially acute for Ottawa by the fact that many of the available mid-level free agents are centers, a position that Ottawa has some depth in with Spezza, Turris, the recently re-signed Peter Regin, the recently 19 year old Mika Zibanejad, and so on. What Ottawa needs is some wingers, and the selection ain’t pretty. In fact, other than Parise, there isn’t a single winger on that THN list. (Dustin Penner and Ray Whitney get an honorable mention.)
The prize pick of my litter is P.A. Parenteau. He’s unheralded because he plays for the Islanders and no one heralds that team, but he put up fantastic numbers last year – 18-49-67 in 80 games, and 53 points with 20 goals the season before. For some reason he doesn’t have numbers on Behind the Net, so I can’t check his CORSI, but it’s the Islanders, so let’s assume that his CORSI is terrible and his relative CORSI is great. He only made $1.125MM last season, and is 29 years old. I’d be really surprised if Garth Snow doesn’t take a run at re-signing Parenteau this off-season, especially because he’s been locking up his core and he has a bajillion dollars in cap space. But if he hits the market, Parenteau is my number one choice. If opposing GMs have access to Cap Geek and Wikipedia like I do, and I suspect they might, watch for Parenteau to be signed by whoever misses out on Parise to a contract that truly boggles the mind and makes us all lose faith in hockey forever.
Brad Boyes is far from his salad days playing with Paul Kariya in St. Louis, and he looked like a pile of steaming garbage in Buffalo, but as a reclamation project he could be a 20 goal guy. On the other hand, he could turn into a flop of Cheechooian dimensions. I’d offer him $17 an hour and see if he bites.
I like Calgary’s David Moss. He only put up 9 points in 37 games this season, but in his only full season he put up 20 goals, and had 17 in 58 last year. He’s a left winger, and his relative CORSI is respectable.
Andrei Kostitsyn plays professional hockey, though he’s probably done with this basket case of a country after playing in Montreal. Look for him to sign with a team that doesn’t have local television coverage. Either that or the Minnesota Wild, completely lacking any game plan at all, will sign him to a five year, $25MM deal to play on a line with Dany Heatly so the two of them can skate around with their sticks in the air waiting for a pass from Mikko Koivu, who will be hurt and in the press box.
As in most years, if you’re in the market for a third liner, you’re in luck. There are plenty of grinding, character guys like Adam Burish, Tanner Glass, Taylor Pyatt, and Brandon Prust. (Tanner, Taylor and Brandon of course being the most hockey playerish first names ever. Adam sort of sounds like a competitive swimmer to me.) But if you’re looking for a top six player who can put up 20-25 goals, well…like I said, it’s you and everyone else buddy. Unless you think Krisitian Huselius or Niklas Hagman have something left in the tank. I’m not even sure those two guys are still alive.
And of course there’s Dustin Penner. I’ll let the myriad analyses to come do the work, but I will point out that if a player has terrible puck possession numbers, doesn’t put up points, and isn’t a goalie, he probably isn’t going to do well on a team whose system is built entirely around puck possession and needs a goal scorer. (But he’s big! Such a big guy.)
As for defenseman, there’s a more diverse stable of those mid-level, $3MM-$4MM guys – Brad Stuart, Barrett Jackman, Matt Carle – and while I won’t be particularly upset to see any of those guys in a Senators uniform, most of them sport even or negative relative CORSI ratings on good teams, and I don’t see how they would be an improvement over our in-house mid-level $3MM-$4MM guy: Filip Kuba.
It seems difficult to quantify who exactly is a ‘defensive’ defenceman and whether or not they’re a good one. I mean, Hal Gill is available, but is Hal Gill a pretty decent defensive defenceman or the worst player in the world? It seems like he can only be one or the other. People bitch about his inability to skate all season long and then boom: every trade deadline, there he goes, traded to a contender for a second round pick. Maybe we should sign him just because Ottawa doesn’t have a second round pick for the next two seasons.
There are a couple of puck-moving and hybrid d-men that I think will get ridiculous deals, but I’d still like to see Ottawa in on. Dennis Wideman is an obvious one. Johnny Oduya is only 30. Bryan Allen is…okay, Bryan Allen isn’t that good. Matt Hunwick in Colorado might be ready for some more minutes at only 26 years old and having played about 16 minutes a night up until now. Mike Lundin in Minnie is in the same boat. Would it be weird to bring in Carlo Colaiacovo and make him play in Toronto every other night? Hey, Chris Campoli and Mike Commodore are available! Umm…Matt Carkner?
So as you can tell, there’s plenty of decent, affordable, young defensemen out there, and there’s also a 2-for-1 sale on garbage. But if the object is to replace Kuba’s 20+ minutes a night, then I think we’ve got a problem.
Get ready for a shock: I’m kind of pessimistic about next season. Yeah, I know! Didn’t see that one coming. But Ottawa probably can’t duplicate a number of improbable last–minute comebacks, a relatively injury-free season from all key players, the highest scoring defenseman by two light years, Michalek’s insane shooting percentage for 2/3rds of the year, and will probably will lose Dany Alfredsson and a top pairing D in Kuba. And let’s be honest, they weren’t exactly contenders to start with. So unless all of this moderation talk from Murray and co. is an elaborate scheme to distract from the massive, front-loaded, multi-year contracts they’re preparing for Parise and Suter, well…welcome to the Ottawa Senators, Dustin Penner.