WRITTEN BY SENSCHIRP READER- Alex C
As the excitement of the buyout and free agency period continues to build, I’ve been thinking a lot about players that may soon become available. I’ve listed the players I think are on Ottawa’s radar.
I’ve tried to keep this as realistic as possible… however fact can certainly be stranger than fiction (see Roman Josi’s 7 year, $28M deal with Nashville). I don’t see Ottawa making too many moves this summer, and like everyone else, I hope management can find a scoring winger and a Top-4 defenseman to add to the mix.
I’ve noted the players I can see being bought-out and included their current cap hit as well as the actual dollar amount due over the remainder of their contract. I’ve included three former Senators on the list (although I think it’s safe to say Dany Heatley won’t be seen in a Sens uniform any time soon/ever again). I’ll start with the forwards, explaining why each player might get some looks from Ottawa over the summer.
I should stress that I started with a list of players I thought will be bought out, and then excluded the ones that I can’t see Ottawa considering – leaving the rest, despite the low odds of them signing with the Sens. Here we go.
LW – Ville Leino – $4.5M until 2016-17 ($15M over 4 years) – Signed in Buffalo to a 6 year contract in 2011, Leino really hasn’t done much for the Sabres (31P in 78GP). He played only 8 games this past season, scoring 2G and registering 6P during a handful of games in March. Leino may not look like a great option to most fans, but he’s great with the puck… even if he doesn’t shoot as much as he should. While not a pure goal-scorer, this inconsistent yet talented playmaker would be a great depth addition at the right price. The downside, obviously, is that Ottawa’s got too many players like Leino to warrant serious discussion on his prospects of becoming a Senator.
LW – Tuomo Ruutu – $4.75M until 2015-16 ($15M over 3 years) – Traded to Carolina for Andrew Ladd in 2008, Ruutu has become a familiar face in the ‘Canes locker room. However, with the arrival of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, I’m not too sure Carolina wants Ruutu’s cap hit on the book while they search for an upgraded defense and better overall depth. With just over $7M in cap space, I think the ‘Canes will be looking to cut some fat from their budget. Even though Ruutu is arguably their best option on left wing (Jiri Tlusty being another), I can’t see the ‘Canes parting with a $5M player in Ward, Staal, Staal, Semin or Skinner – despite their depth at centre. Again, the question remains whether Ottawa wants a larger forward and whether Ruutu would be an upgrade over Greening, who plays a similar game. Regardless, if Ruutu would be willing to play for pocket lint (not going to happen), I’d love to watch him in a Sens uni running Leafs/Habs players all season long.
RW/LW – Martin Havlat – $5M until 2014-15 ($11M over 2 years) – A goal-scoring winger originally drafted by Ottawa, recently plagued by injuries and inconsistent play and who makes questionable decisions on the ice (stompa your skate)… still I want to him back in a Sens jersey. His speed, puck-handling skill and shot would make Ottawa that much more of a cup contender, though he does come with a fair amount of risk. If Havlat wants to come back to Ottawa, I think management would be willing to pay upwards of $3M on a 1 year deal. I can hear people saying ‘we already have one Michalek, we don’t need two’. Seriously though, Ottawa would be deadly if a healthy Havlat were added to our current roster… assuming he doesn’t take too many penalties (104 PIMs in his last 157GP).
RW/C – Danny Briere – $6.5M until 2014-15 ($5M over 2 years) – We’ve talked this one to death, so all I’ll say is that if Briere wants to come to Ottawa and play in front of family and friends, the Sens organization should definitely sign him to a short-term deal. Would Briere accept $2M or $3M per year from Ottawa when teams like Dallas are willing to pay through the nose? That’s the million dollar question… especially since I can’t see Ottawa paying Briere in the $4M+ range for what he’ll be expected to provide next year.
LW/RW – Dany Heatley – $7.5M until 2013-14 ($5M next year) – Maybe if he asks real nice… nah, he won’t be back. Although, I’ve heard he really liked the city, or at least its strippers.
C – Vincent Lecavalier – $7.73M until 2019-20 ($45M over 7 years)– I’m not saying Lecavalier should be bought out, but what is clear is that he’s making an obscene amount of money considering next year’s $64.3M salary cap. The Lightning are in a world of pain when it comes to contracts, as they’ve committed over $50M to 10 players. On closer inspection, the average age of these 10 is over 30 years-old. Half of these players are defensemen. Players over 30 making over $3.5M are: Lecavalier, St. Louis ($5.6M), Malone ($4.5M), Brewer ($3.9M), Salo ($3.8M) and Ohlund ($3.6M – Injured for past 2 seasons). I understand Vinny is the captain, and I understand that he’s still putting up decent numbers, but Tampa needs to make the most out of their two buyouts. Salo only has one year left on his contract, Ohlund hasn’t played since 2011 and Brewer’s contract is up in 2 seasons. It’s a tough bullet to swallow, but I see Vinny being bought out due to the numbers game. And with that said, Lecavalier would definitely look good in a Sens jersey… I can dream, can’t I? Someone will be pay Vinny fair market value, which I expect to be in the $5M range – it won’t be Ottawa.
Anton Volchenkov – $4.25M until 2015-16 ($12.75M over 3 years) – Oh, the A-train… I’d love to see him back in Ottawa. Even though we don’t need another bruiser/stay-at-home D (see Methot, Cowen, Phillips, Gryba, Borowiecki), I want him back all the same. Volchenkov never really meshed with the Devils, and was exposed a few too many times as somewhat of a liability while playing the puck. And I was about to advocate a Volchenkov/Phillips pairing! Still, the more I think about it, the more I’m torn… would a defense of Karlsson, Methot, Cowen, Weircoich, Volchenkov and Phillips be so bad? I mean, our break-outs won’t improve but our play in front of Andy will… though call. In the war of head versus heart, love is a battlefield.
Jay Bouwmeester – $6.68M until 2013-14 ($6.6M next year) – I see J.Bo being bought out by STL or traded to a team trying to make the cap floor. Regardless, if St Louis wants to keep their current and future stars, Bouwmeester is playing somewhere else next year. Assuming he’s bought out, he’d be a great pairing for Cowen and a potential mentor for Wiercoich. However, if Gonchar is still worth $5M, there’s no way J.Bo is in Ottawa’s price range. Too bad… I think J.Bo is exactly what this team needs on defense next year to make a cup run – that and the elusive Top 6 forward/goal-scoring winger.