With Thursday’s rant out of the way, I’m ready to shift the focus back to the on ice product.
No matter how frustrated we may get with Ownership, we can still be confident in the fact that we have a number of smart hockey people in this organization that are working tirelessly to keep this team competitive with in the existing realities of their financial situation. And this off season, those smart hockey people will have a number of important decisions to make, beginning with their own unrestricted and restriced free agents.
Let’s begin with the unrestricted free agents.
As of July 1, Ales Hemsky, Milan Michalek and Matt Kassian are all scheduled to hit the open market. Murray sounds like he already made one of those decisions, indicating in his season ending press conference that Matt Kassian was not in the team’s plans and that Ottawa wasn’t necessarily in Kassian’s plans either. So by the sounds of things, the tough guy has played his last game in a Senators uniform.
When it comes to both Hemsky and Michalek, I really do feel like Murray has interest in keeping both of them, especially Hemsky. Although based on comments made by Hemsky during his season ending media availability, he sounds like he’s ready to test the market come July 1. And there will be lots of teams interested. I wouldn’t rule Ottawa out but it does seem like a longshot at this point.
Milan Michalek is a little harder to read. He sounds like he has legitimately enjoyed his time in Ottawa and would be interested in coming back. Whether or not Ottawa is willing to make a competitive offer to retain his services remains to be seen. Michalek would likely have some options on the open market and at this stage in his career, would likely want to see what those options are. Joe Corvo, Patrick Mullen, Tyler Eckford, Alex Grant, Nathan Lawson and Jim O’Brien are also headed to unrestricted free agency.
Some interesting decisions to make with the restricted free agents as well.
That group includes Robin Lehner, Eric Gryba and Mike Hoffman. Obviously the Senators have interest in bringing all three back. At the start of this past season it may have been another story with Hoffman but he really proved he can play at the NHL level during his 25 game audition this season. Robin Lehner is a prime candidate for a “bridge” contract, something short term in the 1-2 year range at about $2.5 million. Eric Gryba is coming off a good season and seems to have solidified his spot on the blueline although things figure to be a little crowded back there this season.
The team will have a ton of decisions to make at the AHL level with a lengthy list of restricted free agents including Stephane Da Costa, Derek Grant, Cole Schneider, Wacey Hamilton, Dave Dzurzynski, Corey Cowick, Michael Sdao, Ben Blood and Chris Wideman.
So who stays and who goes? A full list of Ottawa’s upcoming free agents can be found over on Cap Geek.