The NHL’s off season is about to kick into high gear. It’s going to be a busy week beginning with the Awards on Tuesday, the opening of the free agency negotiation window on Wednesday, the Entry Draft on Friday and then the free agent frenzy just eight days from now.
There will be no shortage of news, rumours and speculation and a lot of it will centre on the Ottawa Senators. A quick Monday morning round up as we prepare for the frantic days ahead.
-On Friday, I declared the St. Louis Blues the runaway favourites in the Jason Spezza sweepstakes and as of Monday morning that remains unchanged. They seemed to up the ante a little bit at some point on Thursday and everybody I’ve spoken with seems to feel like they are the most serious team at this point.
-It has been fascinating to see the range of expectations on a potential deal with the Blues. Some fans feel like it has to be Tarasenko/Schwartz or bust. Others have their sights set on defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk. Unfortunately at this point every rumoured return I’ve heard about centres on Patrick Berglund. Is that enough? I asked that question on Twitter over the weekend and the answer was a pretty resounding no.
-The schedule was released yesterday afternoon and generally seems to be pretty favourable for the Ottawa Senators. The biggest change is a shift away from afternoon games and an emphasis on Thursday and Saturday night home games. That is certainly something that will go over well with fans.
-As of Wednesday, UFA to be Milan Michalek is able to talk to other teams about a contract for next season. The Senators have made it clear they would like to bring him back next season and have been negotiating a deal with his agent Allen Walsh. Obviously Murray would like to get something done before that negotiation window opens on June 25th. Fans were pretty much split on the idea of bringing back Milan Michalek but on the right contract, he’s a decent option. If Michalek does go to market, the Phoenix Coyotes will certainly make a call.
-On Friday, Bruce Garrioch indicated that the Senators are expected to announce a new contract for RFA defenceman Eric Gryba at some point this week. With Gryba under contract, the Sens would have eight NHL level guys under contract for next season. Really think they look to move a defenceman this off season.
-The Senators are also actively negotiating a contract with goaltender Robin Lehner. Based on the initial comments from management, this is anything but a straightforward negotiation. While Lehner is still technically the back up, he knows his time as starter is not far off and is looking for a contract that pays him like one. They’ll get a deal done but it’s going to take some work.
-Jason Spezza has always been a target for criticism in this market and with his tenure in Ottawa expected to wrap up in the next five days, it seems as though one media member is turning his attention to Erik Karlsson. I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t give this kind of work attention but the reality is, a large portion of the fan base reads stuff like this and believes it to be an informed opinion. Articles like this need to be discussed/debated so that this doesn’t become a viewpoint shared by a significant portion of the fan base. There are lots of things to be negative about in Ottawa these days. Erik Karlsson is not one of them.