directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Ottawa swept, let the Spezza speculating begin

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ottawa swept, let the Spezza speculating begin

The first domino in the playoffs has fallen. Howson has mentioned a number of times that they will be keeping a close eye on the playoff situation and as teams get eliminated that would open up more opportunities for potential players to be on the market.

In case you missed it last night, the Ottawa Senators were swept out of the playoffs by the surging Pittsburgh Penguins (luckiest damn team on the planet).

Ottawa got off to a blazing start to the season going 15-2 and then barely hung on to even make the playoffs down the stretch.

The has been a lot of turmoil in Sen-land since their run to the Stanley Cup finals last season. They let their GM (John Muckler) go handing the reigns over to Andy Murray who then was promoted to the GM position and hired his own coach John Paddock. Paddock of course did not make it through the season and was let go on Feb 27th and Murray re-assumed the coaching position.

Now with the Sens eliminated in 4 straight in the 1st round many are speculating about Murray's future with the club and what the future is for many of the Senators players. Their window to win the cup may have just closed and one would think they will be looking to shake things up.
There are also wide ranging reports of locker room division and that up to 4 players requested to be traded.

What does this mean for the Jackets and Scott Howson? It means they should be paying close attention to the Sen's situation as they have many players that could help the Jackets cause.

The Sens have a number of players that would be attractive to many teams throughout the league.

Lets start with their UFAs:

Wade Redden - Ottawa isn't expected to resigned him and he has definitely slipped some in his past couple of seasons and really isn't worth the 6.5 mil he's been paid. However this is free agency and he'll probably get close to that number again. He would be an upgrade on the Jackets blueline and I think they'll definitely kick the tires as he can play in any situation but he's not the clear #1 he used to be.

Chris Kelley - a 26 year old 3rd line center who has been pretty well buried on the Sens lineup. He'll be looking for a decent raise and I doubt the Sens resign him. I think there would be interest from the Jackets though to solidify their middle but with only 11g, 19a for 30p how much can the Jackets expect him to contribute? I won't be surprised if the Jackets make a pitch but am not sure exactly where he'd fit in the lineup when you already have guys like Malhotra and Novotny. He's definitely not a top two center yet at this stage.

Cory Stillman - a 33 year old veteran winger who put up 65 points for both Carolina and Ottawa last year. He's still got some gas in the tank and depending on what Columbus does in term of trades he may be a target to add some additional scoring up front for the right price.

Mike Commodore - a 27 year old stay at home rugged defensemen who doesn't shy away from dropping the gloves. Commodore struggled a bit after the trade to Ottawa but will get plenty of interest in the offseason. I doubt the Jackets look his direction as they need offensive types but again, if they wheel a deal and move a guy like Tollefsen or Klesla he may be of interest.

So those are some of the prominent Ottawa Senators unrestricted free agents but where it really gets interesting is with some of their signed guys and if the Sens really wanted to shake things up - do one of these guys get moved? ...and if so who would the Jackets target:

Danny Heatley - Heatley is a 26 year old stud winger who has twice scored more than 50 goals and has scored over 40 two other times. He's signed for 6 more years for an avg cap hit of 7.5 million. He would be a highly valued trading chip but with franchise winger Rick Nash in the fold here in Columbus I don't see them being interested in a trade as they need to address the center and defense areas of the ice.

Jason Spezza - Spezza is a 24 year old stud center who scored a 92 points last year which was tied for 6th in league scoring. He is signed for 7 more years with an average cap hit of 7 mil a year. He is more of a playmaker than goal scorer which is evident by his 58 assists last year to his 34 goals. If there was one player off the Sens roster the Jackets would like to target this guy would be it. If Ottawa does listen to offers (big *if*) there is no doubt in my mind that Howson will make a play for this guy. Why am I so certain? If he made a play for Richards at 7.8 mil a year then then why wouldn't he for a younger better player who isn't even in his prime yet? If I'm Howson I put everything in play but Nash, Leclaire, Mason & Voracek to land this fish. My biggest worry is if this guy's head is screwed on straight but if there is anyone who could straighten him out it would be Hitch.

Antoinee Vermette - A 24 year old center who is buried in the lineup behind Spezza and Mike Fisher. Still though Vermette in just his 3rd year piled up 24g, 29a for 53 points. He's an RFA this summer and could command more than the Sens are willing to play given some of their other big contracts. If Spezza isn't on the block you'd have to think Howson would be interested in landing Vermette. This guy is going nothing but improving every year and I think his game would compliment the Jackets quite well. I start with Fritsche, Lindstrom and 2nd and then go from here -- perhaps even bringing Colorado's pick into play.

Chris Neil - a hard nosed veteran player in the mold of a Jared Boll. Every team likes Chris Neils in their lineup as they can play and keep things honest out there. He's a heart and soul player but was criticized some for his play in the sweep. I have a hard time seeing the Sens putting this guy on the block but if they did they would have teams lining up for a chance to acquire him. I'm sure Howson would check into it but he'd be pretty far down his priority list in terms of holes to fill this summer.

The Sens are another storyline to follow this summer. The Jackets would seem to be a decent trading partner considering their picks and young assets and if the Sens choose to move in a new direction and unload a big contract or two and if its a guy like Spezza or Vermette you have to think the Jackets will make a play.

The Sens are the first team to get eliminated early so alot of attention are on them but soon we'll have other teams fall out. Keep an eye on San Jose and if they make another 1st round exit we will start hearing more and more and a guy like Partick Marleau or even a Joe Thornton perhaps becoming available.

Me personally I look more at the Eastern conference teams as teams tend to rather deal top players to the opposite conference than their own. Ottawa is an Eastern conference team.

The more options for Howson the better.



Skraut said...

Well if we pick up Corey Stillman, we'd have 2/3rds of the Crosby-Stills-Nash line...

You'd know who we'd need to acquire next ;)

fat dic on bike said...

I say trade Z and Fritsche for Vermette, Meszaros and a 2rd or 3rd round pick