The Big Names
Why: the 6'4" Nashville defender as is game-changing as they come, a player an organization could build around for the next several years. With a sound defensive game (0.98 goals against per 60 minutes played at EV), and an absolute cannon from the blueline, Weber would immediately transform the D corps up from the lower side of good into elite. He would complement Erik Karlsson and take a lot of pressure off the still-developing (scary, right?) youngster by eating up an average of 24 minutes a game. And he's only 26.
Why Not: technically, he's not a free agent - Nashville retains his rights for one more contract, so he would come at an admittedly massive price. The Sens are only committed to 11.3m with 4 d-men signed (Gonchar, Rundblad, Cowen, Phillips), so they could eat the cost of what both Weber and EK65 should sign for next year - my estimation is 15m between the two of them. Problem being, of course, that to get Weber's rights would cost assets; either Murray has to ship live bodies and draft picks in a trade & sign with Nashville, or Murray can give Weber an offer sheet and hope Nashville doesn't match. Given his current contract, Weber on an offer sheet would cost 4 1st round picks. Hefty.
Prediction: not a snowball's chance in Hell. If the organization was just one piece away from being Cup contenders, it would still be a longshot, but the cost to the franchise's future would be deadly. You'd have to be drunk or stupid.
Chance Shea Weber is an Ottawa Senator in 2012-2013: 0/10
Why: picture this super top 3: Parise - Spezza - Michalek. Like all "Dream Team" lineups, it just sounds too good to pass up, even with the whopping expectations the line would take on right away. One of the game's premier set-up men in Jason Spezza feeding the puck to either Parise or Michalek, both speedy and driven wingers? A wet dream (pardon the expression). It would open up a spot on the 2nd line for someone like Colin Greening, whose power forward-style game is a bit better suited for less minutes, and less pressure. He would be able to create space for the vision (if not speed) of DaCosta, and for the finish of Butler. The Sens could easily afford signing Parise to a long-term deal, with $28m in space and only Karlsson expected to take a large chunk of that.
Why Not: picture this super top 3: Heatley - Thornton - Marleau. Or Dubinsky - Richards - Gaborik. Or Nash - Carter - Prospal. Sometimes "Dream Team" lines are just that, dreams. Whether it's due to the pressure of coming in as a big money performer, or whether there is something to be said about chemistry, recent history's shown that it's not something that works when it's forced. An even more pertinent example would be Kovalchuk joining up with Parise; absolute lack of connection.
Prediction: based on Parise's taking the Devils to arbitration this summer*, you'd get the feeling that he wants out of New Jersey. Without hammering home the point that Ottawa isn't exactly an attractive destination (it's no Edmonton), Murray would probably have to make an offer with extra years, or extra money to convince Parise to sign. Even then, he'd be foolish not to try.
Chance Zach Parise is an Ottawa Senator in 2012-2013: 3/10
* - the Devils filed arbitration, but Parise couldn't come to terms and forced their hand.
Why: his lowest Goals total in a (non-rookie) season was 26 in 07-08. Since then he's put up 34, 40, and 28; if you've seen him take a wrist shot, you understand why that's the case. He's been a Sens-killer in the past, putting up 8 goals in 10 games since 08-09. He has the rare puck skills that dazzle fans and enrage opponents, and the finishing touch that Ottawa hasn't seen since Dany Heatley
Why Not: anyone that thinks Alex Semin could put up 60 goals in a season is either a Washington Capitals fan, or they haven't seen that he's never played a full 82-game schedule. He's played 82% of games since 06-07, missing anywhere from 5 to 20. Beyond the health factor is the #SashaCares factor; if anyone is a frequent twitter user and follows SlavaMalamud, you'll understand; for the rest, it's a game-by-game measurement of how much Semin seems to care. Generally it's a low number, unless he's taking a bad penalty and it momentarily rises.
Prediction: given the organization's bad history with Russians (minus Gonchar this season), it's a stretch to see Melnyk offer up enough money to convince Semin not to dart to the KHL as soon as the year plays out. It would cost an arm & a leg, and that's at least one limb too much for inconsistent greatness. It would be interesting to see Paul McLean try and mold Sasha into a player, but it's an experiment destined to fail. Or never get off the ground.
Chance Alexander Semin is an Ottawa Senator in 2012-2013: 2/10
At some point, the Senators will have to sign someone to backup Anderson next year - presumably they want Robin Lehner to keep developing by playing more games in Binghamton, and Auld's only signed for the year. A quick look at some interesting names:
Josh Harding: he's young enough (27), cheap (750k this year), and will want to find a team where he can push for a starting gig. Injuries have put a damper on his career, but he's back physically, and he's as strong as he ever has been mentally in the shadow of Backstrom.
Chris Mason: at 35 Mason's starting to enter the twilight of his career, so he'll want to find a team where he can show that he's still a competent netminder, but without the physical stress of playing 60 games. He can step in to spell a starter and take over the starting role for a long enough period if necessary, but there wouldn't be any push to steal the #1 gig.
Michael Leighton: if the Sens were to try and make a push for Cup run in 12-13, having a goalie that's gone through the pressure cooker of the playoffs is a damn good thing to have. Like Mason there wouldn't be much push to take Anderson's job, as in the last season with the Flyers he went from 1 to 2 to out of the NHL.
Al Montoya: this is a strange one, because the Islanders will have both Nabokov and Montoya as UFAs after the year is out; the chance of NYI retaining their "three-headed monster" in goal is slim to none, so the expectation is that one of the two gets traded before the deadline this season. If Montoya sticks on the Island, the team would be going hard after him to get him to sign. An interesting thought though, he looked solid between the pipes behind the Islanders, which is a task in itself.
With only 2 forwards without contracts for next season (Winchester and Konopka), the Sens shouldn't be looking at adding any forwards unless they're of the elite variety, or by some disgustingly cruel act of nature Alfredsson decides to retire and forces the team's hand. DaCosta, Foligno, Regin (remember him?) and Daugavins are all RFAs, and Bingo is still pretty stocked - not to mention Silfverberg and Zibanejad in Sweden, and Noesen, Pageau, Prince and Puempel in junior. Putting that aside, here's a (very) quick rundown of some players that would be interesting to see next year (chance they sign here in parentheses - keep in mind this is an opinion piece):
The Cut Above: David Jones (20%), Mikhail Grabovski (20%)
The Injury-Prone But Gosh, They're Good! Club: Steve Sullivan (5%), Ales Hemsky (40%), Dustin Penner (10%)
The Retirement Club: Teemu Selanne (0%), Jason Blake (20%), Ray Whitney (0%), Mike Knuble (30%)
The player that I yearn to see get a
The Sens will be losing Kuba and Carkner this summer barring any extensions, and will have to re-sign Lee and Karlsson (both RFAs). That'll leave either a 7th d-man spot open, or someone to push Lee to that spot. Patrick Weircoch and Eric Gryba are the two best options in the AHL, after the Sens had to let Derek Smith go this summer. Your list:
Offensive Dynamos: John-Michael Liles (60%), Joe Corvo (is Garrioch still around? 0%)
Rock on the Point: Willie Mitchell (5%), Sami Salo (5%), Brad Stuart (20%), Hal Gill (25%)
Just Don't Sign These Guys: Jeff Finger, Johnny Oduya, Chris Campoli
The most attractive free agents out there will be costly, but worth it - one "game-changer" or anything close to it, and the Sens D corps will continue to look better and better. Your top 3 are:
Ryan Suter: the man that Nashville really doesn't want to see leave. His numbers offensively don't look as nice as his partner Weber, but his game is easily adaptable to whatever the Sens need. Like Weber, he can play 25-28 minutes, which would take a lot of heat off the Robin Williams-in-Jack-like Chris Phillips. Expect him to sign for $7.5m wherever he ends up.
Matt Carle: he's not the most gifted at any one thing, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many people in hockey circles as high on him as myself. However, his all-around game is solid enough that he can contribute when needed, and play in all situations. After Karlsson, he's the man I would most want on the ice late in a one-goal game - great hockey sense, decent shot, and the drive to succeed inherited from playing with Chris Pronger.
Josh Gorges: see capsule for Matt Carle. Remove the 'playing with Chris Pronger' but add 'the taste of Habs' fans tears would be so sweet, and worth the trade off of losing that big game experience'.
So there you have it. Chances are slim that the Senators make any big splash this summer, even though it's what most fans seem to clamor for; the things to look forward to this July are AHL-level signings, and contract extensions.