Saturday, May 13, 2006

Where To Go From Here

That's the thought on the mind of many Senators fateful (myself included) after a disappointing second round exit. After a first round where they were in the driver's seat most of the time, the Sens met their match in the Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller was too much in net, whereas Chris Drury and Daniel Briere were better than the best the Sens could put forth. So much for Stanley Cup favorites.

Unlike in previous seasons, goaltending wasn't really an issue. Ray Emery had an outstanding showing and kept the Sens in it for the most part. However, the offense which scored the most goals in the regular season, seemed to have gotten lost from Tampa to Ottawa. Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson were invisible in the first three games, which led the Sens to a 3-0 hole.

The defense did what they could, outside of Game One. Wade Redden was the best player on the ice for the Sens when he was out there, while the youngsters in Anton Volchenkov and Andrej Meszoros almost looked lost. Add that too the poor back-checking, poor 2-on-1 coverage, plus more reasons why forwards shouldn't play the points on the power play, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.

Now, with the off-season coming up, owner Eugene Melnyk and GM John Muckler will have to see what they need to do in order to have another shot at glory. However, even with the salary cap being raised, the Sens will have a lot of re-signing to do. Here's a list of who's going to be a free agent for Ottawa:

UNRESTRICTED: Zdeno Chara, Dominik Hasek, Steve Martins, Brad Norton, Brian Pothier, Wade Redden, Vaclav Varada

RESTRICTED: Tyler Arnason, Ray Emery, Brenndan Evans, Martin Havlat, Chris Kelly, Neil Komadosky, Tomas Malec, Brian McGrattan, Mike Morrison, Chris Neil, Filip Novak, Peter Schaefer, Christoph Schubert, Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Lance Ward, Greg Watson

You almost have to figure that Hasek will be gone, so Morrison and Emery will be re-signed. Havlat, Spezza, and Schaefer could be re-signed instantly, while Vermette, Schubert, Kelly, McGrattan, and Neil will get re-signed too. The big thing is what to do with Chara and Redden.

Odds are, one of them will have to go. They are both very important cogs to this team, but when you break it down, who is more important?? Chara, with his size and booming shot, is pretty much the dream of any GM who has the space for him. However, Redden and his vision of the ice, puck maneuvering, and leadership isn't someone to be taken lightly. Both are the same age and have pretty much the same experience. Right now, it's up to Muckler and Melnyk to see what they can do and who they would want as the leader heading into next season.

There will probably be an off-day to let it all soak in, but you can bet that the front office in Ottawa will be hard at work come bright and early Monday morning.

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