Well, the offseason just became a little more interesting. After discussing the state of Ottawa’s blue line in some posts over the past week or so, the Ottawa Citizen‘s Wayne Scanlan dropped this morsel of information on Twitter:
Don’t expect Filip Kuba back next season. “I think we’re moving on,” says Sens GM Bryan Murray. He will try to sign a veteran D-man.
— Wayne Scanlan (@HockeyScanner) June 5, 2012
The popular question that we’ve been getting on Twitter, is what should the Senators do now?
The easy answer is that they should start by trying to trade Kuba’s negotiation rights, even if it’s just for a seventh round pick like yesterday’s Tomas Vokoun trade.
While the loss of a first pairing defenceman and the team’s SH TOI/G leader could prove difficult to replace, the admission that Murray will look to replace him on the free agent market is a tad worrisome.
Inking unrestricted free agent talent hasn’t exactly been one of this organization’s strengths since Murray took over the GM role in the summer of 2007. While there are some intriguing names like Jason Garrison and potentially Justin Schultz out there, the FA class is widely considered to be a weak one and with 29 other organizations potentially competing for any FA’s services, it will be difficult for the Senators to acquire talent and get value for their money. (Albeit, with Kuba’s absence confirmed, management’s ability to play the “Hey, how would you like to play with Erik Karlsson?” card to entice a free agent to sign is an edge that no other teams have.)
Given these circumstances, if management strikes out on options like Garrison or Schultz, I still maintain that it would probably be in Ottawa’s best interests to acquire Kuba’s replacement via trade. It should not limit itself to bringing in Kuba’s replacement in FA. A trade would give management more flexibility and control over the incoming player and his contract.
Moreover, we may be getting ahead of ourselves here and wrongly assume that Murray will replace Kuba with an external option. Having missed nine games last season, whenever Kuba was unable to suit up, it was rookie Jared Cowen who was called upon to fill his role.
Speaking of internal options, Scanlan wasn’t done tweeting some news:
But Murray also hopes one of his young D, a Wiercioch or Borowiecki, will be ready to step up and play for Ottawa. #Sens
— Wayne Scanlan (@HockeyScanner) June 5, 2012
This news is not so surprising. The organization’s optimism that defensive prospects like Wiercioch, Borowiecki or even Eric Gryba are close to being full-time NHL players is well documented and with the expected loss of Kuba, Matt Gilroy and potentially Matt Carkner, the Senators will need one or more of these Binghamton players to graduate and play this season. I can remember Murray expressing confidence in the spring of 2010 that Wiercioch would step into a full-time role midway through 2010-11 a la Karlsson’s rookie campaign.
Nevertheless, thanks to the throat injury that he sustained last season and some ineffectual play that I’ve read people defend by stating that his game will translate better at the NHL-level than it will in the AHL, makes me a bit skeptical of Murray’s comments. It sounds like more wishful thinking than anything. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m reminded of the comments that former B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst made during that infamous post-game rant.
“You know what, we try to get them to shoot the puck. Patty Wiercioch just won’t shoot the puck. I mean, it’s to the point where we probably can’t even use him because he won’t shoot the puck, and we need to shoot the puck. We just don’t shoot the puck. We had 25 shots … but with seven power plays? That’s not enough. Honestly, it might just be to the point where we have to put guys out there who are willing to shoot the puck because what we’ve got is cute. And, if you really look at our lineup, we aren’t cute. We can’t be cute. Cute won’t work for this group.”
As someone who didn’t watch Bingo regularly it’s hard to know how valid this criticism was. But it is interesting to see that Wiercioch’s shot rate peaked his freshman year of college at 2.94 shots per game, sophmore season down to 1.92 and since in Bingo .88 in 2010-11 and and 1.78 this past year.
Alfie Decision Expected When?
More from Scanner, according to Bryan Murray, he expects to know Daniel Alfredsson’s retirement decision by the end of the month but he will not press the captain for a decision. Which backs up what Stefan tweeted yesterday…
Alfredsson is said to be starting pushing himself harder in training this week. I’d expect a decision sooner rather than later. #Sens
— Stefan G:son (@steffeG) June 4, 2012