— Vishal Hussain (@vishal_hussain) June 10, 2014
I have no idea when the (looks at Vishal Hussain’s Twitter bio) “voice of the Oshawa Generals radio broadcasts”became a NHL Insider source, but if Vishal Hussain has linked the Ottawa Senators to overage and undrafted Czech free agent Jiri Sekac, I can only assume it’s true.
I know what you’re thinking, this is great. The Senators could be on the verge of landing Jiri Sekac.
Who the hell is Jiri Sekac?
*Passes the mic over to Bob McKenzie.
“There’s another free agent we should keep our eye on who most people haven’t heard of: a 22-year-old Czech by the name of Jiri Sekac. He went through the NHL Drafts and never got picked up. He was once cut by the Peterborough Petes but he had a strong year in the KHL playing for the Prague team. Right now he has more than a dozen firm offers on a max entry-level deal for two years. He’s expected over the next couple of days to make up his mind as to which team. This is a guy who is in great demand. He’s a 6’2, 190 pound left winger who many believe is ready to step in NHL-ready.”
I haven’t been this excited since the time the Senators convinced Roman Wick to come overseas.
Here are Sekac’s numbers via Elite Prospects:
There was a noticeable spike in production this past season, so maybe Sekac’s confidence and abilities have developed to the point in which he can become a NHL regular.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) June 8, 2014
A prognosticator like Pronman may be down on Sekac’s projection, but sign Sekac to an entry-level contract is the kind of low-risk, high-upside gamble that a team with limited financial resources like the Senators should be making.
Sure, there’s going to be a greater likelihood that Sekac will wind up being another Roman Wick and yes, there’s an even greater likelihood that Eugene Melnyk will make a radio appearance and proclaim that Sekac is an elite player like he did with Bobby Butler, however, when outliers like Mats Zuccarello exist, teams will scour the world taking chances on players trying to find the next one. So you certainly can’t begrudge the Senators for trying.
Of course, this pursuit and belief that Sekac could slot into this team’s top six is a sobering reminder of the team’s money situation and should they land him, one has to wonder how aggressive the Senators will be in trying to plug the holes created by the anticipated departures of Jason Spezza (trade), Milan Michalek (UFA) and Ales Hemsky (UFA).
I suppose the biggest problem for the Senators would be if they reward or promise Sekac in negotiations that he can start in the NHL right away – think of Stephane Da Costa’s immediate promotion after being signed out of Merrimack College – at the expense of a player who may be a better fit for the team in the long run (ie. like sending Mika Zibanejad down to the AHL to start last season).
Even in the worst-case scenario, maybe Sekac gets optioned to Binghamton and he spends the next two seasons there as a depth player or he sulks and goes back to the KHL, there’s no harm done.
Another Thought on Sekac
It’s interesting to learn about Sekac’s reported interest because of the uncertain futures his fellow countrymen have with the Senators. Without the guaranteed presence of a Hemsky or Michalek, I’d expect Sekac to sign with another NHL team that has more Czech players and can make his transition to North America easier. But, maybe in this situation, Sekac simply values opportunity over comfort?
Michalek and Sekac do share the same agent in Allan Walsh, so maybe the Senators could decide to bring Michalek back in as a mentor figure – similar to how the Senators view Chris Phillips’ role to the development of Cody Ceci.
Michalek made it known during the team’s end of season media availabilities that he ultimately wanted to re-sign with the Senators.
Whether that’s the smart thing to do when the club is reportedly trying to trade Jason Spezza is another matter.
Looking at the sample of data that’s available from the time that Michalek joined the Senators, the numbers portray a player who does not generate the same kind of production and puck possession rates when he plays away from Spezza.
His goals per 20 minutes of ice time drops from 0.962 to 0.702 (GF20), his corsi events for per 20 minutes of ice time (CF20) drops from 20.61 to 18.52 and his goals for percentage (GF%) and corsi events for percentage (CF%) drop from 46.8 percent and 51.9 percent to 44.8 percent and 49.7 percent respectively.
Having watched Michalek play over the past few years, the numbers essentially back up my own observations that Milan benefitted substantially from playing the bulk of his minutes with Spezza and Erik Karlsson. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t entertain the idea of bringing him back, however, unless he’s willing to accept a substantial reduction in pay, I can’t imagine the Senators would want to bring back a player who has battled leg injuries and whose recent success is predicated on the performance of more skilled players on the ice.