March Senators Roundtable

By Scott Petersen

Though they’re not quite the smartest men alive, they’re the best we could find. So, here again to provide somewhat expert analysis on everything Senator, are panel members:

Scott Petersen : Fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University, freelance writer, as well as editor of the Hockey’s Future Senators page.

Sean Hatchard: Fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University, summer sports reporter at the Moncton Times & Transcript and freelance writer for Hockey’s Future.

Sean Keogh: More frequently known as ‘Hossa’, Keogh is moderator of the Hockey’s Future Message Board and a knowledgeable fan of the Senators.

Nick Quain: Also better known as his alter-ego, ‘Dr. Sens(e)’ is one of the main contributors to the Message Board and brings a logical look to Senators situations.

Each writer’s response is noted by his initials:

1) Trade suggestions: It’s getting close to deadline, so we dabbled in the occult art of swinging a deadline deal and this is what we came up with.

SP: The options keep diminishing: Scott Thornton is out with a concussion and says his body is falling apart anyways. Phoenix wants Tim Gleason in return for Brad May. Chris Gratton has a hefty price tag on his head. So, San Jose seems to be in the biggest rush to unload salary and rebuild, leading me to believe Mike Ricci could be available at a decent price. Despite being a center, he’s the sandpaper the Sens need, and I’d move Mike Fisher to the wing to accommodate him. Therefore, I’d trade Karel Rachunek and a mid-round draft pick to the Sharks for Ricci. For the Sharks, they get a young defenceman with offensive upside who’s further along than Jeff Jillson was before they traded him. He can step right into the lineup and help solidify their porous back-end. They also get rid of $2.5 million dollars (not sure future terms of contract, but SJ may have to eat a little and get a bit higher of a draft pick in return). Ottawa can move Brian Pothier permanently into the lineup, and this deal ups the skill and grit level of the team.

SK: Columbus trades Tyler Wright to Ottawa for Julien Vauclair, Josh Langfeld and a 2003 3rd round pick. Ottawa picks up a feisty, speedy, physical leader who can play center and left wing. Columbus picks up a defenceman who could play in their line-up next year and contribute some offence, a good physical forward who’s impressed this year and a 3rd round pick.

SH: Here’s the deal the Sens need to make before the deadline: Magnus Arvedson, Rachunek, Jody Hull and a late draft pick/minor league player to Buffalo for Curtis Brown and Chris Gratton. Brown is a plugger who comes alive during the playoffs, is great on faceoffs, kills penalties and can pot a few goals. Just as importantly, he’s tough and brings lots of energy to the building. Gratton would be a perfect fit for the Senators as he’s big and strong and can score goals; the power forward this team has never had. On the other side: Hull is expendable (despite his heart), Arvedson’s time has finally come after so many rumours, and for Rachunek — I know everybody loves this guy, but Buffalo would want some kind of good talent in this deal, and that falls to Rachunek because Ottawa is very deep at the point. He would be the key to the deal for Buffalo as he’s got a great future in the league.

2) Muckler started doing what few Ottawa GMs in the past have dared even think of: trade the future for the present. How did Muckler fare in the Vaclav Varada/Jakub Klepis swap?

NQ: You have to give up something to get something, but I still believe Muckler overpaid for a player who isn’t really “the answer” to the Sens physical void up front. Number one draft picks are the lifeline for a team like the Sens, and giving up one should only be done in order to add a key ingredient. Varada is a great role player, but a role player just the same.

SK: Personally, while I think Ottawa gave up a bit too much, I like the deal. Varada brings an element of physical play and infectious attitude to a team that needs it. Klepis has struggled to stay in the top Czech league this year, and has been passed on the prospect depth chart by both Brooks Laich and Alexei Kaigorodov at center. While Klepis has definite second line scoring potential, Varada is already a great third liner who’s only 26 years old. While I question dealing a prospect within eight months of drafting him, I like Varada a lot.

SP: It’s almost a perfect trade for Muckler. He needed to get dividends now and sold a little bit of the future for it. There’s no sure-fire NHLer tab on Klepis, and Varada still has many years to play in a Senators jersey ahead of him. He succeeded in bringing in minimal salary and raising the level of his team to compete with the Torontos of the world. Of course, the recent acquisitions Toronto made likely mean another deal in the works for Muckler.

3) Role Play Scenario: The NHL Entry Draft is tomorrow. You’re the head scout for the Senators and your butt is on the line with each recommendation you make. Suggest prospects for the Senators to look at, who may realistically be available late in the first round.

NQ:

Mark Stuart: An all around solid defencemen who will play it physical, but still has a solid two-way game. I just really like his game and think he’ll be a top-four d-man.

Andrei Kostitsyn: He hasn’t been seen enough to be considered a sure thing, but definitely has the offensive potential to replace any goals needed on the wing down the road.

Hugh Jessiman: He has home run Todd Bertuzzi type potential. He’ll be a project, but what can’t you like about a guy with a nickname of “Huge Specimen”.

SK:

Anthony Stewart: This rising prospect is a budding power forward with great hands and fantastic size. Stewart is a power forward who can score and skate.

Vojtech Polak: Another potential home run pick from Eastern Europe, Polak has fantastic upside and offensive skills. He is also a LW, where the Senators are weak.

Stefan Meyer: He has great goal scoring instincts (33 goals with Medicine Hat), and plays a physical game. He would be a good crash and bang LW who can pot goals.

4) Again, we will attempt to break down the talented (and not so talented) players who make up the future of the Ottawa Senators. And in as few words as possible, no less.

Alexei Kaigorodov:

NQ: Not in Petr Schastlivy’s class because of his size, but could be a nice role player on a scoring line some day. Upside of Cliff Ronning but more likely an Oleg Petrov. He’s no sure thing.

SK: A steal of a pick, Kaigorodov is doing well in the Russian SuperLeague and boasts good all-round skills and impressive speed and size.

SP: Hard to know for sure, but looked good at WJC’s. Good speed and hands, may be a little soft. Still a long ways away from NHL.

Brooks Laich:

NQ: Looks like a gem. Will battle in front of the net and could be an Adam Deadmarsh if he continues to develop at current pace.

SK: My favourite Senators prospect. Laich is a big, dominating center who had a strong WJC and has the skating to become a second tier power forward in the NHL.

SH: One of the best goal scoring prospects the Sens have in their organization. He’s big and strong, with good hands around the net.

Greg Watson:

NQ: I really like the look of him. His offensive upside is somewhat limited, but he could turn into a grittier version of Shaun Van Allen someday.

SK: Acquired for Jani Hurme, Watson is a big, defensive forward who has not developed well offensively, but is gritty.

SP: Little upside offensively. If he makes it, it will be as a banger and crasher. Likely to spend a long time in the AHL.

5) Monthly Jason Spezza Saga:

–He’s up, he’s down and he’s probably leading the league in transactions. But he’s closing in on 25 games and ruining his rookie eligibility (and plenty easy bonuses) for next year. How much does this play in Muckler’s decision to play/or not play Spezza as the playoffs draw nearer?

NQ: I really believe it has nothing to do with it. Spezza winning the Calder next season brings a lot of positive exposure to the team, and bringing him up now to eliminate his Calder eligibility next year actually costs the Sens money in the short-term, without any guarantee of saving the Sens a dime two years from now. It’s a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” kind of thing for Sens management. First, everyone accused Sens management of penny-pinching for sending Spezza down to the minors, and now the same critics are saying they’ll call him up to maybe save some money two years from now. Enough with the conspiracy theories already.

SH: I don’t think Spezza’s rookie eligibility will play in any decision to call him up. I would hope Muckler is more concerned with winning a Stanley Cup than what little bonuses his prized rookie could get. If the Sens start struggling and have injury problems down the stretch, then Spezza should probably be called up. If the Sens keep on rolling, why fix something that obviously isn’t broken. However, I think the team could very well use him come playoff time. The Senators historically have a trouble scoring goals in the post season, and even if he sits on the bench the whole game, being part of a playoff run would do wonders for his development.

SK: I personally would like to keep Spezza below the 25 game mark if possible, but I wouldn’t scratch him before game #25 if we get that far. I think Muckler’s intention is to have Spezza around come playoff time, and that doesn’t factor into the 25 game rookie eligibility rule.

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NB: Any comments, questions or ideas for future Roundtables are appreciated. Also, if you would like to participate in a Roundtable, I can be contacted at: scott_e_petersen@hotmail.com.