Rumours abound in the blogosphere, but they remain rumours. Typically, they include the much-reported requirements for the 2008-09 Sens team to fill itself out; a top-six forward, and a top-four defenceman. But which one does the team need more?
The Sens have needed another top-six forward for the last two seasons. The firepower of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley is nothing to scoff at, but if a team is able to shut that line down--as has happened (most notably in the the 2007 Stanly Cup Final against Anaheim), there is no fall back plan. Mike Fisher is intense, but he can't be counted on for offensive production. Antoine Vermette has gotten his opportunities, but failed to make them count. After them, there's really no option, unless prospects like Jesse Winchester, Ilya Zubov, or Alexander Nikulin surprise a lot of people. The Sens have acquired the likes of Mike Comrie and Cory Stillman to try and fill the void, but for various reasons they didn't work out as long-term solutions.
If the Sens fail to acquire more scoring depth, the onus once again falls entirely on Spezzalfredheat. And the team, more likely than not, remains as vulnerable to a good shut-down defensive tandem as they have been in past years. We'd heard that Jason Williams was (apparently) close to becoming a Senator, but that proved incorrect. There aren't many offensive forwards remaining on the free agent market, so the only avenue the Sens really have is through a trade, and, with 13 NHL-calibre forwards plus several potential prospects, there are tradeable assets on the team right now.
In the past three seasons, the Sens have lost Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Joe Corvo, Tom Preissing, Brian Pothier, and Mike Commodore, and the only new faces are Lawrence Nycholat, Brian Lee, and Jason Smith (and possibly Mattias Karlsson). There is an obvious problem with this picture. As good as Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov are, they can't do everything. Andrej Meszaros isn't even signed yet, but if he is signed most don't think he's ready to be the Sens go-to guy on the powerplay. The Sens desperately need some help on the blue line.
All sorts of names have been mentioned. The Sens were apparently in the Dan Boyle and Brian Campbell sweepstakes, but couldn't match market offers. Trade rumours have included the likes of Jay Bouwmeester (fat chance) and Cam Barker, but those are just rumours and are probably built on blind hope. Ottawa's goaltending tandem of Martin Gerber and Alex Auld makes the defensive needs more evident; although both are capable NHL goaltenders, neither is good enough to regularly steal games.
Man, this is a tough choice. Both are pressing needs, but if I had to choose one or another, I'd say that a top-four defenceman is more important at this point. What do you think?