Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sens still looking for at least one more D

I was reading my favourite (and possibly the only) Binghamton Senators blog today, Michael Sharp's Sharp on the Sens, and Sharp noted that not only is Bryan Murray looking for that ever-elusive powerplay quarterback, but assistant GM (and B-Sens' GM) Tim Murray is looking for another good defenceman to play in Bingo, too.

The Sens had three defencemen who could lead the powerplay at this time last season: Wade Redden, Joe Corvo, and Andrej Meszaros. Now we have none? I understand how nice acquiring someone like Brian Campbell would have been, but I think the older Murray (that's Bryan) could give Brian Lee and Filip Kuba a little more credit. They may not be proven commodities, so it appears Murray is going to give them some time in the pre-season before deciding just how desperate the Senators are to acquire an elite offensive defenceman.

One of the names that continually pops up is Mathieu Schneider, despite his $5.5M price tag. Anaheim is looking to dump his salary in order to sign Teemu Selanne, and have done everything--including putting him on waivers--to get rid of Schneider (it remains to be seen if they'll let him play in the AHL or buy him out to get his salary off the books). On Tuesday, however, the Citizen printed a story stating the Sens' chances of being able to pick up Schneider are slim to nil. And today, the Ottawa Sun said that he's just to expensive for Murray to take on. The Sens would have to dump salary in order to pick Schneider up, and Anaheim is not looking to pick any salary up in return. If the Ducks are prepared to pay half of Schneider's salary by allowing someone to pick him up on re-entry waivers, there are a few teams that would get a chance to pick him up first--and there is a good chance they'd take him at half-price.

So that leaves the Sens with their current d-corps. With regards to the younger Murray's plans, he's mentioned the possibility to sign a free agent to fill out the Binghamton d-corps, but didn't rule out the possibility of a trade.

The Senators' current depth chart at defence probably looks a little something like this, with the players' ranking more discretionary as you go down the list:
  1. Chris Phillips
  2. Anton Volchenkov
  3. Filip Kuba
  4. Jason Smith
  5. Brian Lee
  6. Christoph Schubert*
  7. Alex Picard
  8. Brendan Bell
  9. Luke Richardson**
  10. Mattias Karlsson
  11. Matt Carkner***
  12. Tomas Kudelka
  13. Derek Smith
  14. Geoff Waugh
  15. Ben Wright**
* - Schubert could probably play forward this season.
** - Richardson is on a tryout, and is not expected by many to make the team. I think Wright is on a tryout contract, because I can't see any releases about him being signed by the Sens (please correct me if I'm wrong).
*** - Carkner is trying out as a right winger for the Sens, but would go back to defence if sent to the AHL.

In all honesty, that looks like a pretty good top-twelve defencemen in the system. If Ottawa acquired that puck-mover without losing a defenceman, however, one of Lee of Alex Picard would probably be sent to Binghamton, and would solve the B-Sens problems. As it stands, Brendan Bell is apparently in great shape and has good AHL numbers, and Mattias Karlsson--although a rookie--impressed in the rookie tournament and has good size; they would likely form the top pairing, at least on the powerplay. All of Matt Carkner, Tomas Kudelka, and Derek Smith played for the B-Sens last season (the latter two are returning rookies), and are expected to have even better seasons in 2008-09. That leaves Geoff Waugh (who is also a sophomore pro) as the B-Sens sixth d-man, and I suppose that given he only scored 6 points in 71 games last season, there may be room for improvement. But Waugh was only -2 on a team that was heavily on the minus side of the ledger, and--although I can't say from experience--I don't think he's typically looked at as an offensive defenceman (he accumulated 139 PIM with eleven fighting majors).

Obviously, time will tell for the Senators' defence corps. It looks pretty good on paper, but looks can certainly be deceiving. Time will tell.
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