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30 Teams in 30 Days - Ottawa Senators Written by habsfan93 - September 18th, 2009

Over the course of 30 days, yours truly is going to take a look at each team in the league, examine their off-season moves, assess the biggest issue facing the team, highlight a player or two to watch for, and finally give an outlook on the season. 

Next up, the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa Senators
Season 5: 49-24-6-3 (1st East, 1st Northeast)
GM: burrows14 (1st Season)

Currently Projected Season 6 Roster:
(Incoming Player in Bold, Rookies in Italics)

Modin - Thornton - Hemsky
Kelly - O. Jokinen - Pominville
Artyukhin - Brodziak - Dandenault
Olvecky - Marchant - McGrattan

Pronger - Volchenkov
Streit - Niskanen
Michalek - Sutton


What They Did In The Off-Season:

The Ottawa Senators were the darlings of the East in Season 5, as they finished the season tops in the Conference, with only one real challenger in the Carolina Hurricanes. They went on to advance to the Conference Finals where they lost Game 7 to those same Hurricanes, but putting that aside, Season 5 goes down in the record books as the best season in Senators history. The Senators in fact have never missed the CMHL playoffs, and have never finished lower than 5th in the Eastern Conference. Lofty expectations thus await newly appointed GM burrows14, who took over from departing GM Brian Sawchuk this summer.

Before he resigned, Sawchuk made one final parting move - a move that would only serve to saddle the new GM with another expensive hard-to-move player. Sawchuk dealt winger Marian Gaborik and up-and-coming defenceman Steve Eminger to the division rival Canadiens for star defenceman Chris Pronger and his nearly $6,000,000 salary which expires at the end of Season 6, leaving him to be an Unrestricted Free Agent. In retrospect, with Luongo and Modin also hitting the UFA market next year, this was an absolutely horrible move by the departing GM.

burrows14 was also left with a major problem - 3 players hitting free agency and looking for dramatic raises. Patrick Marleau was a UFA, fresh off a career 91-point season. Having put up 378 points in 402 career games, he has been one of the most consistent players in the CMHL over the last 5 years, and that equals big money on the open market. The Senators were able to get a deal done, at a not so cheap $7,600,000. Anton Volchenkov has put up back-to-back 40 point seasons since joining the Senators, and is reputed to be one of the best defensive defenceman in the league. He also did not come cheap, resigning at $4,000,000 a year for two years. Tim Connolly finally had the year many knew he was capable of, 80 points in 80 games, and riding that potential, he was able to ply a 1-year deal at $3,500,000. Needless to say, this kind of cash grab was going to pose a problem for an already cash tight team.

In order to achieve such a talented team, past GM's like Gerv and Sawchuk had to mortgage draft picks, leaving the new GM with only two picks in the draft, a 4th and 5th rounder. However, this mortgage did not extend past the 2009 draft, and GM burrows14 is now in good shape, with a full slew of draft picks to renew the farm system starting next summer. The new GM then quickly got to work on fashioning a team in his own mold. Seeing a salary problem in plain view, he dealt recently signed Tim Connolly and Brad Stuart to the Blackhawks for Jason Pominville, top prospect Thomas Hickey and Matt Lashoff. With Marleau and Jokinen clogging the middle, Connolly was redundant. Pominville is a bargain at under $2,000,000 and will challenge Hemsky for the top RW spot. Hickey was then moved to the Leafs for C Jordan Eberle, who should develop in the next year or two and is a major addition to the depth of this team.

Next, perrenial underachiever Erik Cole and his 2+ million salary was shipped out to the Sabres for a pair of picks, while Henrik Tallinder was dealt to the Hurricanes for stay-at-home defender Andy Sutton who is an absolute bargain at $500,000. Finally, figuring if you're going to pay someone $8,000,000, you might as well get the best you can, he dealt Patrick Marleau along with Justin Williams to the Sharks for CMHL wonderboy Joe Thornton. The loss of Justin Williams however leaves a gap on the 2nd line at LW. I don't believe that GM burrows14 is done tinkering with this team. In fact, I know he's not, and I'll get into why in the next section.

Biggest Issue Facing the Team:

Salary. The Senators, using the roster projected above, are about $2,000,000 over the cap, and need to trim some fat. At the same time, they are also short a scoring winger as mentioned. You can't blame this on GM burrows14 - given the team he was left with, this author believes he has done a superb job to date. This team is moving in the right direction. A number of players could move in this scenario. Todd Marchant is overpaid at $2,000,000 for what he provides. Olli Jokinen is one of the worst faceoff takers in the league, and has to be a target to move. And Chris Pronger - yes he's good, but he's terribly undisciplined and his salary could bring you two Pro level defenceman.

Where to Go in the Future. The Senators are no doubt at a crossroads left by the previous GM, Brian Sawchuk. His team model, bring in the best, sacrifice the future, can only work for so long. The new GM has not shown all his cards yet. He could continue down this road, flirt with the Cap and field a top team in the East in Season 6 before almost certainly having to blow things up next summer and rebuild. Or he could start a gradual rebuild now, maintain a competitive team and build towards the future.

Player To Watch:

Fredrik Modin - Modin took everyone by surprise in Season 5 as he quietly scored 54 goals, 102 points and won the Rocket Richard Trophy. That was playing alongside Patrick Marleau. Now he's paired with THE best passer in the game - is 60 goals out of reach? No player in the CMHL has ever hit that mark, but if these two play together for a full season, we could see the CMHL goals record fall.

Season 6 Outlook:

The Senators have regressed a little since Season 5 - to no fault of the current GM. Although the defence corps is still one of the best in the league, and Luongo is still in the pipes, the offence corps will have a very hard time matching last season's output. I don't think the Senators are the front-runner for the division. Although I still think they cannot be discounted as a playoff team, I think that they are going to fall in the 5-8 range as an offyear is necessary to preserve the long-term functioning of this team.

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