Risk Factors: Ottawa Senators edition

From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Ottawa Senators

1. Are they running headfirst into a goaltending controversy?

There’s obvious value in having two strong goaltenders as opposed to just one and that’s what Ottawa thinks they have after inking Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner to three-year deals (Anderson’s doesn’t start until 2015-16) over the summer. The problem is that having two netminders that feel like they should be the starter can lead to tension and ultimately become a distraction.

So far both goaltenders have said all the right things. Anderson spoke in August about how this competition will bring out the best in both of them and when Anderson was named as the team’s starter at the beginning of training camp, Robin Lehner took the news in stride. But that’s what’s happened so far, before a game of consequence in the life of their new contracts has been played.

What happens if Anderson, whose deal is worth almost double Lehner’s, doesn’t bounce back after his rough 2013-14 campaign in the way that Ottawa’s hoping? Will he be comfortable warming the bench most nights? He won’t be a free agent again until the summer of 2018 when he’s 37, so if Lehner has a breakout season and firmly takes the starting job, then that might mark the end of Anderson’s days as a starting goaltender. Unless of course he asks to be traded.

What if Lehner is clearly outplaying Anderson, but still doesn’t get regular starts. How long will he be comfortable with that?

This could prove to be a headache for coach Paul MacLean as his handling of the goaltending situation will be heavily dissected by the media. Granted, that’s not a unique scenario, but it’s one that’s amplified when a team puts itself in this kind of situation.

2. Can Paul MacLean right this ship?

An argument could be made that it’s unfair to put the Ottawa Senators’ shortcomings last season on MacLean. Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs, but they weren’t a great team on paper to begin with. Yes, they regressed compared to their lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, but they almost certainly overperformed that season, especially when their injuries were factored in.

There is a reason why MacLean got the Jack Adams Award for his work guiding the battered, underdog Senators in 2013 and because of that, you might assume that his job is secure. As we’ve seen in the past though, winning the Jack Adams Award doesn’t buy a coach immunity. For that matter, the talent-level of the team isn’t always a acceptable excuse either — or at least that sometimes seems to be the case in the eyes of general managers. Sure, the Senators will have a tough time making the playoffs with their roster, but will MacLean be made an example of anyways if they fall short?

That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that MacLean wasn’t able to get the most out of his relatively young group last season and if he can’t fix that going forward, they’ll continue to underwhelm.

“Every day we come to work, it’s ‘why don’t we play harder, why aren’t we a better group?’ That’s the things that we discuss every day, and we’re still searching for a solution,” MacLean remarked back in March. Is it the fault of the players for not trying hard enough or at a certain point does it become the fault of the coach for not sufficiently motivating them?

Later that month, GM Bryan Murray passed on the opportunity to put his support behind the bench boss, which can be interpreted as a signal that he didn’t view MacLean as blameless for the Senators’ shortcomings.

It is worth adding that the Senators finished the season with a five-game winning streak, but they were all-but eliminated already when they got hot. Winning when the pressure’s off is one thing. Let’s see if MacLean’s Senators can consistently perform when it really matters.

3. They were 11th in goals per game last season, but their top-six looks pretty underwhelming.

Ottawa has one amazing offensive threat on its roster and that’s defenseman Erik Karlsson. The top line though will be a shadow of the Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfreddson, and Jason Spezza glory days. With the last player of that once dynamic trio gone, Ottawa doesn’t have a forward on its roster that reached the 30-goal or 60-point mark last season.

At this point Kyle Turris is looking like the top center and while he both has potential and has been progressing nicely, he’s still not a forward that’s likely to lead a squad to the playoffs. Bobby Ryan has a more impressive resume with four 30-plus goal seasons under his belt and the Senators clearly felt they couldn’t afford to let him walk, but his first season with Ottawa was nevertheless underwhelming.

Even if we assume that Turris still has another level in him after recording a career-high 58 points last season and Ryan’s struggles last season were primarily due to the sports hernia he was playing with for most of the campaign, they still have plenty of major question marks on their top two lines.

The Senators aren’t in a dire position offensively, but there’s no question that losing Spezza and Ales Hemsky over the summer hurt. Given that they were a facing an uphill battle to begin with, they really can’t afford to regress in this area despite their losses.

Ryan agrees to seven-year, $50.75 million extension


The Ottawa Senators have announced that Bobby Ryan has agreed to a seven-year contract extension. It is worth $50.75 million, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

That’s a big commitment to Ryan, especially seeing as he’s coming off of a rough season where he was bothered by a sports hernia and finished with 23 goals and 48 points in 70 games. At the same time, it’s a bold statement from Ottawa after some very public embarrassments over the past couple of years.

Long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson did the unthinkable in the summer of 2013 when he decided to leave Ottawa to sign with Detroit. What made that worse for the Senators was his claim that it was money that ultimately drove him away. They made Jason Spezza the new captain, but he demanded a trade and was shipped to Dallas in July.

Had they let Ryan walk as an unrestricted free agent, it would have continued the storyline of Ottawa’s inability to keep top-tier forwards on the roster. This contract will start in 2015-16 when Ryan is 28 years old and he will likely have the highest cap hit on the team at that point.

Sens play it safe with Ryan after he collides with Turris

Update: the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan reports that Ryan said he just got his “bell rung” and isn’t suffering from concussion-like symptoms. We’ll see if that changes, though.

As with the many miscellaneous injuries that crop up during training camp and exhibition games, it’s important to note that NHL teams are especially cautious when the contests mean little to a big chunk of players involved. Even so, it’s worth noting that the Ottawa Senators are keeping an eye on Bobby Ryan’s condition.

He was held out the remainder of Sunday’s scrimmage and won’t play in either of Monday’s split-squad preseason games after colliding with Kyle Turris. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren reports that the team’s making sure he didn’t suffer a concussion:

Ryan, 27, has already made headlines this summer as he reportedly turned down a lucrative extension offer from the Senators.

It’s a big season for him (and his place with the team), so this potential injury would come at an especially poor time.

Ryan had a bit of an off year by many standards, yet even with that in mind, he still scored 23 goals in 2013-14. Entering this coming season at full-strength would obviously be ideal, especially since the Senators look like they’ll be leaning on Ryan quite heavily.

Sens angry with Methot’s agent for leaking ‘false’ contract details

1 Comment

Wednesday was not a banner day for the Ottawa Senators on the contract negotiation front.

Following reports of Bobby Ryan rejecting a seven-year, $49 million deal, Sens assistant GM Pierre Dorion took to the airwaves in the wake of an Ottawa Sun article on pending UFA defenseman Marc Methot — one that featured Larry Kelly, Methot’s agent, saying the two sides were $300,000 apart on a new deal.

That comment drew Dorion’s ire.

“It’s disappointing,” he said, per TSN 1200 radio. “I’ve been with the team for eight years and I don’t know if I’ve been more disappointed about anything that’s been written.

“I don’t think you go about this way to do a contract.”

Here’s the bit from the Sun article that got Dorion’s goat:

After GM Bryan Murray told TSN’s Bob McKenzie he’d trade Methot rather than lose him to free agency, Methot’s agent, Ottawa lawyer Larry Kelly, was taken aback to hear Murray and the two sides are not “in the same ball park right now.”

“That’s a surprising comment,” Kelly told the Sun. “His last offer was 4.7 (million) over five years, starting at 4.5, and our last offer was 5 (million) AAV (average annual salary), over five years, starting at 4.5.”

The Senators did not comment.

Dorion, who has taken on a large share of GM duties while Murray undergoes cancer treatment, isn’t the only front office exec to take issue with an agent recently. Yesterday, Columbus president John Davidson tore a strip off Kurt Overhardt, who represents young Blue Jackets star (and potential training camp holdout) Ryan Johnansen.

In Ottawa, things don’t appear as contentious — yet — but Kelly negotiating through the media clearly isn’t appreciated by the Sens’ front office.

“The information that’s written in that article is totally false,” Dorion said. “There’s no other way to put it. You put us in a corner, which isn’t fair — we said we’ve wanted to try and sign Marc from day one and to me, this is negotiation 101 in bad faith.”

Report: Ryan turned down Sens’ seven-year, $49M offer


Details are starting to emerge from the on-again, off-again contract extension talks between Bobby Ryan and Ottawa.

From the Sun’s Don Brennan:

Amid unconfirmed rumours Ryan turned down a seven-year, $49 million offer, talks between him and the team have been put on hold.

Ryan, another player the Senators cannot afford to lose for nothing, told a TV reporter he did not want to discuss his contract situation when he was approached at Sensplex Tuesday.

Brennan’s cohort at the Sun, Bruce Garrioch, also reported the Sens offered Ryan a seven-year extension, but didn’t shed any light on the financial side of things.  Ryan, for what it’s worth, said his contract won’t be an issue — “when you get out there, you forget about it,” he explained.

Regardless of what Ryan says, this is going to be a focal point throughout the season. The Sens paid a small bounty to acquire his services last summer knowing he had just two years remaining on his current deal, and year one in Ottawa was something of a bust; Ryan was OK, scoring 23 goals and 48 points in 70 games, but the Sens missed the playoffs and Ryan missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a sports hernia.

(He was also infamously snubbed from the U.S. Olympic team, in case you forgot that saga.)

The former Anaheim Duck could be eyeing free agency. Ryan turns 28 in March and has never gone unrestricted in his career, having inked  a five-year, $25.5 million pact with Anaheim following the expiration of his entry-level contract. If Ryan does intend on testing the market, Ottawa could find itself in a position where it’s forced to move him at the deadline, rather than face the prospect of losing one of its key assets for nothing.

That said, Ryan is saying all the right things to suggest he wants to stick in the Canadian capital. He said he’s talked to GM Bryan Murray and head coach Paul MacLean about an increased leadership role — important, since Ottawa’s last two captains are no longer with the team — and said he’d like to expand his on-ice duties, which includes getting time on the penalty kill.

Update: Seems as though the seven-year deal is pretty much official, given this tweet from the Ottawa Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan…