Colin White

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Senators GM must manage rebuild — and Melnyk

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa handing Colin White a six-year, $28.5 million contract was more than just conveniently timed for Senators Day here at PHT. It was also a pivotal moment for a big Senators X-factor: GM Pierre Dorion.

To be more specific, this team’s future hinges on how Dorion manages the Senators’ rebuild … and in what might be an even bigger challenge: managing owner Eugene Melnyk.

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Under Pressure | Three questions]

You don’t have to be an accountant to notice that, at least in the short term, the vast majority of the Senators’ moves have been about saving money. It’s to the point that people are already joking that White will be long gone from Ottawa before his actual salary peaks at $6.25M in 2024-25:

But that really was an eye-opening signing because it shows that Dorion can occasionally convince Melnyk to fork over dough for “core players.”

It will be interesting, then, to see how the rest of that core develops, as there are some other potentially pivotal contracts to sign, and Dorion will eventually need to add pieces, whether that means NHL-ready players through trades and free agency, or additional prospects through the volume of draft picks the team has (painfully) accumulated by trading away the likes of Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Matt Duchene.

Consider Thomas Chabot the next pressing test case. He’s entering the last year of his rookie contract, so will Ottawa get that done briskly, or will that situation linger ominously? There’s nightmare scenarios where another team poaches Chabot with an offer sheet, knowing that Melnyk seems allergic to signing bonuses.

Dorion truly needs Melnyk on board in cases like these, especially since more are on the horizon, notably with Brady Tkachuk‘s entry-level contract expiring after 2020-21.

There are a ton of factors that could sway things as time goes on, from Seattle’s expansion draft to possibly even a new CBA forming as the Senators’ rebuild goes along. Such thoughts might complicate things if Melnyk believes that a new CBA would be kinder to his wallet.

But, even in the shorter term, Dorion could make some interesting moves if he’s creative — and in cases like retaining salary to get trades done, if he can get Melnyk to buy in.

I’ve already argued that the Senators should embrace short-term pain for long-term gains, not unlike the Hurricanes absorbing Patrick Marleau’s buyout to land a first-round pick. That’s not to say Ottawa needs to clone such moves detail by detail; instead, the point is that Dorion should be creative, and also embrace the likely reality that this team is unlikely to be any good this season, so they might as well build for the future.

That’s where the 2019-20 season presents interesting opportunities.

Craig Anderson seems long in the tooth, but he’s surprised us before with seemingly random near-elite years, and what better time for the 38-year-old to pull another rabbit out of a hat than this one, where he’s in the last season of a deal that carries a $4.75M cap hit?

That sounds like a hefty sum today, but it would be manageable for a contender around trade deadline time, where they could “rent” Anderson. Maybe Ottawa would take on a contract a contender doesn’t want (perhaps Anderson to the Calgary Flames in a deal that involves Cam Talbot and Michael Frolik, if Talbot doesn’t work out) for the price of picks and prospects?

Ottawa doesn’t have marquee trade bait like they did with Karlsson, Duchene, and Stone last year, but you can land nice assets for mid-level players, too, from Anderson to someone like Chris Tierney.

There’s only so much Dorion can do about Melnyk’s penny-pinching ways, whether the Senators owner is truly just being “cost-conscious” now only to eventually spend when it’s time to contend, or if that “unparalleled success” talk was merely just talk.

But as we’ve seen with teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, you can build something pretty special even while dealing with budget constraints. You need some creativity from a GM, and an owner who will spend money when it counts.

Is Dorion up to the task? So far, the results have been mixed, but how he handles this situation (now, and in the future) is an enormous X-factor for the Senators.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

McDavid, Eichel top Central Scouting Futures list

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We know the 2014 NHL Draft just happened recently, but the 2015 Draft is one all teams will be zeroed in on.

The NHL Central Scouting Service released their Futures list of who to keep an eye on in the coming year and the two names you’re going to hear about most are right at the top of it.

Erie Otters (OHL) forward Connor McDavid and Boston University forward Jack Eichel lead the way. Dan Marr of Central Scouting tells Mike Morreale of NHL.com what those two bring to the table is something special.

“McDavid is an exceptional talent and he’s been on display now for the world to see for two years [in the OHL] and he’s lived up to all the expectations that were kind of placed on his shoulders,” Marr said. “That’s not an easy burden for a young man. This year just happens to be his draft year and the expectation is he’ll continue to be the frontrunner for the No. 1 spot. But Jack Eichel has already made known that this is a two-horse race.”

McDavid already had a monster year with Erie last season piling up 28 goals and 99 points. Eichel played with the U.S. Under-18 team last season and had 45 points in 24 games including 20 goals.

McDavid and Eichel are far ahead of what’s being touted as a loaded class of prospects that also includes forwards Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Colin White, Travis Konecny, and defenseman Noah Hanifin.

Who should New Jersey’s next captain be?

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There have been nine captains in the history of the New Jersey Devils: Don Lever, Mel Bridgman, Kirk Muller, Bruce Driver, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Patrick Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner and, most recently, Zach Parise.

With Parise gone, the search for No. 10 is underway.

There’s no shortage of candidates in the Jersey room:

— Elias, 36, is one of the longest-serving Devils, has worn the “C” previously and was an alternate last season. That said, he still has a bad taste in his mouth from how his time as Devils captain ended:

“I don’t need a letter to know what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I had the C. I didn’t like the situation the way it was handled when it was taken away. I don’t want to be put in that position again. I think I can help all the young guys and be a leader no matter what. It won’t matter to me.”

Elias was named Devils’ captain before the 2006-07 season by then head coach Claude Julien. He was stripped of the C by Brent Sutter at the start of the 2007 training camp. Sutter told the media about it before discussing it with Elias.

— Ilya Kovalchuk captained the Thrashers for two seasons and also wore an “A” in 2011-12. He’s New Jersey’s highest-paid player and led the team in scoring last year. He also finished 10th in Hart Trophy voting.

— For some, Martin Brodeur is the New Jersey Devils. While having a goalie as captain isn’t commonplace, it has been done before, most recently with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver.

(Granted, many saw this as a failed experiment that ended with Luongo “relinquishing” the captaincy after the 2009-10 season.)

— Veteran defenseman Bryce Salvador has been with the club for four years and recently signed a three-year extension. He’s one of just four players on the roster signed through 2014-15.

There is another option for New Jersey:

No captain.

The club adopted this practice for the first season post-lockout (2005-06) following Stevens’ retirement and Niedermayer’s departure to Anaheim.

Rather than anoint a new captain, the club opted to use four alternates from a pool of Elias, Scott Gomez, Colin White, John Madden, Brian Rafalski and Alex Mogilny.

So…what should the Devils do? Have at it in the comments section.

Related:

It’s New Jersey Devils day on PHT

Offseason Report: New Jersey Devils

Could Stuart be on his way back to San Jose?

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Interesting piece today from CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz on a name that’s been linked to the Sharks in recent months: Brad Stuart.

Stuart, 32, is a soon-to-be-UFA that’s spent the last four seasons in Detroit — but never lost touch with his San Jose roots. He began his career with the Sharks in 1999-2000, played there for five years (before being part of the Joe Thornton deal) and still maintains residence in the Bay Area, which is where his wife and three kids live year-round.

There’s also this, from ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun:

Veteran top-four blueliner Brad Stuart will also be an unrestricted free agent July 1. There has been talk that he might want to return to the West Coast due to family reasons (he still has a home in San Jose), but Detroit is keeping the door open to re-sign him if he chooses to return.

“I told Stuey, ‘Go home, take a month with your family’; told his agent I would talk to him prior to the draft,’’ Holland said.

My guess is, if the San Jose Sharks have any interest in bringing back Stuart — he began his career there — and they make him a reasonable offer, he could be in San Jose next season.

Kurz goes on to point out Stuart-to-San-Jose makes a lot of sense on the ice as well:

— He’s a top four guy and the Sharks need a top-four defenseman. Douglas Murray “doesn’t look like he can keep up” anymore and Jason Demers hasn’t proven himself as a bonafide NHLer. Veterans Jim Vandermeer and Colin White are both UFAs and might not be retained.

— So how does a projected top four of Stuart, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic sound? (The answer: Above-average, though not especially young. Vlasic is 25, Burns is 27, Stuart is 33 in November and Boyle is 36 in July.)

The x-factor in this, as it often is, will be money. The Sharks have approximately $9 million in available cap space; Stuart is coming off a deal that paid $3.75 million annually; San Jose already has $19.4 million committed to its blueline for 2012-13.

Clowe incident isn’t the first time San Jose’s bench has come under scrutiny

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There was no shortage of ways to describe Ryane Clowe’s interference-from-the-bench play after San Jose’s 6-5 shootout win over Los Angeles.

Kings forward Jarret Stoll said “nobody’s even seen anything like that,” while defenseman Drew Doughty called it “shocking.”

And it’s true — nobody has seen a player on the bench reach over and break up a potential rush. That was unprecedented.

Not unprecedented, though? A Sharks player getting involved while seated on the pine.

On Jan. 31, San Jose’s 6-0 win over Columbus was marred by accusation as Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards claimed someone from the Sharks bench squirted Derek Dorsett with a water bottle.

“As [Derek] Dorsett is coming down the ice, you can see a water bottle squirted on him from San Jose’s bench,” Richards told CSN Bay Area. “I don’t know if that’s what set him off, but as he’s carrying the puck up the ice, that happens.”

Here’s video of the alleged incident:

At the 28 second mark you can see Dorsett gesturing at the Sharks bench, presumably in response to the alleged squirt. At :57 (the replay portion of the video), there’s pretty solid evidence of a water bottle being directed at him.

While it seems unlikely Clowe will be subjected to supplemental discipline for his actions, could the Sharks be facing some sort of team fine? Heck, they could be put in the repeat offender category.