The main reasons for the poor season were mainly poor goalkeeping from the oft injured Pascal Leclaire and inconsistent Brian Elliott and injuries to key players like Spezza, Alfredsson, etc. The nightmare season was capped off at the draft lottery where the Sens went from dreaming of a top three pick in this summers draft to slipping all the way down to sixth.
The Sens can look back on some positives however. First and foremost the promising play from several key young players. Erik Karlsson finished with a very exciting 13 goals and 32 assists (never mind the -30 for now). Goalie Robin Lehner saw some time out of injury need and desperation and played very well. He is the goalie of the future no doubt. And the late season free agent signing of the most sought-after NCAA star Stephane Da Costa. Rookies Colin Greening, Zack Smith, Eric Condra, and Bobby Butler also had late season auditions after the a fore mentioned roster purging and all played well. Greening and Smith were recently resigned. The roster purge also cleared up some cap space. The departure of Chris Kelly, Mike Fisher, Chris Campoli, Jarkko Ruttu, and Alex Kovalev created over 14 million in cap space. The Sens will likely gain another 4.6 by not signing Leclaire and Marek Svatos. The Sens have approximately $45.3 committed for 17 players
So what holes do the Sens have to fill?
First and foremost they need to hire a coach. This will be a young team for sure. Expectations will be lower than last season of course. Failure to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years will be tolerated as long as the team shows promise and potential. Candidates may include Kirk Muller, Craig MacTavish Paul MacLean, or even Pat Quinn.
Next is a second line center. Spezza is a great #1 but you can count on him to go down with injury and miss close to 20 games. This means the second line center must be able to carry the load in his absence. Look for the sens to fill this void the draft and trade. Free agent candidates may include Thomas Fleischman, Brooks Laich, and Jason Arnott.
The defense needs improvement also. Both Gonchar and Filip Kuba were a major disappointment last year. Gonchars $5 million cap hit and age make him unmovable. Look for Murray to shop Kuba hard this summer and if he is unable to find a taker for Kuba's $3.7 -26 either waivers, demotion to minors or buyout are all possibilities. The exile of Kuba is further fueled by the emergence of promising rookies such as David Runblad, Jared Cowan, and Patrick Wiercioch. One or even two of these players will be in the NHL next season.
Goal tending. Murray pulled off one of last seasons best trades swapping Elliot for Craig Anderson, and then promptly resigning Anderson giving the Sens a legit number one goalie. A new back up will be required as Lehner needs more seasoning in the AHL. Look for a journey man back up from free agency to fill this void.
Here are some predictions on what this all means and what may be in store as the Sens next move.
Murray said on TSN at the draft lottery they had a player they liked if the end up with one of the top 3 picks. They got the sixth pick. Look for Murray to go hard after that guy. He can trade up using the 6th overall pick and the 21 pick from Nashville or his own second round pick.
Kuba gets a buy out. Cap hit would be $1.233 for 2 seasons.
Lee is traded to Minnesota or sent to minors.
Rookies to make the team, Runblad, Cowan, Da Costa, Condra, Greening, and Butler.
Making an impact in the AHL. Silfverberg, Lehner, Wiercioch
The Bottom line. Sens are a team in rebuild right now. It will not take them as long as it will the Leafs or Oilers however. They will be a competitive team next season. They will be aggressive in acquiring some veteran top six forwards this summer. A second line center, a top three winger either by trade or free agency.
The goal tending will be a strength for the first time in franchise history.
The Sens next moves are, hire a coach, draft a franchise player, fill holes at forward and develop an impressive crop of talented young players.