Sens make a big splash on first day
The Senators opened up the first day of free agency in a big way by signing uber-offensive defenceman Sergei Gonchar. With the signing, it is clear the Sens may be heading back to their high-flying, high-scoring ways of their past. This offense-heavy strategy brought them tremendous success in the 2006-2007 season, when they fell only three wins short of taking home the Stanley Cup.
Gonchar bring a rocket of a shot to the blue-line, and will increase the Sens' struggling power-play unit, which rank in the lower third in the league last season. Expect Kovalev to score a few extra goals and add a few extra assists on the power-play next year. It's doubtable Kovalev will live up to his $5 million contract, but at least he'll come a little closer.
Speaking on offensive contributions, the Sens are still in the market for a top-six forward. Cullen has been signed by Minnesota, which is sad in this blogger's opinion. I was a big fan of Cullen's game, as he was a great two-way player, who could also man the point on the power-play (which obviously wouldn't be neccesary this year with Kuba, Karlsson, Gonchar, and even Daniel Alfredsson able to play that role.)
There are still a few decent UFA forwards on the market, and some trade options. Among the economical UFA options are Matthew Lombardi, Lee Stempniak, Todd Bertuzzi, and Alex Ponikarovski. Marc Savard would be willing to play in Ottawa, though taking on his salary cap hit of $4 a season (which lasts another 7 seasons including this one) is a huge risk. It will be interesting to see who Murray signs.
The Sens also added some size and grit to the line-up by signing forward Brad Winchester. At 6'5 tall, and weighing 228 pounds, Winchester will be expected to provide a physical presence in the bottom six forward unit. One has to imagine Murray is hoping to make up for some of the loss of physical play the departure of Anton Volchenkov will create. It is quite possible Murray will still pursue Andy Sutton at a reasonable price. If Sutton re-ups with the Sens, their D-core will be one of the most impressive in the East, if not the League, but it will leave their offense a little thin.
The Sens also took the opportunity to resign RFA Jesse Winchester, who is a great energy player, and has been impressive in his bottom-six role with Ottawa. The sens also signed prospect David Dziurzynski, who at 6'3, 205 pounds, is a big playmaker. The 20 year-old is a few years away from the NHL, but the Sens are hoping he will develop into a solid physical presence, who will contribute offensively.
The Sens have about $4.4 million in cap space after you factor in Cowen playing in the minors next year, so they do still have a bit of cap room to play with. What an exciting first day!