OTTAWA, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 11: Eric Gryba of the Ottawa Senators poses for his official headshot for the 2013-2014 season on September 11, 2013 at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 177614333
Photograph by: Jana Chytilova, Ottawa Citizen
PHILADELPHIA — By signing defenceman Eric Gryba to a two-year, $2.5-million extension Thursday, the Ottawa Senators took care of some necessary off-season business.
Now comes the Eight is Enough difficulty on the blueline.
Gryba’s deal, for $1.2 million in 2014-15 and $1.3 million in 2015-16, gives them seven defencemen with guaranteed NHL contracts next season.
The group also includes Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Chris Phillips, Mark Borowiecki and Patrick Wiercioch. Even though Cody Ceci is still on his entry-level contract, he played 49 NHL games as a rookie last season and is expected to be in the everyday lineup.
Typically, only six defencemen play per game and teams carry only seven on their active roster, leading to some speculation that a defenceman — Wiercioch, anyone? — could be traded away. Perhaps as early as this weekend.
Thursday, however, was about adding Gryba’s contract.
“I’m very happy about it,” said Gryba, who could have become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he had signed only a one-year extension. “Going through all the development camps, the hard work has paid off. It’s a good opportunity.”
Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion is optimistic that the team will see “the Gryba we saw in the second half (of the 2013-14 season), the guy who played important minutes in a matchup role.”
Gryba had a slow start to the season, including stretches as a healthy scratch.
In addition to extending Gryba, the Senators signed defencemen Chris Wideman and Michael Sdao, along with forward Cole Schneider.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue with goaltender Robin Lehner — Dorion met with Lehner’s agent, Craig Oster, for an hour — with the sides still discussing both short and long term deals.
Left-winger Milan Michalek is exploring other possible options during the free agent window, but Senators GM Bryan Murray says he will talk to Michalek’s agent, Allan Walsh, at some point this weekend.
Murray says he’s not a fan of the NHL’s new rules, allowing teams to kick the tires on pending unrestricted free agents before the official July 1 signing period.
“It helps set the price and always for the player, of course,” he said.
Murray says he has talked to the agent of one other pending unrestricted free agent. Perhaps that’s a fallback if Michalek decides to sign elsewhere.
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