Yes, Senators fans, there is life after Spezza.
While most eyes are naturally focused on the potential return for the outgoing captain, the rest of the business isn’t waiting for the other skate to drop.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray confirmed Thursday “there’s a good chance” left winger Milan Michalek will be back next season. Michalek, who is in position to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is mulling over a contract offer from the Senators.
Michalek is coming off a six-year, $26 million contract. That deal paid him $6 million last season and the Senators won’t go anywhere near that figure to keep him around.
There’s good news/bad news for the Senators in terms of re-signing top prospects.
Left winger Mike Hoffman has agreed to a one-year, two-way contract extension – meaning he’ll be paid an NHL salary only if he stays in Ottawa. In 2013-14, Hoffman scored three goals and three assists in 25 games with the Senators and 30 goals and 37 assists in 51 games with Binghamton of the AHL.
However, centre Stephane Da Costa has opted to play for guaranteed big money in Russia’s KHL rather than accepting a two-way deal from the Senators. Da Costa had three goals and one assist in 12 games with Ottawa and 18 goals and 40 assists with Binghamton last season.
”I can understand the player because he went through waivers (at the start of last season),” said assistant general manager Randy Lee. “We think he’s very close to being a (full-time) NHL player, but he took his other option.”
Meanwhile, negotiations to re-sign goaltender Robin Lehner (short and long-term options have been discussed) and defenceman Eric Gryba continue.
While the club is fine-tuning its plans for summer development camp following the June 28-29 draft in Philadelphia, Lee and co-assistant GM Pierre Dorion are also fine-tuning their draft lists with their team of scouts.
At this point, the Senators first pick is 40th overall – their first round pick went to Anaheim in the Bobby Ryan trade – but there’s a distinct possibility Ottawa will receive a first round pick in exchange for Spezza.
The Senators are ready for all possibilities in what Dorion labels as an “average” draft, having their own master list of prospects from one to 150. Dorion suggests the top 12-14 picks could have a shot at playing in the NHL next season, but there’s a drop-off at that point.
“With everything that’s going on with Jason, we’ve prepared ourselves, if ever (a first round pick) was part of a deal,” he said.
As for expectations of what to expect from a 40th overall selection, Dorion says the Senators should be able to acquire an NHL player. He concedes, however, that there’s only a “one per cent chance” that player could be ready to play in the big leagues next season.
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