Ottawa Senators Get Head Start on Offseason: Who to Keep?

Anthony ConstableCorrespondent IApril 17, 2008

The only advantage of a first round sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is that Senators GM, Bryan Murray, now has a few extra months to consider his options.

Ottawa has a reasonable number of unrestricted free agents to consider as July approaches. The list consists of Wade Redden, Cory Stillman, Chris Kelly, Randy Robitaille, Martin Lapointe, Shean Donovan, Mike Commodore, Luke Richardson, Matt Carkner, and Niko Dimitrakos.


1. Wade Redden

With his 31st birthday around the corner, the Saskatchewan native has a cloud floating around his head. He is the make or break decision of Ottawa's free agent season this year, and he is very much aware of this fact.

Redden put up 32 assists and 38 points this season, and he also had an +11 rating.

It all seems reasonable, until you notice Redden was the highest paid Senator this season. Reasonable isn't worth $6.5 million a year.

Constant disappearing acts also plagued his season. It would take more than one or two good games to overshadow the five consecutive bad game streaks he consistently posted. Inconsistency appeared to be Redden's trademark.  


Final Verdict

The Senators cannot afford to move forward paying Redden almost 15 percent of their cap room. It's nothing personal against Redden—he has given Ottawa 11 excellent seasons of character and contribution.

The deciding factor in deciding to resign Redden or let him go is simply money. Redden isn't worth the money, and he has lost his reliability somewhere in his wallet, crushed under all his unearned money. Thanks for the memories Wade, but you've gotta go.


2. Cory Stillman

He is a champion of hockey through and through. Two consecutive Stanley Cup rings never looked bad on a resume.

However, it seems Stillman has lost some of the good luck charm appeal. First, missing the playoffs with Carolina last season, and now being swept in the first round with Ottawa.

You can't argue with his numbers, especially when you consider what Ottawa is used to on the second line. Three goals and 16 assists in 24 games with the Senators is certainly worth considering.

Stillman also did good power play work with the Senators. Although he only had the one point, he created chances, and the power play of the team was weak overall to begin with.


Final Verdict

Stillman is a judgment call for Bryan Murray, and there is no clear answer on the man. He put up decent numbers, doesn't carry a heavy cap burden (at $1.75 million), and has plenty of character and experience. 

Personally, I would try to resign a guy like Cory Stillman. Maybe we thought of you as a rental during deadline season, Cory, but I think you should stick around.


3. Mike Commodore

When he first arrived in Ottawa from Carolina, Commodore was expected to put a big body presence in front of the Senators’ net.

There certainly was a big body there, but it didn't appear to be doing much.

Not heavily noted for his offensive contributions, Commodore needed to contribute more of the physical defense style he is known for.

Commodore's only noticeable stat was a glaringly poor rating of -9 in 26 games with the Senators.


Final Verdict

Commodore was making $1.3 million last season and appeared to be earning that in Carolina. After moving to Ottawa, however, his stock plummeted due to costly giveaways and poor defensive coverage.

Perhaps it can all be attributed to new team jitters, but it doesn't change the fact. Unfortunately for Commodore, his jitters will cost him his spot on the team, and he will likely return to Carolina.

I have nothing to say to you, Mike. Get off my team.


4. Martin Lapointe

He was brought into Ottawa to provide veteran leadership and grit, his obvious assets.

Lapointe did provide leadership. He worked well when he occasionally played a line with Antoine Vermette, who seemed to have more chances in front of the net than ever.

His grit was never in question.  He could hit, and hit he did. Lapointe is a tough player who isn't afraid of the rough places on the ice.

Not to mention his six points in 18 games was just an added bonus.


Final Verdict

Bryan Murray went after Lapointe to bulk up for the players. Now that it's obvious Ottawa needs some help, the smart decision here would be to let him go.

Thanks for making Antoine Vermette look good, Marty.  Best of luck in your final NHL years.


5. Chris Kelly

Mostly playing a defensive role in Ottawa, he is a key to the Senators’ penalty kill.

Chris Kelly is a player that doesn't shoot enough and often doesn't get as many chances to shoot as you'd like.

19 assists and 30 points in his 75 regular season games looks good considering a good portion of his minutes are penalty kill minutes.

GM Bryan Murray needs to gather as much cap room as he possibly can. However, Kelly's $1.2 million contract is certainly worth every penny.


Final Verdict

Resign this kid, are you kidding me? He is Ottawa's number one penalty killer, and always looks good doing it.

Costly turnovers? A rare thing for Chris Kelly, and that's definitely worth noting. His contract is small, his penalty killing is exceptional, and he does contribute up front.

Kelly could produce more offensively if given the opportunity. He got a great opportunity last season when Spezza went down, and a significant portion of his 38 points that season were from playing with Alfredsson and Heatley.

Chris, you're a penalty killing machine, which should earn you a brand new contract. (Note: I apologize for repeating myself more than Pierre McGuire.)


Final Verdict on the Rest of 'Em

No one else of significance remains on the list of possible free agents for the Senators. It's easy to see this set of players didn't benefit the team, and none of them contributed worthwhile offense or defense.

A combined $3.1 million sits with the remaining five players on the list at the top. Nick Foligno, Cody Bass, and Brian Lee showed themselves more than capable of joining the big leagues with their games playing for the Senators this season.

With young guys prepared, it should make it easy to cut these five free agents from the squad and move forward.