Senators News & Notes: (12/19/11)

Senators trade for Kyle Turris

In a move that has been rumored since the end of the summer, Ottawa finally took the plunge and picked up center Kyle Turris from the Phoenix Coyotes. Heading to the desert in return is promising young blueliner David Rundblad and a second round pick next summer. The move caught everyone off guard in Ottawa but was expected in Phoenix. Turris had held out this fall before signing a two-year deal at an average of $1.4 million a season.

While in the middle of a rebuild, the Sens have targeted the second line center spot as an area of need. The feeling is Turris is an upgrade to a position that has some depth. The question remains, how much of an upgrade is he over the Senators current options?

Nick Foligno is having his best season as a pro and has been used down the middle and on the wing this year. Stephane Da Costa was signed out of college last spring, and while he has shown some ability, some time in the AHL is needed. Peter Regin was expected to fill the role, but his health has been a concern and has held him back. Mika Zibanejad was drafted sixth overall in 2011, but was returned to Sweden for another year of seasoning. Is Turris, who has 46 points in 137 career NHL games, a much better option than those already in the organization?

For Rundblad, this was his first pro season in North America. His play of late was slipping and it was expected he would be sent to Binghamton in the near future. Giving up Rundblad was a pretty steep price, considering he has been rated as one of the top young prospects in the game. One of the reasons GM Bryan Murray made this trade was due to the emergence this season of Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen, allowing him to make this move. There was some talk that the Sens were concerned Rundblad could return to Sweden instead of going to the AHL if assigned. He did mention before the season started he was unsure if he would accept a demotion to the minors, but that was months ago before he played any games. However there was never indication about any attitude over the last few months.

The Senators threw in a second round pick to consummate the deal, although insiders are saying the 2012 draft isn’t considered that deep. This pick will be years away from seeing the NHL, so the Sens could afford to give up a pick.

The Sens went from having a deep pool of defensive prospects, especially ones that can move the puck, to one that will need to be replenished. Granted two of them, Karlsson and Cowen, are now staring with the big club, but Ottawa may target a defenseman at this years draft. On the other hand, the Sens look pretty stacked down the middle for the foreseeable future.

Nikita Filatov

Last summer the Sens took a chance on forward Nikita Filatov. The move has not worked out so far, as Filatov has produced one assist in nine games. As such he was “loaned” to CSKA Moscow to finish the season in the KHL. Ottawa optioned him to Binghamton so they could suspend him, taking him off the active roster. This was the only way Ottawa could stop paying him until he signed a contract in Russia.

It is the intention of Filatov to return to the NHL next season, and Murray has stated he will qualify the speedy winger next summer. However, if he wishes to return, there might not be much room for him. Ottawa has some young talent in their system who will be looking at making a name for themselves over the next year. Will there be a spot available for him? And what NHL team would trade for a player that twice left his team to return to Russia, before he had signed his second contract?  We have seen a player who doesn’t seem prepared to wait for his chance.

Filatov might have been better off biting the bullet and staying in North America. However he will probably make 20 times what he could in the KHL than what he would in the AHL. This looks like a short term business decision over a long term hockey choice.

Senators Still in the Playoff Race

Two and a half months into the schedule, Ottawa is in the middle of the playoff picture. Most fans and pundits saw this year as a rebuilding one, and didn’t think the playoffs were in the cards. But low and behold, almost halfway through Ottawa sits 10th, just a few points out of sixth. How did they get here?

Even though they are a game over .500, Ottawa had given up 14 more goals than they have scored. In many of their losses, especially early, the Senators gave up four or five goals. In the games they have won, many times it was a lower scoring contest where they relied on Craig Anderson to keep them in it before capitalizing late. Ottawa is fourth in the Eastern Conference in goals, and a few of the usual suspects have led the way.

Jason Spezza has been a point a game player, while Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen in scoring. Winger Milan Michalek led the league in goals with 19 before he suffered a concussion last week and Daniel Alfredsson has put up seven points in his last five games. Also what may not show up in the stats has been the improved play of their blueliners, especially Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba.

If Ottawa can continue to get production, and maintain a level of consistency, they should contend for the seventh or eighth spot in the conference.

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