It's hard to believe it would be this difficult, but the Ottawa Senators are having big trouble trying to sign their own third and fourth liners.
The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren reports that Chris Kelly is unlikely to sign a contract with Ottawa before seeing what he's worth on the open market. Not getting Kelly signed will open up a big hole on the penalty kill and it's unclear who on the roster could replace his minutes. Does Dean McAmmond, assuming he stays with the club, get more responsibility or does a player like Nick Foligno or Cody Bass get worked into the special teams system?
With Kelly out of the picture, the Senators top penalty killer would be Mike Fisher, and we all know how many games he misses every season. His body is held together with cardboard and chewing gum. Despite all the accolades, Nick Foligno is still very green and has nowhere near the defensive consistency that Kelly does at this point in his career.
If no solution comes with either Kelly or another unrestricted free agent, Daniel Alfredsson can expect to be run ragged again this season playing in virtually every situation. Hopefully the club learned the lesson of burnout during the John Paddock debacle of last season and they go forward with a more balanced approach to ice times.
The next bit of strange news - Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports quite casually at the end of his latest "who's the next coach" article that the Senators offered Shean Donovan less than the $925,000 he received last year and that Donovan (rightfully so) turned them down.
I'm not sure what Bryan Murray's plan is but in my mind, Donovan coming back should have been a foregone conclusion. He was an effective, low-cost player once Paddock was fired and he was given a solid role on the team. You could argue that Donovan was the team's best player in a humiliating four game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Yet Murray wants to low-ball a guy who is already making under a million per season? I don't get it.
Perhaps he's making some room to bring in other players after July 1st and giving Cody Bass a chance to fill that role. We'll wait and see. From all accounts, Donovan is well liked in the dressing room and actually wants to play in his wife's hometown.
This is a deal that should get done but somehow, Ottawa is having second thoughts.
This is a team in real limbo right now. Who the hell knows what is going on with their goaltending. Do they take the easy route and buy out Ray Emery or do they take on the challenge of reforming this guy? It's a risk-reward scenario that only managers with balls would take a chance on.
What the hell is going on with Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore? Losing both players will only further deplete a team that is low on depth and character players.
Commodore says he'll only consider coming back once he knows who the new coach is going to be. Despite some bloggers and other talking heads declaring with absolute certainty that Murray had already decided on Bob Hartley, Garrioch claims that Kitchener coach Peter DeBoer may be the current favourite.
Thank the lord the drinking season is upon us.