Senators GM Bryan Murray conceded yesterday that forward Peter Regin will start the season in Ottawa and indicated rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson is also on the verge of earning a roster spot.
While that's good for the young Dane and young Swede, it means some of the team's veterans should be very nervous.
With only Friday's home game against the Bruins left on the pre-season schedule before the Senators make final cuts to reach their 21-man roster, Murray will try to find a new home for a couple of veteran players to open up roster spots and save some salary cap space.
"It's a hard time of year because organizations have lots of young players that are going to be looked at," said Murray. "Very definitely it's going to be worth my while to make some calls and find out if there's anybody that wants to give someone a chance."
Murray didn't name names, but it's not hard to tell which players are on the bubble. Centre Chris Kelly, who would be difficult to deal with a $2.125-million US cap hit for the next three years, hasn't performed up to expectations in camp and is feeling a lot of heat.
Murray tried to move blueliners Christoph Schubert and Alex Picard in the off-season, but couldn't find any takers. Since the GM doesn't want to send any players on one-way contracts to the Senators' AHL affiliate in Binghamton, they both could be prime candidates to be moved.
"If we have players who can come in and push the veterans aside, then our staff have done a heck of a job," said Murray. "It's hard to have (players with) high-end contracts who don't contribute a lot. We have to evaluate who those people are and then we'll make a decision.
"We didn't make the playoffs last year. We've got to be better this year. We can't (take a) wait-and-see type of thing ... we want to find out if this team is going to be better, and I believe it's a lot better right now than it was at this time last year."
Regin's training camp performance has gone beyond anyone's wildest expectations. He has set up centre Mike Fisher for four goals in the last two exhibition games and forced people to take notice.
"The way Peter has played the last two games, he has turned Mike into a scoring machine," said Murray with a smile. "(Regin) makes plays. He's fast, creative, he gets back to help out defensively and there's no question he's ready to play in the NHL."
Karlsson is still battling for a job, as is fellow blueliner Matt Carkner.
"We know (Karlsson's) a very talented young man, but there's a few things we'd like him to do better on the power play," said Murray. "Beyond that, he has really come in and played well and -- not unexpected, mind you -- but certainly (he is) a guy with very strong possibilities to make the team."
Murray said it was difficult to send D Jared Cowen, the club's No. 1 pick in 2009, back to the WHL's Spokane Chiefs following the game in Regina.
"I can just envision him in November being able to play at a very good level in this league," said Murray. "He was a tough one for me because I really like young players that step up the way he did. In the long run, it's probably better for him."
Cowen, who had spent the last six months recovering from knee surgery, said he can return to Spokane confident he can compete at the NHL level.
"It's a bit of setback, but I'll go back to Spokane and, hopefully, be the leader and be the guy that they want me to be," said Cowen, who is expected to play for Team Canada at the world junior championship in Saskatoon.
"The biggest thing for me is to get used to the speed (at the NHL level). This was kind of a roller-coaster ride to get back playing."