Matt Carkner lives to fight another day.
The tough, 28-year-old defenceman from Winchester is still standing at Senators camp after forward/defenceman Christoph Schubert was put on waivers and young forward Zack Smith was assigned to Binghamton of the AHL yesterday.
The roster moves leave 24 players in camp, including injured forward Jesse Winchester, whose knee injury is expected to keep him out for Saturday’s season-opener and maybe off the roster against the Rangers in New York. Teams are allowed to carry up to 23 players when the regular season starts.
If Schubert clears waivers today, he will be sent to Binghamton where the Senators will have to swallow his $900,000 (all terms US) salary.
Senators coach Cory Clouston said there could be more moves today, including a move on defence where there are still eight men in camp. The Senators like Carkner’s toughness as a complement to winger Chris Neil. Both fought against the Boston Bruins Friday night. Defenceman Brian Lee, who is on a two-way contract as part of his entry-level deal, is a likely candidate to be relegated.
“A lot of that has to do with dollars and cents and how everything fits in under the cap,” said Clouston. “(GM) Bryan (Murray) is still looking at a couple of things here in the next 24-48 hours, so we’ll see how things sort themselves out.”
It’s not fair, but in the salary -cap era, for players at the low end of the roster, contract status can be as big a determining factor in making the roster as playing ability.
“If that’s what it comes down to, it’s frustrating. I’m the type of guy who’s been working for everything I have. If it does come down to dollars and cents and not my play that gets me sent down, it’s definitely frustrating, but it happens on every team. Those are things you can’t worry about,” said Carkner, who has played just two NHL games in his career.
“I don’t need to be nervous. I’ve been through all the bumps and grinds of hockey. If I’m sent to the minors, so be it. I’ve been there before. Being in limbo is harder on the family. I’m looking forward to sticking around. That would be great.”
Schubert, 27 and entering his fifth NHL season, had a regular role for the Senators two years ago, playing all 82 games. Sixty of those games were at forward. He played 50 games last year, most at left wing.
But heading into this season, he got caught up in the numbers game which evolved over the summer with the signing of Alex Kovalev and the trade of Dany Heatley for Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek. The emergence of rookie Peter Regin also hurt Schubert’s chances of making the team at forward.
“Sometimes people outplay you. We’ve got a couple of young guys who have played well. We’ve got other guys we’ve added to our lineup. We added three new forwards and got rid of one, which was Dany,” said Clouston.
“When you just simply do numbers, somebody is on the outside looking in. Its not necessarily what you do or don’t do, sometimes other players are just ahead of you.”
Smith, 21, didn’t have the kind of camp he had last year when he was the club’s last cut and went on to score 24 goals in Binghamton as a rookie, the third-best rookie total in the AHL. He has to be a bit of a pest to go along with his skill and there wasn’t enough of that this time around.
With the arrival of Kovalev, Michalek and Cheechoo and the emergence of Regin and Ryan Shannon, Winchester and veteran Shean Donovan find themselves on the bubble up front. If Carkner and rookie Erik Karlsson start the season here on defence, Lee and Alexandre Picard, who is on a one-way deal with a cap hit of $800,000, are the extras.
Lee has a cap hit of $1.25 million on the NHL portion of his contract.
Neil was sporting some stitches near his left eye and through his left ear lobe after his tussle with Boston’s hulking Milan Lucic Friday night. “I’m not happy he speared me off the get-go,” said Neil. “I try to be more respectful of other guys and not spear them off the faceoff. I’m fine. You’re going to give some and you’re going to get some. You look at the guys I fight and I’m usually giving up some size. That was nothing different.” ... Karlsson said returning to Sweden is an option if he doesn’t make the club, but hasn’t ruled out playing in Binghamton ... The Senators had a chance to fire some pistols and automatic weapons during their team building exercises with the RCMP. Nobody showed up with a non-hockey wound yesterday, so it has to be judged a success.