Lining up the Senators

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:17 PM ET

Thursday’s free-agent signing of star defenceman Sergei Gonchar gave the Senators a huge boost.

The Senators still have between $4 million and $5 million to spend, with some restricted free agents to take care of. Here’s a look at the Senators lineup and their projected 2010-11 salary cap hits:

FORWARDS

Daniel Alfredsson $4.875 million: Mr. Senator is coming off an off-season sports hernia operation and will turn 38 in December. How long can he keep going? He’s been the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons and its best all-round player since Marian Hossa wore the colours. 

Mike Fisher $4.2 million: Coming off his best season offensively (25 goals, 28 assists), he’s expected to provide the physical, two-way game at centre that has marked his 10-year career. However, next season will be the first in which he’ll also have the distractions that come with being married to a country-singing superstar.

Nick Foligno $800,000 (last season): A restricted free agent who should be back. With more consistency, the former first-rounder should challenge for a spot on the second line.

Chris Kelly $2.125 million: A smart, versatile forward who is a solid penalty killer and popular player in the room. Found good chemistry with Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu last season and will likely be re-united with the two when 2010-11 starts.

Alex Kovalev $5 million: Needs to fully recover from a serious knee injury that ended his season and required surgery. In the final year of his contract that could be his last unless he finds the groove he had before the Olympic break, as he only had one goal and one assist (and a minus-15 rating) in 17 games after it.

Milan Michalek $4.33 million: Looked like he was going to become a prolific scorer in his first season with the Senators, but hit a wall, production-wise, after two months. Speedy and hard working, he was developing some chemistry with Jason Spezza and, coming off knee surgery, will likely start out as the first-line left winger in October.

Chris Neil $2 million: Generally among the league’s top hitters and most frequent fighters, he has also developed into something of a leader on this team. Staying healthy is a trick, as he hasn’t played more than 68 games in any of the past three seasons.

Peter Regin $600,000 (last year): Another restricted free agent qualified by the club, he developed into a key player in the second half of last season. Good skater and smart player, his potential appears to be high.

Jarkko Ruutu $1.3 million: Superpest is coming off his best offensive season. In the last year of his contract.

Ryan Shannon $625,000: Coming off a bad season in which he never did settle into a specific role. He’s got speed to burn, but it never seems to get him anywhere.

Zack Smith $583,000: Toughness and size should keep him in Ottawa for the whole season. Bounced back and forth from Binghamton after a sub-par camp. Says he will be better prepared in September.

Jason Spezza $7 million: The team’s offensive catalyst, he needs to come to camp in a clear frame of mind and not worry about criticisms of his turnovers. He’ll still make them, but if healthy he also has the ability to score 100 points and challenge for the league scoring title. That shouldn’t be a bad trade off in anybody’s books.

Jesse Winchester $750,000: Re-signed to a new, two-year deal, he took definite strides last season in becoming a reliable, gritty centre who can kill penalties. Although he’ll likely be on the fourth line, he can provide energy while seeing spot duty on one of the top two.

DEFENCEMEN

Chris Campoli $600,000 (last year): A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, he has the potential to be an offensive player, but has problems with consistency. Could be trade bait.

Matt Carkner $700,000: Proved to be one of the NHL’s best heavyweight fighters during his rookie season, then scored the goal of his life to keep the team alive in do-or-die overtime against the Penguins in the playoffs. He’ll continue to be effective if the coaches can get him the matchups they want.

Sergei Gonchar $5.5 million: Will quarterback a power play that wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been in 2009-10. Should be one of the league’s top scoring blueliners if he stays healthy, which hasn’t been the case in each of the past two seasons.

Erik Karlsson $1.3 million: Exceptionally skilled and creative, he developed into a top player for the Senators in the second half of the season. At 20 years old, he’ll still make a lot of mistakes, but his upside is unlimited.

Filip Kuba $3.7 million: Plagued last season by a back problem that finally shut him down in March, he’ll be rebounding from surgery and be one of the team’s top four blueliners. Moving the puck remains his best attribute.

Brian Lee $875,000: Former first-rounder was signed to an eyebrow raising, one-way extension last season. The team feels that if he doesn’t show enough consistency to stay in Ottawa, it can find another NHL team to take him in a trade.

Chris Phillips $3.5 million: Veteran shut-down guy will be without his partner Anton Volchenkov for the first time in years. In the last year of his contact, but would almost certainly take a “hometown discount” to finish his career in Ottawa.

GOALIES

Brian Elliott $850,000: Stepped up and did a good job when elevated to the starting role on an injury emergency. Should challenge for the No. 1 job, but needs to improve his consistency and cut down on soft goals allowed.

Pascal Leclaire $3.8 million: Will he be the dependable No. 1 goalie the team thought it traded for, the star that stoned the Penguins in a do-or-die playoff, or the injury-plagued netminder that could not find his game when he returned to the lineup in the second half of the season? The Senators’ fortunes could rest in the answer and so will his career in Ottawa, as he is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.


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