Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vermette Reportedly Avoids Arbitration

The word on this morning is that the Senators have finally signed Antoine Vermette to a 2-year deal, worth $5.525 million. His arbitration hearing was supposed to go this morning, but the two sides have come together to put the pen to paper.

Vermette's negotiation has been the subject to much speculation over the past few weeks. So much so, rumours were coming out of the woodwork saying that the two sides were too far apart and that a trade looked to be likely for Vermette to get out of Ottawa. Senators fans can relax, now that they have one of their top performers back in the fold. The question is, however, will this signing stop all the trade rumours around Vermette for this season?

In 81 games for the Senators, Vermette scored 24 goals and added 29 assists for 53 points last season, which set new career highs in all those categories. His previous career high was 39 points, set the season before. It looks as though he has finally matured into the player that the team was looking for when they drafted him in the second round in 2000.

Jason SpezzaChristoph SchubertMartin Gerber
Daniel AlfredssonChris PhillipsAlex Auld
Dany HeatleyAnton Volchenkov
Antoine VermetteJason Smith
Mike Fisher
Dean McAmmond
Chris Neil
Jarkko Ruutu
Shean Donovan
Nick Foligno
Chris Kelly

The Senators now have 17 regulars signed on to play for next season at the going rate of $46.8 million, $9.9 million short of the cap for the remaining six spots on the team's active roster. Still to be added to the team is restricted free agent, Andrej Meszaros, who didn't elect for arbitration this summer. Rumours will likely remain rampant about his departure via trade until his deal is done.

Although the signing of Vermette is complete, there can't be much of a sense of accomplishment coming from the GM's office in Ottawa. Bryan Murray hasn't really improved the team at all or adequately filled in some of the gap that have been left behind by guys like Wade Redden, Cory Stillman or Mike Commodore. Arguably, he did fill the gap that Ray Emery left behind well with the signing of Alex Auld, but that's only one gap.

This team listed above will rely even heavier upon the top line, which now can't afford to be broken up, as it will likely be the gist of the offense in 2009. Sure, the team is chalk-full of character guys with the addition of Jarkko Ruutu to an already grinding third and fourth line. This will have to be the season for Nick Foligno to step up and assume a second-line role, while Alex Nikulin and Ilya Zubov try and make the jump up for a full-time spot.

There doesn't seem to be much pool depth in Ottawa beyond the usual suspects. Once the well of top line talent runs dry around the Sens, you likely won't be heading back to pick many players for your pool teams.

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