A lot has happened since I took off for the cottage, most importantly the hiring of Craig Hartsburg as head coach of the Ottawa Senators. I'm sure that decision has already been covered to death by the local media and bloggers so I'll only say that it seems like a good decision on Bryan Murray's part and both he and Hartsburg were convincing in their press conference.
Initially, Hartsburg was probably my least favourite candidate and I still believe he has a lot to prove at the NHL level, but his tone and demeanour are reassuring. Already he's five times the communicator than John Paddock was at any point during his stint with the team. He sounds like he means business.
On to other business:
The revelation from Murray over the weekend that all of his unrestricted free-agents are headed to the open market was a bit of a surprise.
You have to think that Murray should be trying to keep one of either Chris Kelly or Cory Stillman. Murray will be overpaying to replace those players on the open market when it looks like Stillman and Kelly are only going to demand in the 2 to 3 million range per player. In the big scheme of things, that's not a lot of money, especially in Stillman's case.
Now Bruce Garrioch is reporting that Bruins winger Glen Murray and Flyers center R.J. Umberger are on the Senators radar and that defenseman Andre Meszaros could be used as "trade bait".
If Bryan Murray were to give up on a young defenseman for an overrated one-year-wonder like Umberger, you might as well get a room ready for him at the nuthouse.
In the case of Glen Murray (who may be bought out by Boston), you would need a top playmaking centre for him to have any chance of resurrecting his career as a goal scorer. He had his best years playing with either Jason Allison or Joe Thornton but the only playmaking center the Senators have is Jason Spezza and he's busy feeding pucks to Dany Heatley at the moment. There's a chance Hartsburg will split them up but why take a chance on an aging player who only scored 17 goals last year? And it's not like Glen Murray has a history of winning either.
You begin to get the feeling that Bryan Murray is intent on completely overhauling the entire roster with the exception of the core players on long-term contracts. But by publicly declaring that Stillman and Kelly are headed to free agency, how much leverage does Antoine Vermette now have in his contract negotiations?
If I was Vermette's agent, I'd be asking for the moon.
And if people are thinking that Murray is simply making room to acquire a couple of big name free agents such as Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa you have to remember that it is illegal to talk to those players until July 1st.
That's awfully risky for a general manager in Murray's position. Short of risking a tampering charge, Murray has no real knowledge if any of those stars are even interested in playing in Ottawa.
Losing Stillman, Kelly, Shean Donovan and Mike Commodore all at once seems like too big of a hole to fill when signing free-agents is such a crapshoot to begin with.
And with the expected buyout of Ray Emery, there's another precious asset down the drain without any compensation.
There is a grim scenario, almost a "doomsday" scenario that is lurking around the corner for this team if the cards don't fall in Bryan Murray's favour.