MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The Senators entered the season with real concerns about their offense. Those worries wound up being erased by a defenseman. In his third season, Erik Karlsson broke through as one of the NHL's most exciting players. After a 2010-11 campaign in which he registered 13 goals, 45 points and a minus-30 rating, Karlsson had six more goals, 33 more points and a plus-46 turnaround. His 78 points on the season were 15 more than the previous franchise record for defensemen, and he had 25 more points than the second-highest scoring blue-liner in the NHL. Karlsson's production not only earned him a nomination as a Norris Trophy finalist but was also a big reason the Senators, in a season where they wondered about their offense, finished as the fourth-highest scoring team in the East.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
The biggest disappointment had to be a second consecutive season-ending shoulder injury to Peter Regin, who was penciled in as the team's second center. With nobody stepping up to fill the role, general manager Bryan Murray had to trade away highly touted prospect David Rundblad to the Phoenix Coyotes for Kyle Turris. While the 22-year-old Turris had a good season and should fill the No. 2 line middle position nicely going forward, Rundblad would still be part of the team had Regin stayed healthy and lived up to expectations.
After Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson, the Senators don't have any proven high-point producers. They need to come up with at least one, by trade or the free-agent route, while the youth in the system continues to develop. They also require at least one defenseman, preferably a veteran. On the farm team in Binghamton, only one -- Mark Borowiecki -- is considered close to NHL-ready.
FREE AGENT FOCUS
Tough fourth-line center Zenon Konopka proved his worth in the playoffs by leading all NHL players in Round 1 with a 70.9 winning percentage in the faceoff circle. But while he would love to stay in Ottawa, Konopka is also 31 years old and the team is considering letting him walk as an unrestricted free agent.
Forward Jesse Winchester missed most of the season with a concussion and, after returning to play well early in the playoffs, suffered another one in Game 4. His future, with the Senators or any other team, is in doubt.
Winger Rob Klinkhammer was called up from Binghamton and provided a hustling, hard-working replacement for Winchester, but he was unable to do anything offensively. If he returns, it will likely be for a job back with the affiliate on a two-way deal.
Defenseman Filip Kuba had a plus-52 turnaround from his disastrous 2010-11 campaign, but at 35 and likely seeking a salary in the $4 million range, he's probably not coming back. That leaves the Senators in need of a veteran to play alongside the puck-rushing Erik Karlsson.
Tough blue-liner Matt Carkner battled knee problems and will likely wind up elsewhere unless he is signed to a two-way deal. Defenseman Matt Gilroy was obtained in a deadline trade for Brian Lee but didn't impress and is almost certainly done in Ottawa. Backup goalie Alex Auld's days as a Senator are over.
Decisions need to be made on restricted free agent forwards Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Jim O'Brien and Kaspars Daugavins, who should all receive qualifying offers. Defenseman Erik Karlsson, also a restricted free agent, will get a huge raise from the team.
--C Jason Spezza was the NHL's fourth-highest scorer with 84 points and improved his all-around game under new coach Paul MacLean. Spezza has been asked to shoot more, though, and his refusal to do so in the playoffs had him benched for part of the third period in Game 6 against the Rangers. Spezza and MacLean denied there was any rift between the two, but it will be an interesting situation to watch going forward.
--LW Nick Foligno finished with 47 points, 43 of which were scored in even-strength situations, and was tied for second in team playoff scoring with four points. Still, there remains a level of unfilled expectations for the former first-round pick, who is 24 years old. Management feels the team might have had greater success with more production from the second line left wing spot Foligno occupied for a chunk of the season. He will be given an opportunity to win that job again at training camp, but as of now the Senators are looking at other options.
--D Sergei Gonchar had more ups than downs this season, unlike in 2010-11, and he will be entering the final year of his contract when he shows up at camp in September. Gonchar, who had 37 points and was a minus-4, could be looking at his swan song, at least in Ottawa, unless he's willing to take a significant cut from his $5.5 million salary.
--C Peter Regin played just 10 games before needing season-ending surgery on the same shoulder for a second year in a row. A restricted free agent, Regin and the doctors are confident he can make a 100 percent recovery. Regin, who says the injury was different than the one he had in 2010-11, is hopeful of re-signing in Ottawa.
--C/RW Jesse Winchester suffered a concussion in December and when he did return just in time for the playoffs, he was able to suit up only for a few games before being sidelined by another. Winchester, an unrestricted free agent, left for the summer unsure whether his future even includes hockey.
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