Monday, April 9, 2007

Senators Resign Volchenkov

Senators GM John Muckler announced today the resigning of stalwart defenseman Anton Volchenkov to a $7.5 million, three-year deal. Set to become a Restricted Free Agent on July 1st, the new contract carries a cap hit of $2.5 million US and runs through the first year of Volchenkov's Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) eligibility. The first two years are for $2.1 and $2.2 million respectively, followed by a jump to $3.2 million in 2009-10. He made $1.5 million in the 2006-07 season. The Senators' first round pick in the 2000 NHL entry draft, Volchenkov is in his 4th year with the club, but only in his second full season. Due to the departure of Zdeno Chara, lost to Boston via free agency, Volchenkov was placed in a key role this season and by all accounts performed well above expectations. Along with an expected resigning of Volchenkov's veteran partner Chris Phillips to a coinciding three-year deal, Muckler has ensured the long-term stability of one of the most powerful shutdown pairs in the league. It also takes a significant load off Muckler's shoulders for this summer, with RFAs Emery, Saprykin, Kelly requiring new contracts, and the 07-08 whereabouts of key UFAs Preissing, Comrie, McAmmond needing to be determined.

With the playoffs less than a week away, and the dominant contract news revolving around Phillips for the past few months, the Volchenkov signing came out of left field from an outsider's perspective. It was certainly something that needed to be done, no question, but Muckler has shown unexpected competence in not only recognising the key role Volchenkov has played this season, but in signing him to such a reasonable contract despite Volchenkov's significant bargaining power (well, as significant as possible for an RFA) brought on by strong play. Leading the league by a considerable margin in blocked shots, sitting just outside the league leaders in hits, setting new assist and point totals, and establishing himself as a premiere shutdown defenseman in the league (not to mention a fan favourite), Muckler did well to lock this valuable player up at a reasonable cost for a reasonable length of time.