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Tuesday, August 15, 2000
Updated: August 16, 10:39 AM ET
A Closer Look: Ottawa Senators

By Brian A. Shactman
ESPN.com

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  • The Senators did an admirable job in 1999-2000 without the services of their best player, Alexei Yashin. But the team bowed out of the postseason in the first round, losing to provincial rival Toronto in six games. ESPN.com takes a Closer Look at Ottawa and what it needs to get better next season.

    Season Review: Team effort
    Radek Bonk
    Bonk
    So much controversy swirled around this team relating to Yashin and owner Rod Bryden's rants about financial woes that everyone in the organization should be thrilled with the 95-point season, despite the early playoff exit. Daniel Alfredsson rebounded from a bad year by notching 26 more points in one fewer game than in '98-99. Radek Bonk (22-35-57) finally began to live up to his potential, while Shawn McEachern (29 goals) and Marian Hossa (28) were consistent contributors to a balanced offense.

    The biggest loss on offense was when Magnus Arvedson suffered serious internal injuries after running into an open door along the boards at full speed at midseason. Arvedson is a young 20-goal scorer who was a plus-33 the previous season. Only getting 47 games from him affected team depth and defense.

    In net, Ron Tugnutt and Patrick Lalime looked like a solid tandem, but at the trade deadline, Sens management decided to ship Tugnutt to Pittsburgh for veteran Tom Barrasso, and immediately tabbed Barrasso as the man to lead them in the playoffs. Obviously, the plan backfired because as Tugnutt backstopped the Penguins with a 1.77 GAA, and Barrasso couldn't do better than two wins and a 2.58 GAA.

    The Open Market: How to handle Yashin
    All remains quiet on the Yashin front. From most accounts, he's not expected to show up for training camp ... again. And it's likely to get settled in court. For the Senators to move forward and achieve greater results, he either must be in camp or traded by season's start. Now, there could be issues about his value because a year out of the game could hinder his effectiveness for a long time. When guys return from two-month holdouts, they often struggle for 30-plus games. What about a 15-month layoff?
    FREE AGENCY
    Key unsigned free agents:
    Radek Bonk, Viacheslav Butsayev, Andreas Dackell, Tom Barrasso

    Signings/offseason acquisitions:
    Magnus Arvedson, Ivan Ciernik, John Emmons, John Gruden, Derek King, Ricard Persson, Chris Phillips, Todd White, Jason York, Sean Gagnon, Shane Hnidy

    Beyond Yashin, the core of the skaters will return, and hopefully, Arvedson will be healthy and the same player he was before getting injured. Derek King cannot be characterized as a major signing, and that's been about it on the free-agent front. It doesn't look like Barrasso, an unrestricted free agent, will return, so there will be major goaltending questions with journeyman Patrick Lalime as the possible starter.

    How to improve: Eliminate the Yashin issue
    Coach Jacques Martin is an excellent coach, who has developed a team defense that allows the Senators to compete every night in the regular season. But not having an All-Star of Yashin's ability is a major handicap -- and a nuisance. Management should settle the matter before camp, and either get some value for him -- an impact player and some high draft picks would suffice -- or get him in a Senators uniform.

    The best case scenario could be Yashin getting swapped for an A-level goalie and perhaps another player. The Sens would fill a hole and rid themselves of a heavy and dark cloud. It won't win them the Stanley Cup, but it would only help the franchise get better.

    Brian A. Shactman is the NHL editor for ESPN.com.