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10 OTTAWA Senators
Michael Farber
October 04, 1999
Captain Alexei Yashin is AWOL in Switzerland, demanding a new contract or a trade. This, of course, isn't the first time Yashin has vanished. In Buffalo's first-round playoff sweep of favored Ottawa last spring, the 44-goal scorer was pointless—which is what further Yashin bashin' would be since plenty of opposing players have already taken their best verbal shots. Yashin remains a valuable asset whom new Ottawa general manager Marshall Johnston will try to deal for young talent or repatriate when he has seen enough of Vaclav Prospal (10 goals) as his team's first-line center.
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October 04, 1999

10 Ottawa Senators

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INSIDER

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

OFFENSE

16

Balanced scoring; expect a big season from Hossa

DEFENSE

6

Top group led by Redden; breakout year for Phillips

GOALTENDING

25

Is Tugnutt a bona fide No. 1 netminder?

SPECIAL TEAMS

16

Gardiner and Zamuner are demons killing penalties

COACHING

5

Martin changes his system to fit the players

Captain Alexei Yashin is AWOL in Switzerland, demanding a new contract or a trade. This, of course, isn't the first time Yashin has vanished. In Buffalo's first-round playoff sweep of favored Ottawa last spring, the 44-goal scorer was pointless—which is what further Yashin bashin' would be since plenty of opposing players have already taken their best verbal shots. Yashin remains a valuable asset whom new Ottawa general manager Marshall Johnston will try to deal for young talent or repatriate when he has seen enough of Vaclav Prospal (10 goals) as his team's first-line center.

After Yashin the player that the playoff-bound Senators will miss most is goaltender Damian Rhodes (22-13-7, 2.44 goals-against average), who was traded to the expansion Thrashers in mid-June. With his departure the full-time job belongs to Ron Tugnutt, who made the All-Star team while splitting time with Rhodes last season but who has not been an undisputed No. 1 goalie since 1990-91 and has yet to prove himself in big games. In a 1997 postseason series against Buffalo, Tugnutt gave up an overtime goal that cost Ottawa a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and at the world championships in May he was in net for Canada's semifinal shootout loss to the Czech Republic.

Tugnutt, though, should be able to carry a bigger load thanks to coach Jacques Martin's tight-checking, disciplined system. The Senators will be even better defensively this year with the acquisition of forward Rob Zamuner, one of the game's premier two-way players. Zamuner and hard-nosed right wing Kevin Dineen, another new addition, will also provide much-needed veteran leadership for a club whose strength is its young core of speedy forwards and maturing defensemen. Radek Bonk, Magnus Arvedson and Marian Hossa (average age: 23) are the NHL's most dangerous third line, and Wade Redden is the best defenseman in the NHL under age 23.

Early last season former Ottawa coach Rick Bowness predicted that the Senators would win a Stanley Cup within three years if the front office found the money to keep the team together. That's a big if, though. Principal owner Rod Bryden is leading the cry for tax reform that would put Canadian NHL teams on a more even footing with U.S.-based teams. The movement, though, has yet to yield any tax breaks, as Canadians are wary of financing the $23 million Yashin would get for the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons if Bryden caves in to his demands. For now, the owner says he will continue to hold the line. He can only hope Prospal does so well with his new line.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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