Ken Warren’s 10 takes: Trade talk, Ruutu-Spezza-Neil and super centres

We’re only a mere 13 games into the Ottawa Senators’ season and we’ve already seen a boatload of talented Canadian centres, all vying to represent the country at the Sochi Olympics.

Ken Warren’s 10 takes: Trade talk, Ruutu-Spezza-Neil and super centres
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth (1), of Sweden, slides across the goal crease while Minnesota Wild left winger Dany Heatley (15), of Germany, shoots the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

We’re only a mere 13 games into the Ottawa Senators’ season and we’ve already seen a boatload of talented Canadian centres, all vying to represent the country at the Sochi Olympics.

The Senators have already faced Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews, and John Tavares will be here Friday with the New York Islanders.

Then there’s some guy named Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, high-scoring Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay and two-way specialist Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.

Where oh where are Canadian Olympic general manager Steve Yzerman and head coach Mike Babcock going to find room for all the talented centres with a shot at representing the country?

As problems go, maybe that’s not so bad.

Now, sit back and enjoy the latest version of 10 Takes — remember, you’ve got an extra hour of idle time this weekend — including a Ruutu mention, the potential for new trades, talk about old trades and a tongue-twister for good measure.

REMEMBERING RUUTU

It’s not entirely new, this idea of sticking Chris Neil on a line with Jason Spezza to start a game, as was the case Friday against the New York Islanders. Back on Dec. 19, 2008, former Senators coach Craig Hartsburg placed Spezza at centre between Jarkko Ruutu and Neil, asking Spezza to play a “high-energy game.” The lineup shuffling also saw Dany Heatley play with Chris Kelly and Nick Foligno and Daniel Alfredsson on a line with Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette. Those lines didn’t last long. The Senators lost 5-1 and the record slid to 11-14-5.

PHILLIPS-KARLSSON I

Chris Phillips and Erik Karlsson also had a brief history together before Friday’s game. Phillips laughs while recalling how some early plans of him playing with number 65 went out the window early in Karlsson’s rookie season of 2009-10. “We played like two games and it was like we were oil and water and we could never play with each other again.” Karlsson had a one-month stint in Binghamton after that, before returning to the big leagues.

ADJUSTMENT FOR VANEK

Thomas Vanek says he’s still adjusting to life with the “young, uptempo” Islanders following last Sunday’s trade from his longtime home in Buffalo, but he says reports he turned down a chance to become the Sabres’ highest paid player are false. He says he never received a contract offer. When he talked with Sabres management last summer, he understood a youth movement was coming, but he was hoping Buffalo might sign a few older free agents to help the Sabres be competitive.

MORE MONEY FOR TRADES

One intriguing part of the Vanek deal is the fact the Sabres agreed to pay $1.25 million of what remains on Vanek’s $6.4 million. That wasn’t allowed under the old CBA. Now, the door is open for the possibility of more movement. If, for instance, a team was willing to eat a substantial portion of the contract, the Senators would be more inclined to trade for a veteran defenceman to help clean things up in their own zone.

SEPARATED AT BIRTH?

Perhaps it was inevitable that former Senator Peter Regin would end up playing on the same team as fellow Denmark native Frans Nielsen, who led the Islanders with seven goals and 15 points before Friday’s games. Their fathers were best friends long before Regin and Nielsen were born and the two sons grew up as best friends. “We have baby pictures together,” says Regin. Regin and Nielsen were golfing together in Spain last summer when Regin received his contract offer from the Islanders. In the first month of the season, Regin says, “I ate free meals and I was at his house every day.”

COMPARISONS TO COLUMBUS

A year ago, sensational goaltending led the Senators to a playoff berth and Vezina Trophy-winning netminding by Sergei Bobrovsky carried the Columbus Blue Jackets to the brink of a playoff berth. With average goaltending so far this season, both the Senators and Blue Jackets had only 10 points before Friday’s games. Craig Anderson’s numbers in 2012-13: 1.69 GAA and .949 save percentage. His numbers this year: 3.16 GAA and .911 save percentage. Bobrovsky’s numbers in 2012-13: 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage. This year: 2.60 and .916.

TERRIFIC PACIFIC

Following Phoenix’s 5-4 come from behind shootout win over Nashville Thursday, the Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks have a combined home record of 16-0-1. That one is courtesy of the Senators’ 3-2 overtime win over Phoenix on Oct. 15. Add in the LA Kings 5-2-0 mark and Calgary’s 3-1-1 home mark and it’s no wonder teams dread the western swing. Even with Edmonton struggling, the Pacific teams are an impressive 28-10-2 in their own buildings. In contrast, teams in the poorly-named Metropolitan Division are only 20-19-8 at home.

REVISITING THE TRADE

It’s entirely possible that both Milan Michalek and Heatley will become unrestricted free agents following the season, effectively putting a bow on the blockbuster deal between the Senators and San Jose Sharks in September of 2009. While Michalek ($6 million salary, $4.33 million cap hit) has been plagued by knee injuries, Heatley ($5 million salary, $7.5 million cap hit) appears to be on his last legs. He went from San Jose to Minnesota in the Martin Havlat deal and he’s being juggled from line to line, without much success. His production has slid every year and he had only one goal before Friday’s game. It’s believed the Wild wanted to buy him out last summer but couldn’t because of a lingering injury.

THE TRADE RESIDUE

Jonathan Cheechoo, the other name in the Michalek-Heatley deal, is currently playing for Zagreb Medvescak in Croatia. The Senators bought him out for $2.35 million after one season in Ottawa. The details of the Senators’ settlement with Heatley over his $4 million signing bonus in the summer of 2009 are secret, but it would be intriguing to see if owner Eugene Melnyk was able to recoup some of the Cheechoo buyout money.

TODAY’S TONGUE-TWISTER

The following goal summary entry this week stood out: “Dallas, Eakin.” That would be Dallas Stars forward Cody Eakin. Now, I can’t wait for Dallas’s Eakin to visit the Dallas Eakins-led Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 13. On Dec. 1, it will be reversed: Dallas’s Eakin will play host to Dallas Eakins’ team. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Have a great weekend.

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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