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Is it in Ottawa’s best interests for Mika Zibanejad to make an immediate NHL jump?

Sep 28, 2011, 1:03 AM EST

James Reimer, Mika Zibanejad AP

Every once in a while, a person makes an argument that changes the way people look at things. Sometimes that persuasive piece might alter your viewpoints on large issues such as religion or politics, other times a TV show just makes you think less of a rival program.

Just a year ago today (Sept. 27, 2010), Tyler Dellow argued that the Edmonton Oilers should’ve preserved the first entry-level years for promising rookies such as Taylor Hall and Magnus Pajaarvi. To impatient Oilers fans, that idea probably sounded ludicrous, but Dellow’s point shouldn’t be taken lightly – especially since the Oilers were bad enough to earn the number 1 overall pick in a second straight draft.

It might be harsh to call their rookie years a waste, but one can make the unpopular but reasonable argument that the Oilers would’ve been better served saving those two players’ bargain years. Now Hall only has two seasons left until The Dreaded Second Contract, which could be a nightmare.

(I’ll admit there’s one indirect perk to this “plan,” though. Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins‘ contract years will be staggered by at least one summer, so that could allow them to take their second contract lumps in more digestible portions.)

Senators face a similar conundrum

The Oilers aren’t the only struggling Canadian NHL franchise that should think long and hard about expending precious entry-level years, though. The Ottawa Senators should be careful about the way they handle their 2011 first round pick Mika Zibanejad, even if the versatile Swede’s play almost demands a spot on the opening day roster.

The reasoning is simple: the 2011-12 season is expected to be an ugly one for the once-proud Sens. Don’t get me wrong, Craig Anderson could be very good next season. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza should get a little more luck with their health, while Sergei Gonchar has nowhere to go but up from a dreadful 10-11 debut in Ottawa. Even so, the Senators rank as a long shot, especially considering how much better the Northeast Division figures to be next season.

Zibanejad keeps scoring

Zibanejad isn’t exactly making it easy for the Senators to turn him down, though. He already was making a solid case with two “dazzling” goals going into tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Zibanejad managed to score one more impressive goal on Tuesday, as you can see from the highlights in that link.

It’s tantalizing to think about, but chew on this: two of the three Calder Trophy finalists played on teams who failed to make the playoffs. Rookie of the year Jeff Skinner‘s first season was so sensational that it would be silly to call it a bad move, but the Carolina Hurricanes might wonder – for at least a second – when his payday comes in 2013 rather than 2014.

The Senators will likely make that crucial choice somewhere around Zibanejad’s ninth regular season game, which is the deadline for teams to either postpone that first entry-level year until next year or let it melt away. GM Bryan Murray and head coach Paul MacLean will have a tough choice to make, but if you ask me, they should be fun-killers by sending him down.

What do you think, though? Should they lean one way or just keep an open mind about his chances? Do you prefer instant gratification or slow-roasted goodness? Let us know in the comments.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 28, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    The Sens are probably going to be bottom 3 in the East this year with or without this kid so it really wouldn’t make much sense to waste a “bargain year” as you put it

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