Milan Michalek is on a tear and frankly, I’m not sure what the Senators should do with him anymore.
For most of the season it was an easy call – July 1 would be the handshake, the official parting of ways. But at that point, I also thought his days as a scoring winger were over.
Now Michalek has four in his last four games and seven in the 13 games since Ales Hemskey was acquired.
Now he’s looking like the Michalek of old.
Maybe Jason Spezza wasn’t the only one who suffered without an offensively gifted winger on that line. Maybe that was part of Michalek’s problem too.
Or maybe Michalek is just thriving with a Czech mate around. Maybe it’s also Hemsky’s off-ice presence, a guy to speak his language, a guy with whom he’s on the same page, a guy who is also staring at the uncertainties of free agency.
The Senators have not closed the book on Michalek. They see him as a great teammate and a quality person. They would probably jump at the chance if they could sign him at a salary of about $2 million, or $2.5 million.
Michalek’s agent will not go for that. He will tell Michalek he can get him $4-5 million a year somewhere else. And he probably can. He has 17 goals and he’s just a couple of years removed from scoring 35. Somebody will bite.
But what does Michalek want? He likes Ottawa. He lives close by (in Montreal) during the offseason.
It’s hard to get a read on him, though. He wasn’t available after the morning skate today, but even if he was he likely wouldn’t have said much about his future.
I do know this: any questions about his knee in the past have been answered. He’s one of only four Senators to play all 76 games this season. Earlier, at least, he was guilty of not driving to the net like he used to. But that could be that he was tentative, worried about re-injuring his knee. Driving to the net is probably how he damaged it in the first place.
People who say he has lost a step, well, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Didn’t Michalek win the fastest skater contest at the skills competition? Yup he did.
Do the Senators have someone to take his spot on the Top Two lines? It depends on a few things.
It depends on if they re-sign Hemsky. It depends on whether Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman will be ready for that role full time. It depends on what Bryan Murray gets in an off-season trade for a defenceman. It depends on whether they have their eye on another veteran winger they can land July 1.
I just know I’d be reluctant to pay Michalek $5 million a year, and I’d be reluctant to let him walk unless I was certain about a Plan B.
So like I said, I’m not sure what the Senators should do about Michalek anymore.
In the end, the agent will probably force the decision out of their hands. That is, unless Michalek puts his foot down and says he wants to stay.