The season may only be seven games old but its becoming pretty obvious that Anton Volchenkov is poised to have the best season of his career.
The 27-year-old native of Moscow, Russia has been an absolute force on the Senators back end through the first seven games and is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
The A-Train brings a rare blend of shot blocking skill combined with the ability to execute devastating open ice hits. Volchenkov has already claimed a handful of victims including Viktor Stalberg, John Tavares, Zach Bogosian and Victor Hedman.
On Saturday, Volchenkov along with Mike Fisher and Matt Carkner combined for what had to be the most impressive penalty kill in Senators history. The trio killed off a five-on-three for nearly a full two minutes and blocked at least ten shots in the sequence.
Its a skill set that will likely see Volchenkov cash in big time when he signs his next contract. Volchenkov is currently in his seventh season and is often considered one of the better bargains in the NHL. Volchenkov is in the final year of a deal with a cap hit of just $2.5 million a season.
Locking up Volchenkov has to be a priority for Senators GM Bryan Murray. Murray has said in the past that he expects to get something done with Volchenkov and doesn't forsee any problems in retaining the shutdown defenceman.
The Senators will also have to make decisions on Alex Picard, Brian Lee, Chris Campoli and Matt Carkner this offseason. The first three will be restricted free agents while Carkner is a UFA.
There are already whispers that Murray is working on an extension for Volchenkov but those talks are very much in the early stages. Volchenkov is expected to bring down anywhere from $4-5 million on a long term deal.
Either way, locking up Volchenkov has to be a priority for the Senators this season and the sooner they get it done the better. Volchenkov appears to be well on the way to a career season and if hes allowed to hit the open market he will certainly demand top dollar.
With blue chip prospects like Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, and Patrick Wiercioch coming down the pipe the Senators back end appears set for years to come. Having a heart and soul veteran like Volchenkov is a must.
Players like Volchenkov don't come along very often...