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Sens keep an eye on young players ahead of rebuild

Ottawa GM Mike McMahon hasn't been shy about his team's intentions this season. The Senators are going all-in for one last run at a Stanley Cup before a massive rebuild will be underway in Ottawa.

This upcoming offseason, Patrice Bergeron, Cam Atkinson, Jakub Voracek, Alexander Radulov, Derick Brassard, Marc Staal and Josh Gorges will all be unrestricted free agents.

"Every team goes through this process at some point," McMahon said. "We had a really good run with this core, winning at least two Cups and hopefully one more."

With an eye towards the future, the Senators are keeping close tabs on a slew of younger players.

One cornerstone for the future will be Elias Lindholm, who has blossomed in the NHL since a trade to Calgary in the offseason. Lindholm has 41 points in 39 games.

"He's broken out and become a key offensive player like we imagined he was when we drafted him," McMahon said.

A pleasant surprise has been the play of Max Lajoie in his rookie NHL season. Lajoie, a defenseman, has 13 points.

"We thought he would need some AHL seasoning but it appears that he will be able to step in and help our lineup right away next year, which is exciting."

Another player likely to make the jump is Brett Seney.

"He's a smaller prospect who, again, we thought would need some AHL seasoning, but it looks like he'll be ready," McMahon said. "He'll be in a bottom-six role, but he's played well and I think he'll be a good fit for us. We love his speed and compete level."

Frank Vatrano also looks back on track offensively with 10 goals in 36 NHL games this season.

"We think he's a 20-goal scorer," McMahon said. "He's still young, too. People forget about that. He's 24."

McMahon also likes the play of recent UFA signing Sheldon Dries.

"We've watched him since college and he's continued to develop," he said. "Like Seney, he'll be in a bottom-six role, but he'll contribute next year."

Between the pipes, McMahon loves the play of both Garret Sparks and Collin Delia.

"If one of them gets enough games, it might open us up to move Henrik Lundqvist," McMahon said. "Sparks has played well in a backup role and Delia has a chance to become Chicago's starter the rest of the year with Crawford hurt and he's outplaying Cam Ward.

"Don't forget Thatcher Demko, too. He's our goalie of the future. No question there."

Other younger players McMahon is excited about, but might be a year or two away from contributing, include Sheldon Rempal (24 points in 21 AHL games), Josh Wilkins (21 points in 16 NCAA games) and defenseman Frederic Allard (18 points in 30 AHL games). McMahon also said that prospect David Cotton (11 goals in 14 games) has looked good for Boston College this season.

"David is playing a top-line role," McMahon said. "Another thing about that bigger group is a few of those guys have been UFA signings. Delia, Rempal were both signings and not draft picks, which has been important for us. We need to hit on a few of those guys to make up for years we've dealt draft picks."

Another UFA signing, Mitch Reinke, is playing well in his first AHL season.