Offseason Outlook: Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators have been a franchise marked with failure over the past couple of years. From failed trades and missing out on the playoffs to disputes over a new arena, the Ottawa Senators have seen the worst of it. But there is a bright future right around the corner. 

How the Senators went so wrong

After an improbable run to the eastern conference final in 2016-2017 playoffs the Ottawa Senators team owner, Eugene Melnyk, and general manager, Pierre Dorion, decided to go all-in and compete for a Stanley Cup the next year. The Senators acquired a very skilled and fast centerman from the Colorado Avalanche by the name of Matt Duchene. The blockbuster trade was a three-team deal that involved the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, and the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa acquired the aforementioned Matt Duchene. The Senators gave up Andrew Hammond, prospect Shane Bowers, a conditional 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 third-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche. Ottawa also gave Kyle Turris to Nashville. Nashville in turn traded young defensemen Sam Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, and a second-round pick in 2018. 

Eugene Melynk and Pierre Dorian (holding Microphone) at press conference

From the Senator’s view, this trade looked like an absolute win. Acquiring a premier center and instantly slotting him into a contending team, the Senators were ready to contend and push for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, Eugene Melnyk and Pierre Dorion’s vision of Stanley cup glory did not come to fruition. The trade failed miserably and completely blew up in the Senator’s face. The Senators landed the fourth overall pick during the 2018 Draft where they decided to pick Brady Tkachuk.

Total Rebuild

Later in the offseason, the Senators officially started the overhaul of the team and decided to get younger. This significant trade sent Captain Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks for Dylan Demelo, Chris Tierney, Rudolf Balcers, Josh Norris, a first-round pick, and two second-round picks. Going into the season no longer having a franchise player or a captain the Senator’s expectations were very low. 

Sharks Re-Sign Defenseman Erik Karlsson
Karlsson with his new team the San Jose Sharks

The sell-off continues

The Senators as expected had a very poor season so at the trade deadline in 2019 the Senators decided to continue the team overhaul by making three significant moves. First, the Senators traded Matt Duchene and Julius Bergman to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In return, they acquired prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson. Also in the trade, the Senators acquired a first-round pick from the Blue Jackets. The second significant trade involved the Blue Jackets again.

The senators sent Ryan Dzingal and a seventh-round pick to the Blue Jackets. In return, the Senators acquired Anothony Duclair and two second-round picks. The Senators continued their trading frenzy by trading prolific goal scorer Mark Stone and Tobias Lindberg to the Vegas Golden Knights. In return, the Senators got a highly touted prospect, Erik Brannstrom, a second-round pick, and Oscar Lindberg. The Senators limped into the 2019 offseason after finishing the 2018-2019 season with a record of 29-47-6. 

Duchene, Stone, Dzingel sit vs. NJ - TSN.ca
The three major players the Senators moved at the trade deadline during 2018-19 season

In the offseason, the Senators continued their offloading of talent by trading players such as Cody Ceci and Zack Smith. The Senators continued to add draft picks and prospects throughout the 2019 offseason and into 2019-2020 where they traded Jean- Gabriel Pageau for multiple high picks from the Islanders. With lots of cap space opened up by all the trades and having seven draft picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft the Senators are primed for the future. 

Pageau Makes Impact in Isles Debut
Former Senator, Jan Gabriel Pageu skates with his new team the New York Islanders

Currently, the Senators have been eliminated from the NHL’s new playoff bracket. Due to the senators not being allowed to participate in the playoffs they can make trades with the other eliminated teams and we can look into what they need to fix to be competitive next season. 

Bright Future Ahead

For starters, the Senators have acquired lots of young exciting talent that must be in the lineup next season. Young players such as Erik Brannstrom, Josh Norris, and Logan Brown must be in the lineup on opening night for the Senators to get them comfortable playing on the big stage because the rebuild relies on them. Now let’s focus on where the Senators need help fixing.

Ottawa finished 22nd in the league in goals for. To fix this the Senators must not re-sign players such as Mikkel Boedker and Mathew Peca. Boedker and Peca are not offensively skilled at this point in their careers and Ottawa should avoid signing players similar to Peca and Boedker because they do not provide much offense. The Senators should resign Anothony Duclair, Chris Tierney, and Connor Brown to appropriate deals. These deals should be a raise and they all should be making about four million dollars. Also, the Senators must incorporate the Dudley Garrett memorial award winner, Josh Norris, into the line-up. Norris was voted the most outstanding rookie in the AHL after scoring 31 goals and getting 30 assists in 56 games with the Belleville Senators.

Norris Leads Belleville to Three Point Weekend - Silver Seven
Josh Norris celebrates while playing for the Belleville Senators

Free Agency

Moving onto the free agency market, the Senators should bring some depth scorers to help add some offense. Players the Senators should bring in include Jimmy Vesey, Erik Haula, and Jesper Fast. These players all have the speed and quickness that coach, D.J. Smith, wants to play with. These players have the ability to create offense for themselves and others. With their abilities, they will be able to create chances for players such as Brady Tkachuk, Anthony Duclair, and Colin White to try and capitalize on. 

Another move the Senators should look into to provide more scoring is a potential Jesse Puljujarvi trade. After Puljujarvi couldn’t come to a contract agreement with the Edmonton Oilers he went over to Europe and had a fantastic season playing for Oulun Kärpät. Puljujarvi showed he still had the scoring touch the Senators desperately need. The Oilers should not ask for too much since Puljujarvi isn’t on a contract currently. If the Senators can convince Puljujarvi to come back and play for them then it will help the offensive depth a lot. 

Jesse Puljujarvi skates for the Edmonton Oilers in a game against the Flyers

Defensive Help

The second area where the Senators need to improve on is the defense. The Senators gave up the third most shots a game during the 2019-2020 season. The Senator’s defense is led by the young and very talented Thomas Chabot. Chabot is surrounded by players that are alright defensively but just cannot keep up with faster players in the league. 

Senators' Thomas Chabot already thriving in expanded role ...
Chabot playing for the Senators in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs

To fix this they should make Erik Brannstrom an everyday defenseman. Brannstrom is a highly-touted prospect that was acquired from the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the Mark Stone deal. He definitely would make a positive impact on the back end for the Senators. 

Looking at the unrestricted free agent market there aren’t a lot of defensive-minded players that would be looking to go to Ottawa but a few guys the Sens should try to sign are Ben Hutton and Trevor Van Riemsdyk. Van Riemsdyk and Hutton will not provide much on offense as both did not reach 15 points in the shortened season. Although Van Riemsdyk and Hutton will not help offensively they will be an upgrade on the defensive side thus making them a must sign. 

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Trevor Van Riemsdyk playing for the Carolina Hurricanes

Goalies

The last thing the Senators need to fix is goaltending. The Senators gave up 3.35 goals a game in the shortened season. The goaltending trio of Craig Anderson, Anders Nilson, and Marcus Hogberg clearly did not work. As Anderson continues to age his game keeps declining. Letting Anderson go is a must. Hogberg is 25 years old and had a .904 save percentage and a 3.12 Goals against average in 24 games. Showing some promise during the shortened season, Hogberg has earned a chance to be on the NHL roster next season. Anders Nilson battled injuries during the season but when healthy Nilson can put up solid numbers. Nilson’s numbers are very similar to Hogbergs numbers but Nilson is 30 years old.

If the Senators are comfortable playing with three goalies then they should sign Thomas Griess. Griess, 31, will most likely ask for a raise after his very solid season with Islanders where he had a .913 save percentage with 2.74 goals-against average. If Sens sign Griess then he will be the Starter playing about 40 games and Hogberg and Nilson will split the remaining 42 games.    

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Thomas Griess making a glove save for the Islanders against the Pittsburgh Penguins

Looking back the Ottawa Senators made some bad decisions that made them bottom dwellers in the league. With a few small, but beneficial, moves and quality draft picks, the Ottawa Senators could be competitive very soon, and maybe even be in Stanley cup contention. 

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Clancy Golden
Clancy Golden is one of the biggest hockey fans in the world. He loves writing and watching the beautiful sport of hockey.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for this very detailed and in-depth run down of the Ottawa Senators’ rebuilding efforts. Hopefully you’re right about them being competitive once again sooner than later, I agree that they made right decisions when it comes to free agency moves and draft picks that I read about here. Can’t wait to see the energy that the young guns would bring to the team coming out of the draft.

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