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Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators are going to be a force to be reckoned with as long as upper management can get out of their own way. Photo: Candice Ward – USA Today Sports

NHL 2022 Off-Season Guide: The Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators are going to be a force to be reckoned with as long as upper management can get out of their own way. Photo: Candice Ward – USA Today Sports

NHL 2022 Off-Season Guide: The Ottawa Senators

Hot Take… the Ottawa Senators are going to be good real soon. I don’t know if it’ll necessarily be this upcoming season, but very soon I believe the Senators will be a playoff team. The main pieces are there in the form of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, and Thomas Chabot. Support pieces like Drake Batherson and Erik Brannstrom will also play a part. Now they just need Pierre Dorion to get out of the way, stop making daft Draft picks, and let this team shine.

The Roster

It’s coming together for the Ottawa Senators. With Tkachuk and Stützle they have the one-two punch for the present and future. Add to that one of the best young defensemen in the game in Chabot and the feeling in Ottawa has to be one of optimism. Their time is coming and it’s just about surrounding these top-end players with the right supporting cast to push on into the playoffs. Now for the bad news.

I’m extremely high on the Senators when it comes to the talent they have, however, I have no trust in Dorion at all to get this right. I foresee continued pain in the Senators’ future until that is changed and hope for the sake of their fans that it doesn’t end up with star players exiting the franchise ala Erik Karlsson.

Team Needs

What do Tkachuk, Stützle, Batherson, and Chabot all have in common!?! They are all 25 years old or younger. They also have zero NHL playoff experience. Surrounding them with the likes of Nick Holden and Travis Hamonic provides some post-season experience but neither have a Stanley Cup to their name. Bar goaltender Matt Murray I couldn’t find another player on the Ottawa Senators who had even made the Stanley Cup Final. That can be addressed this off-season with depth UFA’s.

Speaking of goaltenders, a decision needs to be made about the future of that position. A brief look at the roster would render the above Murray as a starter with Anton Forsberg as a backup. However, Murray showed this season that staying healthy is a massive issue and Forsberg is a backup at best. Filip Gustavsson got game time this season but also failed to grasp the brass ring. If the Senators are looking at pushing for a playoff place starting next season this will need to be rectified during the summer.

Cap Situation

With over $24 million in cap space, the Ottawa Senators have a chance to re-sign their UFA’s, qualify their RFA’s, and still have a decent chunk of change to make a splash in the Free Agent market. Stützle will get paid next season, but considering what you have coming off the books then, that is very much next year’s problem. Because of that, I am expecting the Senators to be very active this off-season.

Rickard Rakell, Andrew Copp, and Ian Cole all come to mind as UFA’s, although the most intriguing one given his circumstances in Dallas would be John Klingberg. This would give you the partner Chabot has been crying out for along with deepening your defensive depth by pushing everyone else down one. Given his playoff performances, bar that horrific game against the Edmonton Oilers, Josh Manson of the Colorado Avalanche could be another interesting option.

The Draft

As long as whomever in the scouting department thought drafting Tyler Boucher at tenth overall last year is no longer with the company, the Ottawa Senators should be fine. They have 11 picks throughout the seven rounds to play with including three in the fifth. They also have the seventh overall pick and absolutely can not whiff on it this go-round. Forget team fit and just take the best player remaining on the board. The worst-case scenario is you trade the draftee for a win-now player two years down the road as you comfortably make the playoffs. In best case scenario you get a Seamus Casey (who I like and not just because of his Irish name) or Matthew Savoie to add to your already stacked young team.

As for the ten others… it’s all about depth. You have your top line of Tkachuk, Batherson, and Stützle for now and years to come. You even have a start on a decent second line with Colin White, if he can stay healthy, and Connor Brown. What you don’t have is a number 2 to Thomas Chabot. Even with only 59 games played, Chabot’s average time on ice was over five minutes more than any player on the ice, not a goaltender. Brannstrom might be the interior answer with a 53.4%CF through 53 games, but he was also heavily sheltered with 61.8%oZS. For that reason, I could see the Ottawa Senators being defense-heavy in this draft.

Conclusion

It all won’t matter though if Dorian gets it as bad as he did last year. The ownership question after the passing of Eugene Melnyk could have a huge impact on that, with his daughters currently in control of the franchise. Should they sell, Dorion may be very much on the hot seat. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for the Ottawa Senators.

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