In the years after coming up a goal short of a Stanley Cup Finals birth in 2016, things have been rough for the Ottawa Senators. After this latest season, however, they won more games (33) than in a season after 2016-17. Even if the team is still a way out from being a postseason contender, that is something to feel good about. Especially with guys like Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzel, and Thomas Chabot all under 25 years old. That said, they have clear issues that need addressing going into next season. Additionally, they have the capital, money, and draft picks, to accomplish that.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 19.34 (20th)
Penalty Kill: 80.32 (13th)
Goals For: 227 (26th)
Goals Against: 226 (22nd)
By a healthy margin, this was Tkachuk’s best season since leaving Boston Univerity for Canada’s capital city. After not reaching either the 25-goal or 50-point plateau in his first three seasons, he easily eclipsed both in year four. The final numbers for the captain ended up as 30 goals and 37 assists for 67 points. Tkachuk also put up career highs on the penalty kill as well, racking up nine power-play goals and eight power-play assists. He has still yet to play a full season’s worth of games, but 70 was also a career-high as well. The numbers should be even better for Tkachuk next season as well.
Year two of the Matt Murray experience was not much better than the first. The former Pittsburgh Penguin was held to just 20 games due to injury, yet still had a GAA over three, a save percentage barely over .900, and had a career-low 12 quality starts (excluding his rookie year). Murray cant help the injury which isn’t his fault, but he also carries the fifth-highest goaltending salary in hockey. The only four getting more than his 6.25 million dollar AAV are John Gibson, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Carey Price.
Even if the Senators wanted to move Murray’s contract, he has a reported 10-team No Move Movement clause. Hard to imagine a contender would be willing to eat that contract, at least without getting assets along with it. Realistically, a buyout is the most likely scenario if they want to cut bait. In any event, goaltending is a huge issue for this Senators team.
Behind the Bench Analysis
No secret that D.J. Smith‘s third year with Ottawa started as bad as possible. They opened up 4-15-1 and gave up three or more goals in 15-of-20 in that span. Even worse was that Smith had to worry about a six-game stretch immediately after featuring the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning, and Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche. He led the Senators to wins in all four of those games, with a goal differential of plus-12, including an 8-0 rout of the Panthers. In total, Smith coached to a 29-27-6 record after that awful start. Keeping any group, especially a very young one, engaged after that is a testament to Smith.
Front Office Analysis
The Senators’ front office and General Manager Pierre Dorion had a productive year. They started by giving Tkachuk the bag, seven years and 57.5 million dollars to be exact. Moving down the road to the trade deadline, Dorion kept himself busy there as well. Ottawa sent off Nick Paul to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in 2024. In addition to Mathieu Joseph, who looked solid in 11 games with the Sens this year. Dorion also shipped off Josh Brown to the Boston Bruins, along with a seventh-rounder, for a 2022 fifth-rounder in return. All things considered, the sixth-year GM set up his club well for this year’s draft. Speaking of which.
2022 NHL Entry Draft Picks
In total, the Senators have 11 draft picks in this upcoming draft, five of which come in the opening three rounds. Their first selection is seventh overall, but should Dorian be looking to make a jump. The New Jersey Devils have reportedly shopped around the second overall pick, which may have some real value as we get closer to draft day.
That is because word of the Montreal Canadiens not picking Shane Wright is heating up. Bob McKenzie listed Slovakian Juraj Slafkovsky as his latest No. 1 overall prospect just days ago. He has also nailed the first overall draft pick in these pre-draft rankings dating back over a decade so this does hold some weight. Should Montreal pass up on Wright, would Dorian be willing to unload the war chest for a kid who just put up 94 points in the OHL this year? You would think so, but Montreal is in control of this whole situation.
Offseason Wish/Checklist for 2022-2023
The Senators are set to have just over 20 million dollars in cap space this year but have some restricted free agents to pay. Most notable of that group are Joseph, Joshua Norris, who had a monster season, and Alex Formenton. Victor Mete would have been on this list, but the Senators did not give him a qualifying offer, making the 24-year-old defenseman unrestricted.
As for who the Sens could go after, Claude Giroux has been thrown around by Sens fans but may want a better team to join. On the flip side, Ottawa can offer him a better longer-term contract than most teams. Hypothetically having him, along with Stutzle and Norris as your top three centers would be most intriguing. The goaltending market is solid enough for the Senators to sniff around. Jack Campbell jumps out right away, should he not sign a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs before he hits the open market. That however seems unlikely.
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