Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pool Outlook for Ottawa

A year off where no Canadian clubs were in the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators found themselves being the last one standing in the Eastern Conference Finals, in what was a very good turnaround season in 2017.

The Senators were the closest team to the playoffs last year, so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that they clinched this season, after a very solid year, where their captain was remarkable again, their number one goalie played through some trying times at home and when he was away tending to his family matters, everyone else really stepped up and played well.

Ottawa wasn't the best Canadian club in the regular season, but with 44 wins on the year, they weren't too bad either, finishing 3rd among their fellow teams north of the border, but they were certainly better suited for the playoffs, lasting longer than Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, grinding their way to those Conference Finals.

In the playoffs, the Senators withstood challenges from the Boston Bruins in the opening round, defeating them in six games, six games as well against the New York Rangers, but then they got their backs up against the wall with the reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and they took them to seven games, losing out in double overtime only a few days ago.  It was certainly a disappointing result for the Senators, but it was a season and playoff run that they really could be proud of.

The Senators were just as popular as the Capitals, who were featured yesterday, at the draft, as they had 12 players taken, but no 1st round picks to speak of for their team.  Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson were both taken in the 2nd round, but then they were distributed well throughout the draft.  The Sens saw a couple more players picked up in the first player swap, but they saw an even trade of two drops and picks in the second swap.  The Senators acquired Alex Burrows at the trade deadline and they were one of the most popular teams by the end of the year, finishing with 15 players on active pool rosters.

Karlsson wasn't quite as dominant in the 2017 season as he was a year before, when he was the top defenseman in the league in scoring.  No, this year, he finished 3rd in the position, with 17 goals and 71 points in 77 games played, which was still good enough for tops among all Senators in the season.  Karlsson was taken 30th overall in the draft and came out as a slight bargain, finishing 28th overall, which is still darn good and I would expect he would be a 1st or 2nd round pick again this coming draft.

Were the Senators worth all of that attention they got this year?  Craig Anderson and Mike Condon were both worthy from the crease, while Dion Phaneuf, Chris Wideman and Cody Ceci all joined Karlsson on the blueline and up front, it was Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Derick Brassard, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Ryan Dzingel and Alex Burrows.  That only gives the Sens 11 pool worthy players, a team that the hockey pool slightly overshot, but not without taking a goon or two, so it wasn't all bad.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

It's hard to say what the new coaching regime is going to bring to this Senators team, which has a lot of the right pieces to go in the right direction in the 2017 season.  Having to guess today, I think the combination of Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford behind the bench will give an interesting dynamic about being responsible in their own zone and find new and exciting ways to break out of their zone and transition their game on the fly.  This team has the talent to make this possible, so I am leaning towards the Senators making a move for the playoffs next season, barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course.

It was hard to say what the new coaches would do, but given the roster they had at the time, it certainly did seem feasible that they would make the playoffs, which they did... and more!  Now, the team has to live up to some great expectations, management will have to help this team go further with some moves, but it looks as though the team is buying into the system, at the very least.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Mike Hoffman 5.188 Dion Phaneuf 7.000 Craig Anderson 4.200
Derick Brassard 5.000 Erik Karlsson 6.500
Kyle Turris 3.500 Cody Ceci 2.800
Mark Stone 3.500 Chris Wideman 0.800
Zack Smith 3.250
Alexandre Burrows 2.500
Bobby Ryan 7.250 Marc Methot 4.900 Andrew Hammond 1.350
Clarke MacArthur 4.650 Mark Borowiecki 1.100 Marcus Hogberg 0.835
Colin White 0.925 Thomas Chabot 0.894
Logan Brown 0.925 Andreas Englund 0.776
Filip Chlapik 0.759 Maxime Lajoie 0.730
Gabriel Gagne 0.743 Macoy Erkamps 0.655
Mike Blunden 0.738 Ben Harpur 0.653
Francis Perron 0.703 Fredrik Claesson 0.650
Nick Paul 0.670 Cody Donaghey 0.617
Chris DiDomenico 0.613
Vincent Dunn 0.611

The thought of the successes that the Senators have had in the 2017 season should still be fresh in the minds of many poolies, come draft time in September/October, so the guys in green will be prime targets for pool teams throughout the draft.  The Senators would probably like to see some of their bigger paid players to excel a little bit more, but they were certainly helpful when it came down to it in the playoffs.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

There is a rumour out there that the Senators are willing to grease the wheels, one way or another, for the Vegas Golden Knights to take Bobby Ryan off their hands, which is going to be a tough sell, especially for the cap hit and term that he has left on his deal.  It is a feasible rumour, so I would leave him exposed on my sheet, and I would likely be leaving Alex Burrows available given his age.  Marc Methot loses out to three defenders, including Dion Phaneuf, the only player with a no-move, and Andrew Hammond should be left dangling as well.  It will be interesting to see who the Senators actually lose, as it could go one of many ways.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

I am showing three pool worthy players ready to hit free agency this summer, two restricted and one unrestricted, which should make things fairly straight forward for Ottawa management.  Ryan Dzingel and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are the two RFA's in need of a deal, both have arbitration rights, which makes things tough, but not too hard, one wouldn't think.  Mike Condon, who helped the Sens in a time of goaltending need, is poised to be a UFA and the team's decision on him will have a real impact on the rest of the goaltending decisions moving forward.

Cap-wise, I am showing 11 players who are cap worthy, already signed on for the 2018 season, coming in at $44.2 million.  Bobby Ryan looks like a huge lump, Clarke MacArthur is healthy again and could figure back in and the Sens are paying for Marc Methot's defense, so he'll be an important piece moving forward.  Add those three players and the Sens are already up to $61 million against the undetermined ceiling.

Can the Sens pawn Ryan off on Vegas?  It would certainly help.

The Senators youth has a pretty good hype machine running it and there's a pretty good chance that there are going to be two young kids making waves for this club next season, including St. John Sea Dogs defenseman Thomas Chabot, who has been a big focus at this year's Memorial Cup, and forward Colin White, who came out of the NCAA system this spring to sign his entry-level deal and he'll make a push for an everyday job.  If you're looking for some late kids to pick up in the draft, these are two that look very promising for the coming year.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The Senators still have their 1st round pick in the entry draft this June and thanks to their trip to the Conference Finals, that pick has shifted down the line to 28th overall, where they are still going to be looking for some kind of top end talent to compliment their team down the line.  Speed was a big reason the Senators were as good as they were in these playoffs and that has to be the theme of their next top prospect, which leads me to a gamble for the team in Spokane Chiefs diminutive forward Kailer Yamamoto, who is said to be all kinds of quick and his scoring numbers are pretty darn good at the junior level.  With the Senators already possessing size at the forward level, even in their current prospects, adding a dash of pure skill & speed at a cost of size isn't a terrible idea.

This Senators team really showed how playoff-ready they are and it really starts on their blueline.  The drive and will of the captain, through the serviceable Phaneuf and the shut down prowess of Methot, it really did make Anderson's job much easier, no matter how well he was playing already.  Anderson is already 36 years old and his window is creeping down, so if the Sens are going to do it for him, they better act quickly.  I think the Senators are capable of some great things in the 2018 season, but they will need some more help, keeping their fingers crossed that the youth movement brings a big push, but they would also require a favourable set of match-ups in the playoffs, kind of what they had in these last few weeks.  They're a playoff team, for sure, and they have the core group to be more than that.
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