Without trying to focus on the off-ice troubles too much, the Ottawa Senators are not in the worst situation on the ice, but it just looked really bad at the end of the year and that's where the focus usually is... "what have you done for me lately?"
What the Senators management has done in the last season and a bit is acquire a number of key assets, young players and they have been busy working out other deals, to try and turn this ship around in the time frame that ownership is looking for, being competitive in the next three or four years. That isn't going to do them a fat lot of good with the impatience of a Canadian market, but they are following the lead of a couple of other teams that has been able to maintain the course and start to see results. The trick will be to not let the market push them around.
Yes, the 2019 season was not good, finishing last overall in the NHL is never ideal, especially when there is a lottery to decide the fate of the first three picks in the entry draft. But the Senators don't have to worry about that this year, since they dealt their pick to Colorado in the deal that brought Matt Duchene to town for his limited stay.
I think it's all fair to say that those of us who are familiar with the World Juniors or just the junior system in Canada saw Thomas Chabot coming from a mile away. Now whether or not we all saw him to the point where he would be leading the Senators in his sophomore season, that's another story altogether. Yes, Chabot was the top Senators scorer in the hockey pool this season, finishing with 14 goals and 55 points in 70 games this season and that had him ranked 10th among all defensemen in scoring. It would have been good to see what he would have done with a full 82-game slate, but I think there's plenty of time to see what will happen there. The Senators are certainly in good hands in the post-Karlsson era.
In total, the Senators had 11 players who were deemed pool worthy in the 2019 season, which isn't a terrible number, considering they dealt away a number of worthy players at the deadline and still finished in the double-digits. Up front, Chris Tierney, Brady Tkachuk, Bobby Ryan, Colin White, Mikkel Boedker and Anthony Duclair all finished among the top 200 forwards in scoring, two of which were rookies this season (Tkachuk and White). Joining Chabot on the blueline for worthiness, Cody Ceci and Dylan Demelo, both finishing in the top 100 of blueliners this year. Finally, in net, the team didn't fare too badly with either Craig Anderson or Anders Nilsson, Anderson was 31st and Nilsson was 45th among goalies this season, which gives them upside, despite the turmoil.
What I Said Last Year, At This Time...
Around this past trade deadline, with the rumours of Erik Karlsson getting traded away, I was saying that the Senators were not that bad of a team on paper and luck just wasn't going their way in the season. I still stand by that today and if you look at this team on paper, once you add Stone and Ceci back into the mix, the Senators have plenty to compete with and they should be better than they are. Still, it's about recent results and that may be what sets this team off on a different course, one that likely won't bring positive results. If this team stays the course, looks to re-sign Karlsson to an extension, gets Stone and Ceci under decent deals, adds some youth... I like their chances at a return to the playoffs. Otherwise, all hell will break loose and heads will roll.
Fire and brimstone rained down upon the City of Ottawa this past hockey season and hell broke loose. They managed to trade Erik Karlsson away, but the return was only mildly effective. The Senators managed to re-sign Mark Stone for this past season, but it wasn't going to go further than that and he was dealt to Vegas in a rebuilding deal. Cody Ceci is still kicking around and could still be a part of the solution, but he'll need a new deal again and that could be a tough slog. Nevertheless, their season was horrible and the full rebuild is on.
How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?
Well, picking Thomas Chabot at the beginning of the season to be the breakout guy was obviously the right move and he helped one team in the hockey pool to a money spot at the end of the year. Chabot is going to be leaned on quite heavily, while a couple of the team's young players comes around and matures into regular everyday defensemen.
2020 Pool Outlook
|Bobby Ryan||7.250||Mark Borowiecki||1.200||Craig Anderson||4.750|
|Marian Gaborik||4.875||Dylan Demelo||0.900||Mike Condon||2.400|
|Clarke MacArthur||4.650||Erik Brannstrom||0.894|
|Mikkel Boedker||4.000||Thomas Chabot||0.863|
|Zack Smith||3.250||Christian Jaros||0.755|
|Jean-Gabriel Pageau||3.100||Ben Harpur||0.725|
|Chris Tierney||2.938||Maxime Lajoie||0.710|
I don't think there is enough here for next season to be much better, as a team, but as a bunch of individuals putting numbers up on the board and being pool worthy, there'still some promise there. Of course, they'll need to tackle free agency efficiently to get some of those worthy players that are missing back on this list, but it's certainly coming. You might be able to find some bargain pool picks here next season, if you're paying attention.
Free Agency and the Salary Cap
First things first... the Senators will have to spend some money this summer, if they want to get over the salary cap floor, since they don't have a whole lot up in the table up there to get them there, except for the two players in red, who are injured and will have to count against the cap to help them out next season.
Restricted free agency will be the key for the Senators and they will need some of these guys to buy in, like Colin White, Anthony Duclair and/or Cody Ceci. These three are the key RFA's this summer and all of which seemingly have good roles with the team, that includes some ice-time.
At the unrestricted level, goaltender Anders Nilsson is the only one that will really get a long look and I would imagine that he earned himself a new deal with the Sens, given his results since joining the team at the deadline from Vancouver.
The Ottawa Senators rebuild got off to a rocking start and I don't think there is much denying that, despite the nonsense that has gone on with the rest of their club. If you can look beyond the dumpster fire and the circus, the Sens will have some players to watch next season. Forwards Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson should get some long looks at camp and defenseman Erik Brannstrom finished this season on the shelf with an injury, but his smooth skating will earn him a roster spot, undoubtedly, right out of the gate. These three might need a little experience to fine tune their games, but it's coming.
Needs at the 2019 Entry Draft
It's the bane of the Ottawa fan base this summer, that the Senators don't have their 1st round pick this year. The Colorado Avalanche have their logo attached to their pick this season, but on the plus side, the Senators lost the lottery and fell down to the 4th overall selection, meaning the Avalanche won't be getting one of the top prospects in the draft, but they'll still be getting a pretty good player, in theory. The Avalanche have lots in the pipe, so the best player available sounds very reasonable for them, possibly someone with some versatility like Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who is listed as a centre and a winger. Can't have too many versatile players.
The Senators do have a 1st round pick, Columbus' from the Duchene deal at the deadline, but we won't have a pick for them until we know where exactly they will select.
With everything being said, the Senators haven't exactly forecasted themselves for greater things in the 2020 season, but there is certainly some potential for some exciting hockey to come out of Ottawa next season. Now, translating exciting hockey into competitive hockey is one thing, but this team got through a lot of drama in 2019 and that may see a dip in drama for next season, which may allow for a lot of these kids to play and play well. I don't see this team being mature enough to clinch any sort of playoff spot, but they will certainly make some noise next year and maybe, just maybe, their rebuild will reflect what the ownership suggested at the beginning of this past season.