Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Pool Outlook for Ottawa

Turbulent.  Tumultuous.  Terrible.  I think that would be the best way to sum up the Ottawa Senators' 2018 season, where they finished the year in 30th place in the overall standings.  If it wasn't a controversy about something, it was an injury to a key player or players, and consistency was right out the window for the Senators.

The cries of the fans were for change, because the team wasn't very good right now, but the cries of the fans were not going to make Erik Karlsson's injury troubles go away, it wasn't going to make their goaltending any sharper and it also wasn't going to make their forwards score more goals.  Sure, trading assets away could have been a viable option to go down for management, it would get the crying to stop... for a little while.  Still, the management team and ownership stood pat through to the end of the regular season and they'll approach the major hurdles as they come up now in the summer.  The market to move assets will improve, the draft will likely offer them a very good player right away and free agency will both clean up their roster and infuse some new life into it as well.

You know that the management team has swept up this season and rolled a carpet over top of it, looking to the future.  I think once we start looking forward, maybe things won't be so bad.

The Ottawa Senators were 25th in the league in goal scoring, meaning that six teams were not quite as proficient in putting pucks in the net, but they were also 30th in goals against and that combination isn't going to look good.  Mark Stone was the top hockey pool performer for the team, finishing with 20 goals and 62 points in only 58 games played, which takes us back to the injury concern the team had too.  Lower-body injuries really hampered his season, yet he still finished on top.

The Senators did have four more forwards among the top 200 this past season, making them pool worthy: Matt Duchene, Mike Hoffman, Ryan Dzingel and Bobby Ryan, all worthy of being taken and they most certainly were.  Erik Karlsson missed a lot of time as well this season, but he still finished 6th among all defensemen in scoring and only Thomas Chabot joined him as being a pool worthy option from the Ottawa blueline.  Craig Anderson, who had a pretty good run last year, didn't quite put up the numbers this season, finishing 23rd among all goalies with 23 wins and 50 points.

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

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.

Swing and a miss!  For this past season, at least.  When we were standing at the trade deadline, I still looked at their roster and said that they had all the right makings of a playoff team (and possibly even a contender), but there was a passion and a will that was missing from their play and it showed.  Losing Marc Methot to free agency didn't help their cause at all and once they started selling at the deadline, you knew that their regular season was done.  It's a shame that they couldn't replicate their 2017 season, rather they looked more to be on an emotional hangover.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

The Senators didn't really reveal the reason why Clarke MacArthur didn't play exactly, but it is believed that the concussion problems that MacArthur was suffering from for the better part of the last couple years, resurfaced in the off-season and they took their toll.  It was exciting to see him in the playoffs last year, but that may not have been the best idea in the end, I guess.

2019 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Bobby Ryan 7.250 Erik Karlsson 6.500 Craig Anderson 4.750
Matt Duchene 6.000 Mark Borowiecki 1.200 Mike Condon 2.400
Mike Hoffman 5.188 Thomas Chabot 0.863
Marian Gaborik 4.875 Christian Wolanin 0.925
Clarke MacArthur 4.650 Andreas Englund 0.776
Zack Smith 3.250 Ben Harpur 0.725
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 3.100 Erik Burgdoerfer 0.650
Alexandre Burrows 2.500
Ryan Dzingel 1.800
Tom Pyatt 1.100
Colin White 0.925
Logan Brown 0.894
Alex Formenton 0.784
Filip Chlapik 0.728
Max McCormick 0.650

Many of the pool worthy players are already signed on for next season, but this could be far from what we see as an opening night roster, especially with all the speculation around Karlsson's future in Ottawa.  Of course, there are some free agents that are missing from this list, but otherwise, the depth on defense could really need some attention and that's where their off-season should really start.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Top scorer Mark Stone and defenseman Cody Ceci lead the list of potential restricted free agents this summer and there will likely be a long, hard look at the team's plan, before they start throwing money around to free agents.

The 24-man roster above currently comes in at $62.5 million and the team will also add $1.75 million in retained salary, which saw Dion Phaneuf head to the Kings, but they would get LTIR benefits from MacArthur's inability to play.  Tack on a few more million for an increased salary cap ceiling and this team would have more than their current $15.4 million to play with today.

Lots of excitement over 2016 1st round draft pick Logan Brown, who had a cup of coffee with the team at the start of the 2018 season, but was sent back to junior for a little bit more seasoning.  The kid is enormous at 6'6" and had certainly put up the numbers in the junior ranks this year.  The youth movement in Ottawa will be at the forefront of their retooling/rebuild, however they decide to do it and Brown will be one of those kids that is expected to be an impact player before too long.

Needs at the 2018 Entry Draft
The Senators were one of the two teams that got bumped out of the top three selections at the Draft Lottery, which has to be a bit disappointing, but they still finished with the 4th overall pick and that, by my mock drafting so far, leaves them with the big Russian centre, Andrei Svechnikov.  Svechnikov is ranked in a number of spots as the number two guy, but if you've read the outlooks for both Carolina and Montreal, the fits were elsewhere, leaving Svechnikov to the Senators, who they should definitely draft.  Taking that best player available.  Size and skill are two things you can't teach and the Russian has them, not to mention the numbers.

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.
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