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Reaching the Floor: The Sens Don't Need a Bad Contract

June 26, 2019, 2:17 AM ET [1 Comments]
Trevor Shackles
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
You can follow me on Twitter @ShackTS

Over the weekend it was announced that the cap floor for 2019-20 will be set at $60.2M:

The cap ceiling doesn’t even matter for Ottawa because they obviously won’t even come close to that. I wanted to take a look at how the Senators contracts look heading into the summer in order to see how much money they need to add to the books in order to be cap compliant.

As of now, here is what their contracts look like:

Now, that is not totally accurate because it does not include Christian Wolanin (who is an RFA), Erik Brannstrom, Rudolfs Balcers, and a few other prospects such as Alex Formenton, Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, and Drake Batherson who could be on the roster. Without these aforementioned players on the roster, CapFriendly has the Senators spending $48.485M on 16 players, meaning they need to spend $11.715M in order to reach the cap floor. It’s not quite that simple though, as players will not only be re-signed, but others will be moved around, so let’s go through what is a realistic scenario regarding their financials.

I used CapFriendly’s Armchair GM feature and made several moves that I think Ottawa will make. For starters, I re-signed Cody Ceci to a 5-year deal worth $5.25M, which I could easily see happening (not that it would be a smart move). Next, I re-signed Colin White for 3 years at $3M per year, as Ottawa usually does quite well value-wise on RFAs coming off of their ELCs. I also re-signed Christian Wolanin for 2 years at $1M per season, as he doesn’t have much leverage at this point. Mike Condon’s contract was bought out ($400,000 cap hit) because I feel like they will have to do that.

I also called up Erik Brannstrom, Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, and Rudolfs Balcers as all of those players could realistically make the team. With too many defensemen on the roster, I moved Ben Harpur’s contract, freeing up a bit more space on the books. Harpur’s name has come up in trade discussions, so I can definitely see that happening. In the end, this is what the roster looks like:

In terms of financials, it doesn’t really matter specifically which prospects make it (Brown, Batherson, and Formenton) because all of them will be making about the same amount of money. The lines also don’t matter at all, although they look realistic. This roster has a cap hit of $58,979,999, meaning they are just over $1.2M below the cap floor. Things will be different if Ceci actually does get traded, as in that case they will have to find a way to add another contract. But you can be sure that Dorion would want to get a contract coming back in a trade (just like the Mikkel Boedker trade), so losing that cap hit might not be as big of a deal.

I really don’t see how getting to the cap floor will be an issue at least in 2019-20. All they need to do is sign one veteran free agent to a contract over $1.2M and they will be fine. They haven’t shut the door on Oscar Lindberg and/or Brian Gibbons returning, and Lindberg was already making $1.7M last season, so a similar deal would easily put them in the clear. There’s a chance that not all of what I outlined comes to fruition, and perhaps they end up needing to spend a bit more to get to the floor. But even in that instance, they might just need to bring back Lindberg and perhaps another veteran free agent who is a tad more expensive. The only way where they might be in a bit of “trouble” is if Ceci is moved and no contracts come back the other way---in that case, trading for a bad contract would make more sense.

Could they weaponize their cap space by taking on a bad contract just like the Hurricanes did with Patrick Marleau? Of course, but there is absolutely no need to if they stay the course. And if there’s no need to spend money, you know that Eugene Melnyk won’t be signing off on that. It would be incredibly smart to get free assets by helping out teams with their bad contracts, but I can’t envision that happening after seeing how easy it is for them to reach the floor this season.

2020-21 is a different story, as the only skaters who are signed are Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith, Brady Tkachuk, and Anders Nilsson. They could potentially have Mikkel Boedker, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Craig Anderson, Anthony Duclair, Mark Borowiecki, Clarke MacArthur, and Dylan DeMelo coming off the books, although Pageau, Duclair, Borowiecki, and DeMelo could easily be staying. Thomas Chabot’s next contract in 2020-21 will be huge, so that will make up for those expiring contracts, but they could still be well under the floor in a years time. So perhaps for that season, they will look at trading for a bad contract in order to get another asset.

But in the meantime, don’t get your hopes up about taking on David Clarkson’s contract and receiving a 2nd round pick or something of that ilk. It’s not impossible, but I’m prepared to be disappointed.
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