Welcome to the second part of my responses to your Mike’s Mailbag submissions. Let’s get to it:
Julien asks: What do you think a reasonable amount per year would be for Brady Tkachuk’s first RFA contract?
I think the Senators have to swing for the fences here, and give Tkachuk both dollars and term. Make the commitment. Signal that this rebuild is truly about setting up the Senators for future competitive hockey, as opposed to just saving a dollar or two in the short-term. There has been plenty written – both here and elsewhere – about Tkachuk and the monumental impact he has on this team’s results. Handing him something in the range of eight years and $7.5M per season seems more than appropriate.
David B asks: With the pandemic not potentially filling seats fully until the 2021-22 season, do you think fans need to get over hating Melnyk as an owner, and show up in the stands (when safe), or risk losing the team to Quebec City?
No, I think fans have every right to make their own decisions on this topic without having to fear much in the way of consequences. The National Hockey League should be smart enough to see that any attendance issues aren’t about the market itself. It seems doubtful to me that any move away from Canada’s capital region could be seriously contemplated by the NHL without first exploring other solutions.
Alex asks: Regardless of which one of Byfield/Stutzle the Sens get with #3, you would think that the biggest priority would be to stack the forwards with as much skill as possible. The D-men at the top of this draft are too similar, both stylistically and physically, to what we already have in the system. Who do you think goes #5? I’m inclined to swing for the fences in Raymond or Perfetti. What do you think the Senators will do?
My line of thinking is similar to yours, in that I think drafting another forward at five makes a lot of sense. Raymond is the name that I keep coming back to, but really I don’t have too much objection to most of the names ranked that highly. In terms of what I *think* the Senators will do? Something tells me that they’ll try to snag Drysdale if he’s still there. My completely baseless guess and speculation is rooted in my ability to easily picture Pierre Dorion talking about “balance” and “building at all positions” after the draft.
Gord_Wilson_2.0 asks: Did the NHL become more of a laughing stock of professional sports with the draft lottery and a “placeholder” team winning the lottery? People say it was the same as it has always been, but I don’t remember a pool of teams getting a chance to play for the Cup and having a consolation prize of winning the first overall pick with actually better odds of winning than lottery-eligible teams.
Yeah, I made my thoughts on this pretty clear when the result was announced. It’s comical in all the wrong ways. The NHL should send a thank you card over to MLB for coming up with a return to play scenario that’s more absurd than the NHL’s draft lottery result.
Pete asks: What does the future look like in the net? Do you see the team looking for a long-term answer this offseason?
There are still enough young names in the system to have me reasonably optimistic that there’s an internal solution somewhere. Goaltending is so up and down, that there’s really no point in committing to one name over others. The best goalie one year is rarely the best goalie the next. Spending money on impact forwards and defenders is a better way to go. So, what does the future look like in the net? I don’t think there needs to be a defined future in net. It’s not worth committing to a goalie.
Bradnar asks: Any sure-fire re-signings pre-COVID that you think won’t happen now? Boro? Duke? Curious if this pinches ownership’s wallet more.
All signs point to Boro’s time with the Senators as being all but over, which is not where I figured things would land when the season ended. I still expect other re-signings like Duclair and Brown to happen given that the team needs to hit the cap.
Jellybean asks: Ottawa might be one of the only teams able to offer real money in FA, but there’s talk of star FAs taking one-year contracts to stick it out. What’s your opinion on the likelihood Ottawa actually uses the open space as a position of strength? Is there anybody you think Ottawa should target in FA?
I’d be very surprised if the team went free agent hunting in any material way. With players like Connor Brown and Anthony Duclair needing new deals now, and Brady Tkachuk right on the horizon, the chaces that this organization spends money externally don’t feel all that great, especially given the pandemic situation. The silver lining here is that spending money in free agency probably isn’t the right thing for the Senators at this point in their competitive lifecycle. They are probably two or three years away from seeing their core prospects develop, which will provide a better idea of where holes sit in the roster. That’s when the opportunity to fill gaps with free agents makes sense.
Tony asks: Can you please explain why Marian Hossa was a first-ballot HHOF player? He was never the best player on his own team and he never won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. To me, he is like Mike Gardner, with good stats due to a long career.
Cups! But, in all seriousness, the degree to which team success plays a role in deciding individual honours like the Hockey Hall of Fame is infuriating. Hossa probably deserves to be in the HHOF, but it’s frustrating to see a name like Kevin Lowe get the call while some others sit on the sideline.
Ric asks: Is there an established young player that you would pick #5 for that would be into our rebuild?
Connor McDavid? Auston Matthews? Elias Pettersson? Realistic targets, though? No. Make the pick.
Stay tuned for the next installment early this week!