You can follow me on Twitter @ShackTS
The true off-season is almost here, with the lead-up to the draft marking when teams begin to ramp up their talks with players and other teams. With that in mind, I wanted to give my two cents as to what I would do if I were the GM of the Ottawa Senators. Armchair GM activities are always fun, and today I will be just focusing on the forwards for the team.
Here is what I would do:
Re-sign Colin White for either 3 or 6 years
White is coming off of his ELC and cemented himself as a full-time NHLer this past season. He is just 22 and I’m comfortable in saying that he is a 45+ point player who is solid defensively already. Signing him for 3 years would give them one more year of restricted free agency, so 4 or 5 years would be a bit pointless. If White is willing to sign for a small number in the $3M-$3.9M range for a 6-year deal, then I think it might be smart to do that just because we know that his floor is what he was this season.
But in the best case scenario, Ottawa gets a Kyle Turris 2.0 situation where he immediately becomes underpaid as his offensive production increases. I’d be fine with a contract for 3 years as well because he would be an RFA at the end, but 6 years on a cheaper deal would be ideal if at all possible. I don’t think he will be too expensive either way.
Re-sign Anthony Duclair for one year
Duclair has had an interesting career as he was looking like an up-and-coming top-six sniper in his first season in Arizona, but he has now been on five teams at the age of 24. He leaves something to be desired defensively, but he was good offensively in his brief stint in Ottawa with 14 points in 21 games, and there is no harm in seeing what he can do on a short contract. He at least has some upside unlike other free agents on the books, so I’m much more inclined to give him a chance in the top-six.
He is still an RFA and made just $650k last season, so he will not be expensive at all, plus I bet Ottawa would be able to sign him for just one season. I’m skeptical that he will be a long-term answer as a true weapon, but Ottawa has the room on the wing in the top-six to keep him around.
Trade for a cap dump
There are plenty of options out there, as GMs love spending way too much in free agency. It’s hard to know exactly what the Senators would be able to get in exchange for taking on a bad contract, and it’s almost pointless trying to guess. Players such as Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, James Neal, and Patrick Marleau are all options for the Senators. With most of these players having multiple years left on their deals, Ottawa should be able to at least get a 2nd round pick and/or a young depth piece, which would make it worth it.
Some of these longer deals are less attractive for Ottawa just because they want to be competitive in a few seasons and that cap hit will still affect them, so perhaps they will only focus on players whose contracts expire in the next two seasons. Then again, the return they get won’t be as good if that is their focus. They have tons of cap space in 2019-20 and will need to hit the cap floor, so there’s no reason for them to not “weaponize” that space.
Sign Jason Spezza
I’ve talked about signing Spezza at length already, and I feel like there is a very good chance that it happens. Would he be the best option to help their team get better? No, but there aren’t any top free agents that will be signing in Ottawa right now anyway, plus the larger implications of signing Spezza will be much more important. At the age of 36, he will probably only be giving the team around 25-30 points, but he can be used by DJ Smith to suit his needs.
He should only cost around $1M-$2.5M, which is nothing for a team that is hardly spending anything right now. More importantly, seeing him in a Senators uniform would be nice for fans, as they would get to know that a star player who left on seemingly bad terms was willing to come back because he loved the city and team so much. Spezza is easily a top-5 Senators player of all-time, and even though he would be a bottom-six player if he came back, I would love seeing him come home for his swan song.
Just for the PR, this would be a great signing.
Let the 3 UFAs walk
Brian Gibbons, Magnus Paajarvi, and Oscar Lindberg are all UFAs on July 1st, and there’s no need to bring any of them back for next season. They all played well down the stretch and showed some urgency due to their contracts expiring, but there’s no need to clog the roster up with older mediocre depth players. It’s not as if they are all useless, although they certainly have their flaws and Ottawa won’t exactly be missing anything by letting them walk.
There’s something to be said for not giving prospects a free spot on the roster, but there is still going to be tons of competition for making the team even if they don’t re-sign these three UFAs. If they let these players walk, the forwards could look something like this:
That’s without even including prospects such as Filip Chlapik, Logan Brown, Josh Norris, and Alex Formenton, so of course there is going to be lots of competition. There’s a chance that Ottawa doesn’t sign Spezza (or a different veteran), so maybe in that case it would be fine to bring back Oscar Lindberg. None of these three would cost very much, but I would much rather see a roster spot go to the plethora of forward prospects they have.
Look to trade Chris Tierney
I’m not sure if trading him is ultimately the best course of action, but I would at least take a look at seeing how the league values him. Ottawa has a lot of redundant forwards who fit the mould of a 2-3 centre such as Tierney, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Colin White, and even Logan Brown and Josh Norris might not quite be true 1C’s at their peak. It’s not as if moving Tierney should be imminent because the roster is still incredibly thin, but I think that eventually he will not really be needed.
Hopefully one of Brown/Norris will be able to take a spot in the top-six, plus White and Pageau can hold down two of the other spots, with someone else inevitably coming in as well. I just don’t see a long-term fit for Tierney and he is coming off his best season offensively (47 points), so it might be a good idea to see what they can get in return for him. Teams are always looking for 2nd/3rd line centres, so Ottawa could probably get a 2nd round pick and a young player in return---someone who fits their roster makeup a bit better.
I just don’t think Tierney is a 45-50 point player moving forward and he is not good defensively, so if they can trade him for something of quality before his value might drop, I’d say go for it.