Free Agency is always an interesting time to see trades change the direction of their franchise in a matter of a couple of days. And for the Ottawa Senators none was more apparent than draft night.
The Senators were slated to select 7th overall in the draft but instead opted to make a major trade. They traded they’re 7th and 39th overall selections, as well as their 3rd round pick in 2024 to the Chicago Blackhawks for left wing Alex DeBrincat. This in general took a lot of people by surprise because of Chicago’s recent commitment to the start of a major rebuild. But they let go of their most valuable young asset and player by trading him to Ottawa.
With this move they added goal scoring that they have lacked for the past couple of seasons. Meanwhile, they also add another going piece to their core that matches their timeline.
Heading into free agency, they nabbed Claude Giroux on a three-year contract with an average annual value of 6.5 million dollars. A strong veteran addition to the team, Giroux has been a member of a ton of playoff teams in Philadelphia and more recently the Florida Panthers. He is a versatile, high-end, play-driving 1st line forward who plays at a high level at both ends of the ice and makes the players around him better. For an extremely young team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs since 2017, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Senators also made some moves to stitch up their goaltending. First they moved Matt Murray (with 25% salary retention), a 2022 3rd round pick, and a 2024 7th round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for future considerations. Then they flipped their backup goaltender Filip Gustavsson to the Minnesota Wild for Cam Talbot. Solidifying their goaltending tandem by instilling their trust in Anton Forsberg and adding veteran Cam Talbot to support. Meaning they’ll have a solid 1A and 1B in most of their games this season.
With young guns like Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stützle in the lineup, the Senators were a fun opponent for most fans to watch face their team. Now the organization put their foot down and went all in on trying to commit to their core and make them competitive soon.To add such massive pieces to their forward corps in DeBrincat and Giroux means the Senators have really kickstarted their decision to push for the playoffs. They added a major jolt to their offense which makes them more complete and competitive in a very top heavy Atlantic Division.
The Senators were very reliant on transition and rush offense last season. Which made them a very fun team to watch. But they struggled massively on the defensive end and still haven’t necessarily anything to help that in the short term. They still have Thomas Chabot and a wonderful prospect pool that features Jacob Bernard-Docker, Lassi Thomson, and Jake Sanderson.
With about eight million dollars still available in cap space and a plethora of draft and prospect capital to choose from, the Senators could still be looking to hunt for trades during the season. And depending on how they look in the first half of the season, they might be big game hunters at the trade deadline if they really feel confident enough to make a push for the playoffs.
If this Senators team is the one to make the playoffs this year, they would have to be hunting for a wildcard spot. With Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Florida being the shoe-in top three in the division, it would leave them and Boston to duke it out for that spot. Which I believe is certainly possible.
Boston hasn’t really added anyone this off-season as they are still trying to navigate signing Patrice Bergeron and David Krejčí, while also trying to give recent acquisition Pavel Zacha a new contract. Boston is in the twilight of their contention window. All of their core players are on the wrong side of 30. Bergeron is 37, Krejčí is 36, Brad Marchand is 34, Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyote are both 30. Outside of them, they only have one of their two young studs locked in long term. Charlie Coyle has an eight-year deal averaging 9.5 million dollars, while David Pastrňák has only one year left on his deal.
With all of this it only means that Boston is going to go for one final push with this group before they consider pressing the reset button on the franchise. Which now opens up a new window for the Senators.
Will the Senators be a playoff contender this season? I would say probably not this year at least. Will they be one in the seasons to come? Absolutely. As long as they continue to develop their young talent properly and add impact players to their defense, I can see the Senators making a comeback in the playoffs and the Atlantic Division.