Early Thursday afternoon, Senators’ media were gathering around their devices viewing a Zoom call with Nick Paul.
Previously waived on three occasions, including out of training camp last season, Paul turned a solid 2019-20 campaign into a two-year, $2.7 million contract Wednesday. This is Paul’s first multi-year deal since completing his entry-level contract at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season.
The contract calls for a salary of $1,2M in Year One, $1.5M in Year Two – a tall raise over his $750,000 from last season. Paul, a proud owner of a new home in Ottawa along with his girlfriend who’s studying for her Master’s Degree while performing an internship at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, had previously filed for arbitration.
The six-foot-four, 230-pound forward added nine goals, 11 assists in 56 games while averaging 14:27 time-on-ice per game -all career highs.
Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith said February 13 after Paul netted the game-winning goal versus the Coyotes, “He’s playing every game to stay in the league. Those are guys you want on your team.”
The fifth-year pro admitted in a radio interview last October, he was his toughest critic and learned to be easier on himself by taking up meditation.
“It’s definitely a mental battle. Especially, the more times you’re sent down, your chances limit. My first couple of years, I was really tough on myself. I was my worst critic. I went through a meditation process where I started meditating and letting everything go,” Paul told TSN1200 at the time.
The 2015 Canada World Junior gold medalist is certainly looking forward to next season.
“It’s looking exciting. We’ve got some guys, prospects that have come in that have a lot of skill. It’s going to be really fun to watch them play, but at the same time, we’re going to be a team that hits hard – hard to play against. You’re going to come to the rink being, “Oh man, we’re playing the Sens again,” Paul told Full Press NHL. “We’re going to come in full speed. We showed it last season how hard we’re going to work. Adding some size and some grit, I think it’s going to be a really good combo.”
Not to mention, Paul can’t wait to don his new colours.
“It’s fun, it’s exciting. We’ve got new jerseys that look really nice. You know you look good, you play good.
But Thursday’s Senators’ news cycle didn’t end with Paul’s media availability. A mere 45 minutes after it’s conclusion, an email popped into our inboxes.
The club announced the surprise signing of unrestricted free agent Evgenii Dadonov to a three-year, $15M contract.
The breakdown of the deal is as follows: Dadonov will earn $3.5M in 2020-21, $5M in 2021-22, $6.5M in 2022-23. The contract also includes a 10-team no-trade clause.
The 31-year old was arguably the best forward remaining on the free agent market. The former Florida Panther tallied 25 goals, 22 assists last season, and currently has three consecutive campaigns scoring 25 or more goals. Dadonov compiled 70 and 65 points respectively in two prior seasons.
The left shot playing on the right wing fills a dire requirement for that position while adding a power play presence. The Chelyabinsk, Russia native tied for the Panthers’ lead in power play markers with 11 while notching an NHL career-high of 17 PP points.
Dadonov will likely join restricted free agent Connor Brown and Drake Batherson on the right side up front with Rudolfs Balcers or Austin Watson, if he doesn’t line up at left wing, battling for the final right wing spot.
“We’re excited to have signed him. He’s definitely someone we targeted when free agency started. For us, he’s someone who brings great offensive baggage to the table. He’s someone who scores legit goals. He can really shoot it. He’s smart offensively. For us, he’s someone who competes offensively to score goals,” Senators’ General Manager Pierre Dorion added via a late afternoon Zoom call Thursday.
“He’s not a vocal guy, but he practices hard. He leads by example. Not everyone of your leaders will be someone who is vocal, but we like his leadership qualities within him. He might not be the loudest person, but he’s definitely someone who will lead by example with group of players.”
Dadonov arrives in Ottawa with some familiarity to several members of the organization. Senators associate coach Jack Capuano spent two seasons behind the Panthers bench as an assistant. Newly-acquired defenseman Josh Brown has played 95 games with Dadonov as a teammate in Florida. While current Senators’ Artem Anisimov, Nikita Zaitsev, and Artem Zub have played various IIHF World Championships along-side Dadonov.
In recent years, Ottawa hasn’t been an attraction for the league’s top free agents, but Dadonov saw the value in coming to a team loaded with up-and-coming prospects and established youngsters such as Drake Batherson, Tim Stueztle, Thomas Chabot, and Brady Tkachuk.
Dorion summed it up to Full Press NHL, “I think it says a lot about where we’re going as a hockey team. When you can add a player of the calibre of Evegenii Dadonov to your team, I think it shows in talking with him, he knows the players in the league. We’ve had two conversations with him, D.J. and I. He knows we’re a team on the up. He wants to be part of it. I think it says a lot about the organization, being able to attract a player of that magnitude to come to Ottawa.”
Follow Murray Pam on Twitter @pammerhockey