Upon signing unrestricted free agent forward Evgenii Dadonov Thursday, Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion said, “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.”
Dorion wasn’t wrong. A man of few words, Dadonov made his first Ottawa media appearance via Zoom Monday afternoon from his South Florida home.
After speaking to “six-seven teams” during the free-agent process, the 31-year old settled on inking a three-year, $15 million contract with a young Senators’ squad in which he saw a great fit.
Dadonov arrives in Ottawa fresh off a 25-goal, 47-point season with the Panthers. The right wing finished second on the club in goals to Mike Hoffman, and fourth in total points. A consistent goal-scorer, Dadonov has notched 81 over the past three seasons in Sunrise – and is one year removed from an NHL career-high 70-point campaign.
A native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Dadonov is the first UFA to sign at least a three-year or more contract with the Senators since defenseman Sergei Gonchar did so July 1, 2010.
During his call, Dadonov re-iterated time and again, he viewed signing with the Senators as a great opportunity.
“I spoke a lot with Ottawa. I don’t know, we just made a decision. I see a good opportunity for me. Pierre (Dorion) and (head coach) DJ (Smith) told me the plan for the team, the structure of the team. And actually I thought it would be a good opportunity for me. A lot of guys that I spoke to about this team told me they have a lot of young guns – their prospects are very good. We made a decision it’s going to be very good for me,” explained Dadonov.
The Panthers 2007 third-round selection feels comfortable in fitting into a mentor role with the team.
“They told me I will have a good role. There are not a lot veterans on the team. It’s kind of a step up for me as well. I’ll be one of the most experienced guys on the team. I’m ready for that,” Dadonov added.
Dubbed “Daddy” by former Panthers head coach Bob Boughner, Dadonov possesses some familiarity with several Senators. He played with another newcomer, defenseman Josh Brown the past two seasons in Florida. While Senators associate coach Jack Capuano served an identical role on Boughner’s staff from 2017-19.
Dadonov has played on IIHF World Championship teams with Artem Anisimov, Nikita Zaitsev and Artem Zub. And has spent previous off-seasons skating with Senators’ prospect Vitali Abramov.
The five-foot-eleven, 185-pound forward credited Anisimov on exalting the virtues of the Senators’ young roster as one reason sign with Ottawa.
Most of all, Dadonov just wants to assist a fledging squad to win games. And it doesn’t matter which teammates he lines up with – whether it’s Brady Tkachuk or Tim Stueztle.
“I want to help the win. I want to help the young guys, I want to play a lot of minutes – power play. I want it to be a playoff team. I hope I can bring a lot. Especially when I bring the attitude I have, work hard, just play hard, bring more skill. I’m going to try my best at everything,” Dadonov added.
“I think he’s (Tkachuk) a talented power forward. I spoke with the coach. He said (Josh) Norris played in the minors, scored a lot of goals, – he’s a really good player. I know Stuetzle. He’s supposed to be a very high-skilled player. I can play with anybody. I don’t want to say I want to play with this guy or that guy. It’s going to be the coach’s decision.”
One thing is for certain, Dadonov can’t wait to get started, “I’m really excited to play for this team. I hope this is going to be a success. I think we’re going to race for the Cup, the next few years,” – words Senators’ fans love to hear.