Erik Cernak, Matt Dumba, Josh Manson were among many “righties” that may be available in the next month leading up to the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft July 21 mentioned in this space recently.
Up front names such as Sabres Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and most recently Flames Matthew Tkachuk are said to be in play. However, acquisitions of this ilk means dealing from your own core. In the case of an Eichel or Tkachuk, expect to give a minimum of a first-round selection along with a top-level prospect and an established player.
While adding Brady’s brother would be fun for Senators’ fans, realistically giving up the 10th overall selection plus a Drake Batherson or Tim Stützle just isn’t in the cards.
Before perusing forwards that may peek the Senators interest, here’s a current view of the club’s depth chart:
Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson
Tim Stützle – Shane Pinto – Connor Brown
Nick Paul – Colin White – Evgenii Dadonov
Alex Formenton- Chris Tierney – Austin Watson
Not included are LW Ryan Dzingel who’s a pending UFA, C Logan Brown, C Ridley Greig, C/RW Parker Kelly, RW Egor Sokolov.
At first, glance, does the team truly require another top-six centre, and where’s the actual fit? To be clear, Norris is coming off a season in which he tied for second among NHL rookies in goals (17), and finished third in points (35). The 22-year old goes hand-in-hand with Tkachuk. Norris likely won’t be supplanted.
There’s potential to add a centre to the Senators’ second line, shifting Pinto down a slot. Skating on the third line would give Pinto favourable matchups, especially when playing at home with the last change. The Senators’ 2019 32nd overall selection certainly didn’t look out of place in his 12-game stint at season’s end. Pinto played in all situations, compiling one goal, six assists.
If Pinto theoretically shifts down, the possibility of shifting White to the right side becomes an option.
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This is what makes the Senators’ offseason so intriguing. Dorion has the unenviable task of attempting to give his team an opportunity to challenge for their first playoff berth since 2017. But each move made creates a domino effect if you will.
There are also more questions such as these; where does Dadonov fit? What happens to Tierney? Is he claimed by the Kraken? Also the annual; is this the year Logan Brown cracks the roster?
If the Senators are to acquire a top-six centre, it’ll likely be via the trade market. It doesn’t behoove Dorion to seek out a UFA C due to Greig being at most, one season away from landing a roster spot, if not sooner. Norris, Pinto, Paul or White, Greig or even Logan Brown as it stands are the club’s potential pivots for the 2022-23 campaign.
However, if the Dorion elects to go down the free-agent path, a pair of centres that garner a look are Mikael Granlund and Alexander Wennberg.
Granlund finished the season with a solid playoff for the Predators – notching two goals, three assists in six games. The 29-year old’s compiled 27 points in 51 regular-season games. The Finn’s stay in Nashville wasn’t riveting, but he did score 30 goals over his last 114 games. Granlund does have seasons of 69, 67 and 54 points on his docket.
After being bought out by the Blue Jackets, Wennberg reached a career-high 17 goals with the Panthers. His 20.7 % shooting percentage was fourth league-wide for any player scoring 15 goals or more. The 26-year old also possessed a 52% even-strength Corsi mark.
There are several centres that may be trade targets. A handful with contracts expiring at next season’s conclusion include:
Tomas Hertl – San Jose
Hertl is heading into the final season of his four-year deal which pays $5.5M actual salary – $2M bonus included. The Prague native has posted 153 points over his past 175 games. Acquiring Hertl from the Sharks wouldn’t be easy. A sign and trade would start with the Senators’ 10th overall selection.
Nazem Kadri – Colorado
It’ll be interesting if Kadri returns to the Avalanche. His eight-game suspension was a key factor in his club being upended by the Golden Knights from the playoffs. The 30-year old does have history with Senators head coach D.J. Smith while with the Maple Leafs. His pesky style is certainly a facet the team can utilize.
Vincent Trocheck – Carolina
Per Cap Friendly, Hurricanes have only eight forwards, four defensemen, and one goalie signed to contracts next season. Forwards Warren Foegele and Andrei Svechnikov are pending RFA’s. And we all aware of Dougie Hamilton’s potential UFA situation. That being said, will Trocheck be on the trade block? One caveat, the Pittsburgh resident’s contract calls for an actual salary of $6.25M next season.
Two players with contracts beyond 2021-22 are the Ducks Adam Henrique and Flames Sean Monahan.
Earning a Gold with Canada at the World Championship in Latvia, the Ducks centre fit in seamlessly playing on a line with Senators’ Connor Brown. At first glance, the 31-year old isn’t really a candidate to come to the Nation’s Capital. However, if Anaheim is willing to pay 50% of Henrique’s $5,825M salary the next three campaigns, his contract is more palatable.
Like Kadri, Henrique holds familiarity with Smith, playing for the OHL Windsor Spitfires, where the Senators head coach was an assistant – winning two Memorial Cup championships.
Monahan is coming off declining seasons of 48 and 28 points, albeit the former Ottawa 67 played only 50 games in 2021. The Brampton, ON native is two years removed from a career-high, 34-goal, 48-assist season. Monahan is a big-ticket with over $12M owed until he hits UFA status in two seasons. But if the Flames wish to clear the books and start fresh after failing to make the playoffs, Monahan may be had at a reasonable cost.