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31 in 31

Three questions facing Ottawa Senators

Nilsson's status as starting goalie, scoring among concerns

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Ottawa Senators.


[Senators 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]


1. Can Anders Nilsson be a No. 1 NHL goalie?

The 29-year-old has never played more than 36 games in an NHL season, which he did last season with the Vancouver Canucks and Senators; he was 14-19-1 with a 2.97 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage and two shutouts (34 starts).

Now comes his opportunity to become a starter in his seventh NHL season. Craig Anderson played 50 games last season (17-27-4, 3.51 GAA, .903 save percentage, two shutouts), but a 38-year-old goalie isn't ideal for a rebuilding team. Mike Condon (0-2-0, 6.38, .800) was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Filip Gustavsson is considered the goalie of the future, but the 21-year-old needs further development after he was 12-16-2 with a 3.38 GAA and .887 save percentage in 31 games for Belleville of the American Hockey League.

Video: Top five saves of 2018-19: Anderson


2. Where will the goals come from?

One Senators player on the projected roster scored 20 goals last season: Forward Brady Tkachuk, who scored 22 as a rookie. Bobby Ryan and Artem Anisimov were next with 15 each.

Ottawa was 17th in the NHL with 242 goals last season, but forward Mark Stone (28) and centers Matt Duchene (27) and Ryan Dzingel (22), each traded away, combined for 77 of them. Relying on 19-year-old Tkachuk to carry that load is asking a lot. Adding Anisimov helps, but the Senators need someone else to step up on offense.

"We're going to have to do it by committee," coach D.J. Smith said. "Everyone's going to have to chip in."

Video: 31 in 31: Ottawa Senators 2019-20 season preview


3. How much does Bobby Ryan have left?

The 32-year-old forward is the third-oldest player on Ottawa behind Anderson and defenseman Ron Hainsey, each 38. Ryan's 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) were the most he scored since 2015-16 (56 points; 22 goals, 34 assists) but his minus-29 rating was third-worst in the NHL.

Ryan has three years remaining on the seven-year, $50.75 million contract extension he signed in 2014 (average annual value of $7.25 million). It will be interesting to see how much Ryan can produce on a team with so many inexperienced players.

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