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Senators not negotiating with free agents during season pause

GM Dorion taking wait-and-see approach, excited for 2020 NHL Draft

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The Ottawa Senators aren't negotiating with free agents while the NHL season is paused due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, general manager Pierre Dorion said Tuesday.

Pending unrestricted free agents on the Senators roster include forwards Mikkel Boedker, defensemen Ron Hainsey and Mark Borowiecki, and goalie Craig Anderson. Among their restricted free agents are forwards Anthony Duclair, Chris Tierney and Connor Brown.

Dorion said negotiations will be handled once a decision is made by the NHL with regards to the remainder of the season, which was paused March 12.

"We were going to start overall discussions with some RFAs (restricted free agents) when the season came to a pause, and we're probably going to wait to see what happens if we resume the season or if we don't, so we don't expect to do anything [until the offseason] when it comes to the RFAs," Dorion said. "With the UFAs (unrestricted free agents), it's much the same thing; we started some discussions with some of them, and those discussions are on pause. At some time, agents have to call me back if they want their players to sign in Ottawa, and we'll see when I hear back from them."

Duclair, 24, has an NHL career-high 23 goals and was selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game for the first time; Brown, 26, has an NHL career-high 43 points.

"We'll always need some quality veteran UFAs and we hope to keep some on board. But if we move on from them, we know that some others will be available," Dorion said. "We brought in some great people last year (Hanisey, forward Tyler Ennis) that were beneficial to the growth of this group and we'll be able to do the same whether it's keeping them internally or looking externally."

Video: Top 10 Senators Plays ... Thus Far

Dorion also said the Senators are one of three teams who could sign Russian free agent defenseman Artyom Zub.

Zub (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) played five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, including the past three in a top-four role with SKA St. Petersburg. He became a free agent after scoring 13 goals and nine assists in 57 games this season. The 24-year-old led the KHL with a plus-35 rating.

"(Assistant GM) Peter MacTavish and myself had a chance to see him play when we went overseas," Dorion said. "Our pro scouts, who have seen him play in international tournaments, seem to really like this player. We feel he's NHL ready, but until he makes a decision ... we hope he signs with us because we know he's someone who could help us in the near future.

"But until he makes a decision on his future on whether he stays in the KHL or comes to North America, we're just going to wait for him to decide."

Zub could potentially provide a boost at defenseman for Ottawa (25-34-12), which is 30th in goals against (243) and in the NHL standings but has 13 selections in the 2020 NHL Draft, including as many as three in the first round and four in the second round. The Senators have their first-round pick, plus the San Jose Sharks', which they acquired when trading defenseman Erik Karlsson on Sept. 13, 2018. Ottawa also gained a conditional first-round pick from the New York Islanders in a trade for center Jean-Gabriel Pageau on Feb. 24. If the Islanders' first-round pick this year becomes a top-three selection, Ottawa will receive New York's first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

"We did our homework, and in this plan of the rebuild we always felt that this 2020 draft would be one of the deepest that's come along in many years," Dorion said. "Having a chance to have two picks in the top five is something that we're very fortunate about and will be ready for. I think at the same time, we know that you're going to get really good NHL players in the top 20, and we feel that in the top three rounds there's going to be a lot of regular NHL players.

"We're really excited about this draft class and looking forward to when it happens to make all these selections."

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