After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Ottawa Senators.
The Ottawa Senators are built like a team that is ready to contend. The problem is, their recent history suggests they are in no position to do that.
The Senators have a veteran roster that has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two of the past three seasons, but it is one new general manager Pierre Dorion said is ready to make a move and challenge the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
He made that clear by acquiring center Derick Brassard from the New York Rangers on July 18 in a trade for center Mika Zibanejad, getting a player who is better now but six years older and therefore likely with a lower ceiling than the player traded away. On top of that, Dorion included a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, getting a 2018 seventh-round pick back.
"I think the message from management is pretty clear: Our time is now," Brassard told TSN 1200 the day he was traded. "I do think this team is mature now and we have to win next season."
Video: The crew compares Brassard and Zibanejad
Replacing Zibanejad, 23, with Brassard, who turns 29 on Sept. 22, means the Senators might have no more than five players in their opening-night lineup who are younger than 26: Mark Stone (24), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (23), Cody Ceci (22), Curtis Lazar (21) and perhaps Nick Paul (21) or Matt Puempel (23).
A team with so few young players has pressure on it to win immediately, and Dorion has no interest in alleviating that pressure.
"Why can't we be good now?" Dorion told TSN 1200 on the day of the trade. "We've been young and hungry. We've been the 'Pesky Sens.' Why can't we, first of all, make the playoffs and challenge the better teams?
"I really think we're going to surprise some people when the season comes around, and I think it has to do with our personnel, I think it has to do with our attitude, I think it has to do with our accountability, and I'll even put a bit of pressure on our coaches, I think it has to do with our coaches too."
Those coaches are Guy Boucher and associate Marc Crawford, each coming back to the NHL after successful stints in Switzerland. Boucher, known as an innovative offensive coach, particularly on the power play, inherits a team that finished ninth in the League in scoring but 26th in goals allowed.
For Dorion's vision of a playoff berth to come to pass, Boucher will need to figure out a way to keep pucks out of the Senators net relying on essentially the same group of defensemen and goaltenders as last season.
Here's what the Senators look like today:
KEY ARRIVALS: Derick Brassard, C: He may be turning 29 soon, but he also is coming off the two best offensive seasons of his NHL career. He set a career high with 60 points in 2014-15, and a career high with 27 goals last season to lead the Rangers. The key attribute Brassard had that interested Dorion was his left-handed shot, providing a counterbalance to top-six center Kyle Turris, who shoots from the right. This gives Boucher options on offensive-zone faceoffs and will help whoever is playing right wing, whether it is Stone or Bobby Ryan. … Chris Kelly, C: Another veteran addition that suggests the Senators believe they are ready to contend, the 35-year-old is coming off a fractured femur that ended his season with the Boston Bruins on Nov. 3. Drafted by the Senators, Kelly returns as a depth center likely to play a fourth-line, penalty-killing role and provide some leadership, plus Stanley Cup experience after winning with the Bruins in 2011.
Video: Breaking down the Rangers trade with the Senators
KEY DEPARTURES: Mika Zibanejad, C: He was Ottawa's fifth-leading scorer with 51 points in 81 games and ended with a flourish with seven goals and 11 points in his final 13 games. Zibanejad anchored Ottawa's second penalty-killing unit behind Pageau and got regular time on the power play. … Alex Chiasson, RW: One of the key pieces who came from the Dallas Stars in the Jason Spezza trade in 2014, Chiasson was traded to the Calgary Flames and former Stars coach Glen Gulutzan on June 27 for minor league defenseman Patrick Sieloff. Chiasson was second on the Senators in shorthanded ice time and saw time on the power play. In 153 games with the Senators, Chiasson had 19 goals and 40 points. … Patrick Wiercioch, D: He was not tendered a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent at age 25 and allowing him to sign a one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche. Wiercioch had five assists in 52 games and was never able to earn the trust of former coach Dave Cameron, or Paul MacLean before him.
ON THE CUSP: Nick Paul, LW: A big body (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) with some skill, Paul was the other significant piece that came from the Stars with Chiasson in the Spezza trade. Paul had two goals and five points in 24 games with the Senators last season and could earn a fourth-line role in camp. … Matt Puempel LW: Paul most likely will be competing with Puempel for a spot in the lineup. At 23, the time has come for Puempel to show he can stick in the NHL. He has four goals and six points in 39 NHL games over the past two seasons but showed with 17 goals in 34 games in the American Hockey League last season he might have outgrown that league. … Thomas Chabot, D: Ottawa's first-round pick (No. 18) in the 2015 draft, Chabot is entering his first season as a professional, and the Senators have not ruled out the possibility he jumps straight to the NHL. A disappointing performance at development camp put that into some doubt, but he will get a long look at training camp in September.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: Once forward Mike Hoffman is either signed to a long-term contract or goes through his arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4, the Senators should be set up front. But some depth on defense could be useful and is something Dorion openly admits he is looking to acquire. As of now, Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Michael Kostka, Fredrik Claesson and Sieloff are in the mix to earn jobs on either the third pair or as extra defensemen coming out of training camp. Dorion said he is bullish on Wideman after his performance with the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Championship, where he had two goals and six points in 10 games, but adding a proven defenseman would be welcomed.
Video: BUF@OTT: Borowiecki knocks over Moulson
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: Erik Karlsson became the first defenseman to average a point per game in a season of 82 games since Brian Leetch and Ray Bourque in 1995-96, getting 82 last season. That production, together with the rise of Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) and Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins), has elevated the stock of defensemen in drafts. The trade of P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators makes things even more interesting at the position. Karlsson should be taken as the No. 5 overall player in standard leagues behind forwards Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Sidney Crosby (Penguins), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) and Jamie Benn (Stars). Karlsson is that good and that reliable.
Mike Hoffman - Kyle Turris - Mark Stone
Clarke MacArthur - Derick Brassard - Bobby Ryan
Zack Smith - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Curtis Lazar
Nick Paul - Chris Kelly - Chris Neil
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson
Cody Ceci - Dion Phaneuf
Mark Borowiecki - Chris Wideman