Ottawa has a few tough signs this summer in free agency, but Shane Prince should not be one of them. Luckily he is still young and therefore an RFA, but he'll surely be looking for a one-way deal this time around.
About one year ago, the Senators were floundering just like they are right now, and they had a few players that people wanted the team to call up from Binghamton. Two of those forwards were Shane Prince and Matt Puempel. Prince only got a cup of coffee in last year with 2 games, but this year he has played in 40, while Puempel has only gotten 14.
Of course I can't say that without mentioning that Prince has to pass through waivers if he is being sent down to the AHL, whereas Puempel does not. I think the organization still thinks highly of Puempel, but there was no way that Ottawa was going to risk losing Prince, so he was going to be up with the Senators for the whole year barring an injury.
It's been about a year since Prince's first call up, and I'd say he's been a successful NHL player (albeit in just 42 games). There is no doubt that he will be re-signing with Ottawa, unless he's used as a chip in a package for a better forward or defenseman in the next few weeks or in the summer. The question is not "will he re-sign?" Instead it is "how much does Ottawa value him?" because we know that Prince won't be getting much in his deal as his $700k cap hit isn't very big.
Alex Chiasson received only $1 million in arbitration last year after scoring 26 points in 76 games, although it was only for one year of course. So far, Prince has 12 points in 40 games (on pace for 24 over 82 games), meaning it will be hard to justify his agent wanting a big contract. However, just because he doesn't quite have the counting stats yet doesn't mean that he hasn't played well.
He is due for an uptick in scoring, as he leads the Senators in corsi at 52.9%, and is second only to Erik Karlsson in relative corsi at +7.2%. Not only have his possession numbers been extremely stellar, he's actually scoring at a perfectly fine rate. His points per 60 is actually tied for third on the team with Mark Stone at 1.79. All 12 of his points have come at even strength, so it's no surprise to see his 5 on 5 numbers look solid.
Furthermore, he gets essentially no ice time relative to his peers. Amongst forwards, the only players who average less ice time per game are Max McCormick, David Dziurznski and Chris Neil. Even Puempel gets slightly more ice time at 11:26 per game while Prince's average is 10:46. So while 12 points may not seem very impressive, it's important to remember the context. His most common linemates have been Neil and Smith, and he's been able to raise their possession rates to 59.8% and 60.8% when they play with Prince.
Add all of this to the fact that he simply looks great on the ice, and it looks like Ottawa has a good player on their hands. He may not be a first line player, but he's certainly capable in the top nine.
The one good thing for Prince is that perhaps moving Milan Michalek is a sign that Ottawa has some faith that Prince can stick it in the top-six, even if Clarke MacArthur comes back. I'm hesitant to say they trust him, but it's a possibility. They had similar reservations with Mike Hoffman last year, and obviously he proved his worth this year. Maybe Prince can take a big leap forward next year to show just how good he is.
As for a contract, there are a few options. The most likely is that Ottawa gives him a short one or two year bridge deal to prove himself worth perhaps $900k-1.5 million per season, which is essentially what they were doing with Chiasson last summer. Another option is to lock him up longer term in the 3-5 year range with a cap hit somewhere between $2-3 million, but that seems extremely unlikely for both sides considering that Ottawa isn't 100% sold on him, and Prince may be leaving some money on the table.
The last option would be to move him as part of a bigger package for a young forward or defenseman. This would be nice to see, although it would certainly be tough to part ways with a promising forward.
At the end of the day, Prince is obviously a no-brainer to re-sign as an RFA in the summer. It will be interesting to see what kind of deal he gets though.