Free agency 2018 opens on July 1st at noon, which means a number of teams and players will be busy. That may include the Senators, though recent history (last year’s big splash was Nate Thompson) may suggest otherwise. That being said, there are definite holes in the Sens’ roster, and there’s room for depth at every position. Here’s a look at some potential candidates for the Senators. Keep in mind that the Sens aren’t going to spend more than $3M on a free agent, so even some middle-of-the-road guys like Tyler Bozak are out of the question. Also, RFAs won’t happen because offers sheets won’t happen.
The Sens have 11 NHL forwards under contract for next season, with guys like Logan Brown and Colin White fighting for their spot, but also guys like Bobby Ryan possibly traded. That leaves room for one or two depth signings. Think guys who can possibly play third-line minutes, on the penalty kill, and won’t break the bank.
My first thought here is a guy like Tobias Rieder. He scored 25 points in 78 games last year split between the Coyotes and Kings, albeit with a terrible Corsi of 46.29%. That being said, most of that came on an awful Coyotes team (though let’s remember the Sens won’t be world-beaters next year). Importantly, Matt Cane’s excellent salary projections put him at $1.9M for two years. At just 25 years old, he could be an inexpensive reclamation project, à la Magnus Paajarvi from last year. The Sens have also reportedly been showing interest in the 25-year-old forward.
With more RFAs not receiving qualifying offers from their teams than usual, the door is also open for some younger options. Rieder is one of those players, although Anthony Duclair may be the most skilled of the group. He’s a former 44-point score in his rookie season, although has struggled to find his stride since. At only 22, he still has some potential to improve, although he already has 200+ NHL games under his belt.
Another option if the Sens are looking for more of a veteran presence is Valtteri Filppula. The 34-year-old vet scored 33 points in 81 games last year, still playing 15 minutes per night for the Flyers. I could see Dorion going after him as a veteran option, and he’d likely cost around $2M for next season. He’s a bit of the opposite approach from Rieder: a known commodity, on the downswing of his career, but with still something to add to a locker room that could be quite a bit younger next year.
One other option I’ve found intriguing is the thought of Blake Comeau. He’d likely be the most expensive of these three (Cane projects him at $3M for four years), but having only scored 34 points in 79 games last year, I think he could be had for less. At 32 years of age, he could straddle the line between veteran presence and player with still something left in the tank. He’d be a great third-line winger for the Sens. My main concern here is that there’d probably be other teams looking at him when their bids at the big fish fall apart.
Other potential depth forward options for the Sens include Mark Letestu, Joe Colborne, Derek Ryan, Nick Shore, J.T. Brown, Austin Czarnik or Jannik Hansen, especially if any of them are open to two-way contracts.
The Sens have seven NHL defencemen under contract, but with trade rumours circling around Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci, there’s a real possibility the Sens will need depth here. I’m imagining that players like Thomas Hickey or Calvin de Haan will price themselves out of Ottawa’s range. Ottawa will be looking more for a guy to play the role of 6th/7th defenceman, like Johnny Oduya should’ve.
One potential option is “former Senator” Ian Cole. Cane projects him at $3M per season, which sounds about right. This may be too much for the Sens, but I’m hoping that with him not having a playoff run, he may slip under the radar a bit. Still, I doubt he’ll actually fall to the Sens.
The Sens may go after someone like Alexei Emelin. They’ll have familiarity after his time with the Canadiens, and he should be around the $2M price tag they’ll be looking for. At 6’2” and 218 lbs, he’ll be the physical kind of defenceman they’d likely want, and he showed in the playoffs that he looked competent on the pairing of a star in P.K. Subban.
Along a similar line, Jarred Tinordi may also be pursued by the Sens. He’s huge at 6’6”, is only 26, and likely could be had for under $1M due to his lack of success in the NHL. However, the lack of success in the NHL should be a red flag for the Sens. I’d prefer if they steer clear of this option, since he looks to be headed onto a Jared Cowen career trajectory but with fewer NHL games.
If the Sens are looking for more of a puck-mover, Jason Garrison is an intriguing option. His $4.6M cap hit led to him being buried by the Golden Knights, but he could probably be had for under $1M, and is only 33. In the right scenario, he could catch on. Or he could be like the Joe Corvo 2.0 signing by the Sens a couple years ago, which went really south.
Brandon Davidson is another possible option. He’s just 26, will be had for cheap, and is good with the puck. The fact that he played for three teams last season is a bit of a concern, but the Sens may be willing to take a chance with him being closer to the right age for what they want.
Although Ottawa will most likely be priced out of the top UFAs, a recent report from Mike Kelly suggested that it may be their course of action following a potential Karlsson trade. If that ends up being the case, Mike Green would seem like the most offensively skilled player of the options available, scoring 30+ points in his past five seasons. Kevin Bieksa is also on the free agency market, although at 37, he’s lost the edge that he once possessed.
Other possibilities for the Sens include Andrej Sustr, Christian Folin, Nick Holden, Greg Pateryn, Derrick Pouliot or John Moore.
Let’s clear something up here: the Sens will only go after a goalie if they manage to trade one of Craig Anderson or Mike Condon. Neither seem likely, but offloading one seems almost necessary to put this team back on the path to winning. If they do manage to shed a salary, here are some goaltending options.
Robin Lehner has been pitched as a reunion option, but I think the Sens will steer clear of him. Instead, they may consider an Ottawa 67 connection Petr Mrazek. After looking like the Red Wings’ goalie of the future, he failed to live up to his extension, and then was discarded by the Flyers after picking him up at the trade deadline when both of their top goalies went down. Cane predicts he could be had a on a two-year, $3.1M contract. I think he may actually go for less than that, due to the cloud of negativity hovering over him right now. If the Sens can open up a space and get him for under $2.5M, I think they’ll seriously consider it.
After those two, it’s basically young, unproven goalies who’d compete with Filip Gustavsson and Marcus Hogberg in the AHL (like Zach Fucale) or old goalies past their prime who may be had on cheap backup deals, like Jaroslav Halak, Chad Johnson, Carter Hutton, or even Andrew Hammond (who I’m guessing would never come back to Ottawa). If the Sens are looking to improve their NHL goaltending, it would either be Mrazek, Lehner, or a trade.