We’ve finally reached the end folks, which is part 5/5 of my “Senators Long-Term Outlook” series. I’ve looked at Ottawa’s short and long-term situations for left wing, centre, right wing, and defense so far, which you can check out if you haven’t already.
But today I’ll be going over the most important position: goaltender.
For the first time in a while, the Senators have an incredible amount of depth at the position, and let’s start with the upcoming year first.
This year is pretty straightforward, and there will be much less competition compared to before Matt Murray was acquired:
|1A Starter||Matt Murray|
|1B Starter||Marcus Hogberg|
Before Murray came in, Ottawa had projected Marcus Hogberg and Anders Nilsson splitting time, but after talk about Nilsson’s nagging concussion issues came about, it was clear that Pierre Dorion was going to go after a veteran goaltender. I don’t think I necessarily would’ve gone the Murray route as opposed to more of a cheaper stopgap option, but I will say that I ask for riskier moves all the time, and this is a risky move that could pay off very well or it could be an expensive contract that is a layover until the next Senators goalie comes in.
I can’t remember the last time the Senators have had a two-time Stanley Cup champion on their roster, so I am quite excited to see if Murray can bounce back to his prior greatness. His career .914 SV% seems simply better than average, although he’s essentially either been incredibly good or very bad, making this contract a bit of Russian roulette.
Hogberg received no defensive help last season and ended up with a .904 SV% in 24 games. That was good for a -4.74 goals saved above expected, which is slightly below average. Still though, considering his success in the SHL and AHL, I think he’s good enough to at least be a backup.
As for Nilsson, it seems like he’ll be in the exact same position Mike Condon was in. He has one year remaining on his contract, and without hearing anything in regards to his health, it’s safe to assume that he won’t be playing any games in 2020-21. It’s too bad because he seemed like a great person to have in the room and I hope that he is able to fully recover from his concussion issues.
Besides those three there is Joey Daccord, who I will talk more about in the next section. He will almost certainly be the first man up if Murray or Hogberg gets hurt, as Daccord was the starter for Belleville before COVID-19 shut the season down. There’s a chance Filip Gustavsson steals the show, but he’s lower in the depth chart for now. I expect Daccord will end up playing a handful of games just because there is usually an injury or two.
I expect Murray to get the majority of starts, but I doubt Hogberg is going to be a typical backup. I think he can still get into perhaps 35% of games, which might keep both goalies fresh. I don’t think this tandem is amazing, but they have some upside where they could be on the edge of the top-10 duos in the league if everything breaks right.
In the Future:
The next 5-10 years for the goaltenders of the Senators are much more interesting than this coming season, as it is not clear whatsoever who will be able to take the reins:
|Elite starter||Backup||Matt Murray|
|Starter||3rd string goalie||Joey Daccord|
|1B starter||Backup||Marcus Hogberg|
|Starter||AHL backup||Kevin Mandolese|
|Starter||AHL backup||Filip Gustavsson|
|Starter||AHL backup||Mads Søgaard|
|Starter||AHL backup||Leevi Merilainen|
Murray is signed for the next four years, which isn’t short-term, but it’s not super long either. He’ll be 30 by the time his contract is up, and who knows if he will be worth re-signing or if he will want to stay after that. He has the potential to be elite though, so that’s why I put him as an elite starter. I’m slightly higher on Daccord than Hogberg in terms of their ceilings, so I have him second on the list here. He also has a lower floor though, as Hogberg has at least shown he is capable of being in the NHL.
What will be fascinating to watch is who they protect in the Seattle expansion draft.
They can only protect one goalie, and there is a chance Ottawa loses either Murray, Hogberg, or Daccord. People are saying the Senators might leave Murray unprotected because they think the Kraken wouldn’t take on his big contract, and that might be true, but that is a big risk if Murray has a bounce-back campaign. If Murray is too good to leave unprotected though, then that leaves Hogberg and Daccord exposed.
If I were Seattle, I would take two NHL goalies plus a prospect like Daccord who can be sent to the AHL without passing through waivers, which is exactly what The Athletic did in their most recent mock expansion draft. Perhaps Murray has a poor year, Hogberg doesn’t establish himself, and Daccord plays even better in the AHL—in that case, maybe they end up protecting Daccord. There are so many scenarios that could play out, but losing Hogberg or Daccord could certainly happen.
Besides those three, it’s almost impossible to rank Kevin Mandolese, Filip Gustavsson, Mads Søgaard, and Leevi Merilainen. I ranked them exactly like that, but that’s only because Mandolese has the most recent string of success and Merilainen has the smallest track record. In reality, all of them have starting goaltender potential due to the crazy nature of the position.
At the same time, none of them have had success in the AHL yet, so their floors are all extremely low as well.
The good news is that even if Murray isn’t a long-term answer, one of these four prospects could be ready by the time he is gone. They don’t need all of them to pan out, but if one of them or Daccord (assuming they don’t lose him) reaches their potential, the Senators will be in a great position for the future. Considering the lack of experience for some of them, I’m not going to say either way how good their chances are, but I do like that all of them have something intriguing about them.
In the past, the Senators hadn’t drafted a ton of goalies, but Trent Mann has made a point about taking a goalie in five of the last six drafts in order to keep the system replenished, which is not a bad strategy at all. If Murray fails, then maybe Hogberg can step up. Or Daccord can develop into a starter. Or any of Mandolese, Gustavsson, Søgaard, or Merilainen can. The point is, they have options.
Not all of them will necessarily come close to being NHL starters, but they just need one or two to be in a good position for the future.
I’m not ready to say that they are guaranteed to be set for goaltending for the foreseeable future, but it’s hard not to be optimistic about it.