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Five Thoughts For Friday

Batherson’s All-Star nomination, Nick Paul’s future, and more!

Ottawa Senators v Calgary Flames Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

The Sens are officially back in session, and let’s hope they stay that way for a little bit. Here are five thoughts for a post-win Friday.

Drake Batherson: NHL All-Star

All-Star rosters are always weird and controversial, with rules about each team sending one representative and needing to fill every position. It’s still a fun event, though, and I was super happy to see Drake Batherson named as the Sens’ representative.

It’s impossible to watch the videos of him and Brady talking about it without smiling. It’s so obvious that everyone on the team is so excited about this. It’s well deserved, too: Batherson has been on fire this season, and hasn’t been getting nearly enough recognition for it.

Here’s a question for you all: what skill do you think Batherson will compete in at the skills competition? I’d personally love to see him test his stickhandling and accuracy shooting skills against the league’s best.

Nick Paul Does It All

The trade deadline isn’t that close, but we are at the point in the season where we’re starting to think about it. And one Sens player who’s been getting a bit of attention as a possible trade deadline rental is Nick Paul, who is on the last year of a $1.4M AAV contract.

I guess I’m of two minds about this. I like Nick Paul a lot, and I’d love to see him stick around in Ottawa. He and Connor Brown make a great duo on the penalty kill and in the middle six, and you shouldn’t overlook depth when building a team. If the Sens can sign him to an affordable contract, I’d love to see them do it.

With that being said, I would be wary of overpaying a guy like Paul. Last night’s game aside, he hasn’t been great this season, and the Sens do have a few potential replacements in the prospect pipeline. Pinto, Sokolov, Greig and Boucher come to mind as prospects that project as middle-six or bottom-six forwards. We shouldn’t bank on any of them making the NHL roster right away, but it’s maybe worth keeping in mind that the Sens are not exactly hurting for middle six forwards.

I hope Paul sticks around. But I also hope the Sens realize that he is a third liner. A good one, yes, but still a bottom six forward. He should be paid like one. If Paul thinks he can make more money elsewhere, then I guess it does make sense to try to get something for him.

Jake Sanderson to the Olympics

Jake Sanderson has been called the best defenseman not currently in the NHL.

Well. What better way to put that bold statement to the test than by playing in a tournament that features literally all the best players in the world who are not in the NHL?

It was obviously very disappointing to see the NHL pull out of the Olympics, but the silver lining for Sens fans is that we’ll get to see Sanderson compete. The US and Canada are slowly unveiling their rosters, and I have to say I’m interested enough in the tournament that I’ll probably tune in.

Sanderson will certainly have some bragging rights when he finally arrives in Ottawa!

Another KHL player?

It wasn’t that long ago that Ottawa basically refused to acquire any Russian players. Now, it looks like they’re hoping to become a destination for KHL players looking for NHL contracts. First they signed Zub in 2020, and we all know how well that worked out. Now, they’re apparently interested in Andrei Kuzmenko.

25-year-old Kuzmenko is the second leading scorer in the KHL this season, and a former teammate of Zub’s, with whom he also shares an agent. He plays left wing, but he’s a right shot. Should the Sens go after him?

Yes. Yes, they should.

Not all KHL players are able to adapt to the NHL game, and there’s no guarantee Kuzmenko will. However, the Sens don’t have a lot of right handed forwards, and they need another winger in their top six. They can give him a one-year ELC and see what they have in him. Signing Kuzmenko would be a low-risk, potentially high-reward move.

But should Kuzmenko sign here?

I think it could be a good fit. He knows Zub, and the Russian defenseman could help him adjust to the move to Canada, having recently done it himself. And there are still plenty of roster spots up for grabs - if Kuzmenko plays well, he could grab a spot in the top six on a team just trying to exit the rebuild phase.

Working with an internal budget means that you have to get creative. Looking for talent in overseas leagues could be a great way to do that.

The hockey world has learned nothing

The Kyle Beach incident was supposed to be a reckoning for the league and for hockey culture.

In 2010, an NHL front office covered up sexual assault because they prioritized winning over their players’ well-being. Players stayed silent about it for the same reason. Media members didn’t look into it, and didn’t talk about it if they knew. When all of this came to light last year, people around the hockey world promised that this would never happen again.

Here’s what I want to know: what won’t happen again?

An incident exactly like what happened to Kyle Beach? A sexual assault cover-up? Or are we talking more broadly about letting actual people get hurt because nothing matters except winning?

Evander Kane has been accused of: sexual assault (2013, 2015), harassment (2016 - he was actually charged in this case), coercing a partner into terminating a pregnancy (2018), domestic violence (2021), betting on his own games (2021), crossing the Canadian border while positive for COVID-19 (2021), and faking a vaccination card (2021). He has been given a second chance, and a third chance, and a fourth chance, and every time, he has failed to clean up his act. He is apparently going to get another contract, because he is good at hockey.

When asked about the rumours that his team might sign Kane, Connor McDavid said exactly what you’d expect, which is that he doesn’t care what kind of person Kane is off the ice.

Things are not going to change until people understand that there are things that are more important than winning hockey games.