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Five Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts on Dylan Strome, the offside rule, the upcoming draft, and more!

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Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It’s a quiet week in terms of Ottawa Senators news, but there are still some things to talk about!

Dylan Strome: Target?

Every year, several intriguing RFAs do not get a qualifying offer for various reasons, and according to Elliotte Friedman, Dylan Strome might be one of those players:

Strome has been connected to Ottawa in the past (as well as his brother Ryan), and I’m sure the Senators would be interested in signing him if he became an unrestricted free agent at just 25. He’s certainly not the most consistent player and he hasn’t lived up to the hype after being selected 3rd overall in 2015, but he put up 48 points in 69 games (57 point pace), and he’s averaged 56 points a season since joining the Blackhawks in 2019.

The type of production is sorely needed in the Senators top-6 (as a centre or a left winger), and the great thing is he’d only cost money and no players or draft picks. Of course, if Chicago gives him a qualifying offer, then this conversation is pointless. In addition, there will be many teams looking to sign him, so Ottawa would have to pay him more than others. Still though, a top-6 featuring:

Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson

Strome-Stützle-Brown

Is quite interesting, plus they can always keep adding via trades. He made $3M on his last deal, so perhaps a contract north of $4M would be doable, but it’s hard to say. Ottawa should be all over him if he actually makes it to free agency.

Honouring Pride

As Pride month began on Wednesday, the Senators had a few positive tweets about it:

It was something great to see, as NHL teams need to do a better job at making marginalized groups like LGBTQ+ people feel included at the arena. Now, there obviously needs to be more support as this is the bare minimum, but we’ve seen the Senators be incredibly reluctant to support these things in the past. They had only tweeted about Pride a few times in 2019 and 2020, but never in other years. Furthermore, we know how the late owner Eugene Melnyk felt about the topic, which is probably why there wasn’t more done overall.

It’s a shame that Pride couldn’t always be celebrated, but I hope that the organization can move in a more progressive direction where people in the LGBTQ+ community can be celebrated and welcomed.

Lots of Europeans

The first round of the 2022 NHL Draft will almost certainly have a lot more European flair this year, as 18 of the top 32 ranked players (based on Elite Prospects’ consolidated ranking) come from outside of North America:

As I mention in that tweet, 11 of those players come from places where the Senators almost never draft from, which means they either had to do more homework there than usual or they’ll be heavily reliant on leagues that they do well in like the USHL, CHL, and SHL. Just to show you how much they avoid certain leagues, my follow-up tweet gives more details:

Tim Stützle was a special case because he was a clear top-5 pick for everyone, meaning Kaspars Daugavins, Markus Nurmi, Roby Järventie, and Leevi Merilainen are the only players taken from these “different” leagues. By my count, it looks like the Senators have just two European scouts with Mikko Ruutu and Anders Ostberg (plus Trent Mann who sees everyone), which is incredibly thin considering how many players are coming from Europe nowadays.

The Senators have somehow been able to draft well despite a small staff over the past decade+, but I’m very intrigued to see if that catches up to them. Let’s hope that Ruutu and Ostberg can keep up their magic and find some gems in new leagues, otherwise they may end up reaching on some North American players.

Close the loophole

We all saw the goal that Cale Makar scored against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. The Oilers challenged the goal thinking it was offside, and at first glance, it appeared to clearly be offside. However, because Makar wasn’t touching the puck in the zone until Valeri Nichushkin tagged up at the blueline, it was technically onside and a good goal:

At the time, I certainly thought it was the wrong call, but after seeing all the explanations, it’s clear that it is correct by the letter of the law. That’s the problem though: the letter of the law. It’s called onside because Makar is not touching the puck, assuming that he is not “in possession” of the puck. But by that logic, if he got knocked over by a defenseman, would it be an interference penalty because he doesn’t have the puck? For all intents and purposes, Makar had possession of the puck, and this seems like a loophole that needs to be closed.

I’m not sure if there’s an easy solution, but I think there should be more leeway in terms of what it means to “have possession” of the puck. Let’s be honest: Nichushkin was still in the zone while Makar entered the offensive zone, and the tiniest of technicalities let that play be legal. If Makar had touched the puck a millisecond earlier, the goal wouldn’t have counted. So while it was the correct call, the spirit of the rule doesn’t seem fair. These kinds of plays rarely happen and they rarely lead to goals, but sometimes rules need refining.

The next Nick Paul

Nick Paul has been fantastic for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as he had 14 points in 21 regular season games and has 6 points in 12 playoff games. He was a perfect bottom-six addition for the Lightning who needed more depth and someone who could grind away at the opponent in some difficult playoff series. There has been lots of talk about how valuable Paul is and how other teams (especially Toronto) need someone like him.

I believe that to an extent, as you cerainly need some grinders who can chip away at the other team but also score occasionally. Ottawa obviously could’ve kept Paul to fill this role, but I don’t blame them for walking away at his asking price. However, now you can be sure that they will be looking to replicate that the next time they’re a playoff team. Will that be Parker Kelly? Ridly Greig? Mark Kastelic? They clearly have some options for that role, and with how much the Senators love their hard workers, I don’t see it being an issue.

Ottawa will have to find their own Nick Paul, but luckily for them, they might have one in-house.