Four more years of Joseph
The power of friendship strikes again!
In case you missed it, the Ottawa Senators announced last night that they had signed Mathieu Joseph to a four year deal with an AAV just under $3 Million.
Joseph was excellent in the top six last season after being traded from Tampa in exchange for Nick Paul. This deal seems fair for both sides. Joseph has enough upside that this could turn out to be a major steal, and $3M is perfectly reasonable for a good third liner. Nick Paul just signed for considerably more than that.
It’s also very cool that a guy who got traded here from a team that recently won back-to-back Stanley Cups decided to commit for four years.
If you haven’t read Spencer’s Wednesday piece about cap space, go ahead and do that because it includes great information. Basically, Spencer found that, in about a year, the Sens are going to have a lot of money tied up in their 6 biggest contracts - more than most teams do - with a significant amount also allocated to their #7 and #8 contracts. This leaves them very little cap space to use on their bottom six, defense and goaltending.
What Spencer didn’t mention in his piece is that the cap is projected to go up a lot in 2024, two years from now, as that’s when the escrow should be paid off.
Now, constructing your roster under the assumption that the cap is going to go up by a lot very soon is what put the Leafs in their current situation, and I love to make fun of them for that, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite by making too many assumptions here. However, we should be rooting for this outcome, because it would be absolutely perfect timing for Ottawa.
Stützle and DeBrincat will both need new contracts in 2023, so if the Sens manage to go long term, that means they’ll have their entire top six and their top defenseman locked up by the time 2024 rolls around. If every single team suddenly gets a bunch of cap space, there will be some dumb contracts handed out. Big players like, I don’t know, Auston Matthews will get massive deals, and pretty soon everyone else will be in a cap crunch again. Meanwhile, the Sens will be able to use their cap space on filling out the roster around their top players.
It’s also worth noting that in 2024 Ottawa will have a bunch of dead money coming off the books, and Nikita Zaitsev’s contract will finally be over, so either way they’ll get some relief then. They just need to hang on until 2024, and cross their fingers that this cap increase actually happens.
And if the cap doesn’t go up?
If the cap doesn’t go up by a lot in 2024, then Ottawa will be a little bit screwed, but so will every other team.
The Senators still have a whole bunch of prospects that might be NHL-ready within the next few years. If their depth players keep pricing themselves out of the market, they can always trade those guys for futures and replace them internally with players on entry level contracts.
I’ll wrap up my thoughts on cap space on this note: the only reason the Sens will be in major cap trouble next year is if a lot of players have amazing seasons. If DeBrincat scores 50 and Stützle is a point-per-game player and Shane Pinto becomes a Calder finalist, then yes, we’ll have problems. If that happens, this team will also be in a great spot. They’ll be fine! We don’t need to worry about having too many good players!
Is there any world in which Klingberg makes sense for Ottawa?
I know everyone reading this is laughing at me right now. Hear me out.
The Sens are still looking for their fabled top 4 defenseman, and the top RHD unrestricted free agent is still without a contract. 29-year-old John Klingberg just changed agents after presumably failing to find a good fit during the first few weeks of free agency. Clearly, he’s asking for more money than teams are willing to hand over with the cap situation as it is right now. Could Ottawa be a fit?
On the surface, no. Klingberg is an all-offense, no-defense defenseman. On their left side, the Sens have an offensive defenseman in Thomas Chabot, and a 20 year old who’s never played an NHL game in his life in Jake Sanderson. What they need is a responsible, safety net type of player.
If Klingberg wants to take a 1 year deal and try free agency again next year, he could do a lot worse than Ottawa, and Ottawa could do a lot worse than Klingberg.
I think we’re oversimplifying things when we sort defensemen into the categories of “offensive-minded” and “defensive-minded” and leave it at that. Chabot, for example, is a fantastic possession player. He usually has the puck when he’s on the ice, and he thrives in situations where he has the time and space to be creative with it. He’s also, weirdly, not that good at shooting from the point. What he needs is a partner who can get him the puck, and who he can pass to in the offensive zone, but who won’t step on his toes by trying to do too much. As an aside, this is why I think he and Zub work so well together. From what I’ve read, Klingberg is the type of player who can also carry the puck well, but needs good teammates to pass to and a lot of offensive zone time. The Sens are neither a good defensive team nor a good possession team, but… maybe a Chabot-Klingberg pairing wouldn’t be as bad as it sounds? They’d have to win every game 6-5, but with Chabot-Zaitsev they probably lose every game by the same score.
The Sens have about $10M in cap space with only 2 RFAs left to sign. They could give Klingberg a silly amount of money for one year. In the best case scenario, he’s very good and they have to let him go in a year, at which point they’ll have a better idea of what they have in JBD and Thomson. In the worst case scenario, he sucks and the team is bad defensively, which is exactly what is going to happen anyways if they don’t get an upgrade on defense.
It all depends on what Klingberg wants, but it could be a fun experiment.
Finally, on a lighter note: recently, fans and analysts around the hockey world have had a lot of fun mocking the LA Kings over their announcement that Dustin Brown will not only have his number retired, but also get a statue in front of the arena.
The idea of a Dustin Brown statue, especially in a city as famous as LA, is hilarious, and that’s exactly why it’s so good. He kind of embodies the identity of those Kings teams that won 2 cups, and Kings fans seem happy about it, so it’s good.
Anyways, I hope one day we get a statue of Brady Tkachuk doing his frank-the-tank celebration in front of the downtown arena, with a different statue of Thomas Chabot just skating, and I hope there’s discourse about why they chose those poses instead of going with any of the five consecutive Stanley Cup celebrations. So much to look forward to.