Analysis: Ottawa Senators Sign Shane Pinto to Two-Year Contract

The Sens avoided another protracted hold-out by signing Shane Pinto to a two-year contract.

Analysis: Ottawa Senators Sign Shane Pinto to Two-Year Contract
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson / Unsplash

Almost immediately after jettisoning Mathieu Joseph to clear salary cap space, the Ottawa Senators signed centre Shane Pinto to a two year deal carrying a $3.75MM AAV. Though there had been rumblings that the two sides were far apart on a deal less than a week ago, this contract is the type of compromise that both sides can fairly claim as a win while punting the longer term questions a couple of years down the road. The Sens fit Pinto under the salary cap, and give themselves, theoretically anyways, some enviable depth down the middle. They also buy themselves a couple of seasons to collect more data about the player. Meanwhile, for Pinto, the $3.75MM AAV is a bit higher than Evolving Hockey's predicted AAV of $3.05MM on a two year deal, and the salary structure whereby the second year carries $5M in real money helps set him up for an ever bigger payday on his next contract.

Something resembling this bridge deal was always the most likely outcome if Pinto was to remain in Ottawa given the strange, somewhat stunted nature of the pivot man's young NHL career. Despite having played in parts of the last four seasons, Pinto has only suited up for 140 games in that time. He suffered a major shoulder injury early in the 2021-22 campaign and, after a healthy 2022-23, was suspended for half of 2023-24. When he did play last season, he was quite good, notching 27 points in 41 games and carrying some fairly impressive 5v5 impacts. When he's been in the line-up, there's been a clear improvement in his game since the time he came into the NHL. Because he's missed so much time, the question of what he is as a player still a bit open. He will be 25 by the time this season starts, so we are not likely to see another big step forward but he should be highly productive for several years yet. This is his prime.

The subject of Pinto' long-term fit in Ottawa is also complicated by the status of the team's other centreman who often misses games: Josh Norris. Barring some dramatic change, Tim Stützle will be the team's 1C for the foreseeable future, but after that it feels like almost anything is possible. Norris has the big contract to go along with bigger offensive production, but he's going on three major shoulder injuries now, and even when he was healthy last season he wasn't the same player as in 2021-22 when he broke out for 35 goals in just 66 games. That version of Norris, particularly the goal-scoring, is likely a level that Pinto will never hit. So, if everyone is at their maximum selves, that leaves Pinto as the likely 3C

At the same time, there are lots of things that Pinto does better than Norris, and if the latter's shoulder remains a threat to fall apart at any second, then Pinto just might be the team's 2C of the future. I'm sure that during negotiations the two sides had some version of a conversation where the team stressed that they needed to pay Pinto like the 3C they expect him to be next year, while the player's camp almost certainly pointed to the fact that, when in the line-up, he's been the 2C for the better part of the last two seasons. Thus, our two year long stand-off.

There wasn't a lot of sense in doing a long-term deal for either side given the uncertainty at this moment in time and the Sens' currently precarious salary cap situation. From management's perspective I wouldn't call it a home run, but it was necessary, and getting it done early in the off-season has its benefits as well. For Pinto, he gets a nice raise, and the opportunity to really cash in after a couple more seasons. Now, at the very least, we don't have to talk Pinto contract until 2026. That in and of itself will be nice.

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