Five Thoughts: Pinto, Hamonic, and the Forever Drama that is the Arizona Coyotes

In our last edition of Five Thoughts before the end of the season, we dig into Shane Pinto's next contract, Travis Hamonic's future, Arizona Coyotes relocation, and more!

Five Thoughts: Pinto, Hamonic, and the Forever Drama that is the Arizona Coyotes
Photo by Cytonn Photography / Unsplash

Welcome to the final edition of Five Thoughts before the end of the Ottawa Senators' 2023-24 season. It's been a treat having you with us all year long. Let's go out in style, shall we?

Shane Pinto's Contract Negotiations

Ian Mendes had a nice feature over at the Athletic earlier this week on the topic of Shane Pinto's hope for a long-term contract. While the situation is not exactly the same as this time last year, there is plenty of reason to believe that the upcoming negotiations between the player and the Ottawa Senators could be just as tricky. Pinto is clearly an important contributor, and his importance has only been magnified by the injuries to Josh Norris and, more recently, Tim Stützle. Norris, in particular, has now suffered so many injuries to the same shoulder that it would not be prudent to assume that he will ever be full healthy again.

In the absence of Norris, Pinto has not looked out of place centering a line with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson. Though his scoring has slowed in recent weeks after a blistering start, the young centre is still scoring at a 56 point pace, and has maintained strong on-ice shot and chance impacts. It's only half a season's worth of work but that roughly profiles to a quality second-line centre. The trouble, of course, is that it's just a half season and the Sens already have a second-line centre in Norris.

The good news is that both sides are saying all of the right things and Pinto's showing this year will likely make the team a bit more comfortable in paying him for future potential. But still – I wouldn't be surprised if this one dragged on a bit.

Travis Hamonic's Future:

While I'm not here to kick a guy while he's down, the absence of Hamonic from the line-up for most of the second half of the season due to a nebulous "lower body" injury does not bode well for the rearguard completing next season in an Ottawa Senators' jersey. Hamonic, who seems to be quite well-liked in the dressing room and in the community, has often looked overwhelmed this year even he has been healthy. The rearguard signed his last deal likely knowing that he might spend most of the contract as the 7th defenseman, and there is a lot up in the air in regards to the Sens' blueline, so maybe the two parties just agree to take a mulligan on this year and play out next season with Hamonic again expecting only to suit up for 30-40 games as the 7th defenseman.

Coyotes Absconding from Arizona:

The slow-motion disaster that is NHL hockey in Arizona appears to be coming to an end (at least for now). While I do have a lot of sympathy for Coyotes fans (I think it would be pretty hypocritical as a Sens fan not to, frankly), there can be no doubt that the organization was being run in such a shoddy manner that there were very legitimate questions of whether the NHL could survive in that context. Once you got past the immediate novelty of the team playing in a college rink, it's very difficult to justify a pro team playing to a capacity less than a third of every other arena. At the end of the day, I find it a bit hard to care too much about whether the franchise moves to Salt Lake City or not; I feel badly for the fans, but otherwise it's just another Western date for the Sens to me.

What I will say, though, is that I unequivocally hate everything contained in these two paragraphs:

Multiple sources indicate a real scenario is Meruelo being paid $1 billion for the team, and Smith paying $1.2 billion to purchase. But the real key is what the NHL will promise Meruelo to avoid this ending up in court.
Those same sources indicate he could be offered a five-year exclusive window to “bring back” the Coyotes as an expansion franchise — although there would be certain language stating what would need to be accomplished for him to return. (The league definitely desires a return to the market if it leaves.)

Alex Meruelo has run the franchise poorly, to say the least, and to see him making out like a bandit on the sale is kind of gross. Secondly, the prospect of the NHL expanding, yet again, is nauseating. Not to get too entrenched in my ways, but 32 teams is already perhaps too many – adding even more, just for the sake of that sweet, sweet expansion money will do nothing but dilute the NHL's product. Say no to expansion!

End of the Year Blues

On a personal level, I have to admit that I've found it more difficult this year than maybe ever before to get myself hyped up to watch the final few Sens games of the year. I've been tuning in mostly because I'm looking for things to write about, not because I'm particularly enjoying the viewing experience. It just hasn't been fun.

Usually as the season comes to a close, even one where the team isn't qualifying for the play-offs, I feel a push to bear witness until the very end because I know I'll miss them when they're gone. I suspect by the time the Stanley Cup Play-offs conclude I'll be ready to go again, but it's been awfully weird going through the motions.

In speaking to other Sens fans, it doesn't seem like I'm alone in this sentiment. It would do wonders for this fanbase if Steve Staios and co. knocked the off-season out of the park.

One Year Anniversary

Last, but not least, we just recently passed the one year mark as an independent site. Though the time since we left SB Nation has not been without its challenges, we've been able to deliver the kind of coverage you won't find anywhere else, and the community of readers and commenters has only grown stronger. Setting out on our own like this was a big leap of faith, and, so far, it has worked out as well as I could have ever imagined.

So, in our final item in the final Five Thoughts for the 2023-24 season, I wanted to thank each and every one of you that is a part of our community. Whether you are a subscriber, a regular reader, or someone that just pops in on occasion, we couldn't do it without you.

Thank you.

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