Ottawa Senators News & Notes: Contract Talks, Draft Strategy and More

There were plenty of small news items from Pierre Dorion’s media availability.

It’s been a busy week for Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators. Between scouting meetings, contract discussions and other moves around the NHL, there’s a bunch of small news items that will all be covered below.

Andreas Englund Signs One-Year Contract

Breaking yesterday evening, the Ottawa Senators have inked another one of their RFAs to a contract extension, after signing Anthony Duclair earlier in the day. Englund’s two-way deal will pay him $700,000 in the NHL and $80,000 in the AHL. He won the Coach’s Choice award for Belleville last year, and played three games in the NHL.

Englund was a player pegged with the possibility of not even receiving a qualifying offer, considering how poorly his play fell off this past season both offensively and defensively. At 23, it appears the Sens are giving him another chance.

Marcus Hogberg Will Be Back

A contract extension is expected to be completed later this week with goaltender Marcus Hogberg. This is particularly good news, considering threats had arisen last month that he could potentially be headed back to Sweden. He had a stellar 2018-19 season taking over Belleville’s starting position, and with Anders Nilsson also signed to an extension, Hogberg’s placement in the crowded crease will be a storyline worth watching. Other goalies expected to play for Belleville next year include Filip Gustavsson, Joey Daccord, and...

...Mike Condon is Sticking Around

The NHL’s buyout window opened this past weekend, and Mike Condon has not been bought out. The Sens’ plans remain a mystery for the veteran goalie who was limited to three games last season due to injuries and poor play.

Cody Ceci Working on Extension

The Senators have been holding contract talks with Cody Ceci and his agent J.P. Barry, and it appears both sides are keen on closing a deal. Multiple scenarios have been discussed, including both short and long-term options for the veteran blueliner.

With a qualifying offer of $4.3 million, however, money may once again become an issue for Eugene Melnyk and the Senators. Ceci is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, although considering that’s the avenue the two sides took last year, it seems to be in both their interests to avoid a second time. This is Ceci’s last year as an RFA, as 2019-20 will be his seventh season in the NHL.

Dorion gave Ceci his vote of confidence at yesterday’s press briefing, saying that he thinks “Cody under D.J. [Smith] and assistant Jack Capuano can grow into being a better defenceman.”

If dollars end up becoming an issue, there is still the minor possibility of a trade. Right shot defencemen are a hot commodity on the trade market, and if the Sens find the right team willing to try him out, the possibility exists that they could be able to get a decent return.

Paajarvi, Tambellini and O’Brien Departing

Three players are confirmed to not be returning to the Senators organization next season — Magnus Paajarvi, Adam Tambellini and Jim O’Brien. Dorion approached Paajarvi to let him know he won’t be receiving a contract offer. Considering he was originally a waiver pickup in January of last year, the fact that the Sens were able to play him for 115 games is a solid feat.

As for Adam Tambellini, Bruce Garrioch listed the Senators RFAs expected to receive a qualifying offer, and Tambellini was the only omission. He had a career-low scoring season for Belleville last year, after being brought in for one year. Jim O’Brien is also leaving the Sens for a second time, joining the Nürnberg Ice Tigers in the DEL following an injury-plagued season.

Filip Ahl and Jordan Hollett Left Unsigned

June 1st was the last day to sign some un-signed prospects, and with Filip Ahl and Jordan Hollett reaching that deadline, the Senators elected to sign neither.

Ahl is a winger who Ottawa selected in the 2015 5th round, and couldn’t seem to find his stride in Allsvenskan. Hollett was drafted more recently as Ottawa’s 2017 6th round pick, although the goalie continued to put up sub-par results in the WHL. At 19 years old, Hollett will re-enter the 2019 draft.

Ottawa faces this same deadline with a couple more prospects next season: Finnish winger Markus Nurmi and QMJHL goalie Kevin Mandolese.

Searching for Veterans

Dorion has mentioned a few times already that the team is looking to add a couple veterans to the roster through free agency. Jason Spezza’s name has already come up, although corresponding with the Paajarvi announcement, Dorion mentioned that the Sens are currently holding talks with both Brian Gibbons and Oscar Lindberg.

Erik Karlsson Signs with San Jose, Sens Receive Pick

Big news broke yesterday that former captain and beloved superstar Erik Karlsson will not test free agency, instead agreeing to an eight year deal with the San Jose Sharks for $11.5 million per season. The contract structure made it clear why the Sens were never really in the running to re-sign him, as the amount of signing bonuses would’ve been way too much for Melnyk to handle.

The reason this affects the Sens, besides taking Karlsson off the market, is that they now receive a 2nd round pick in 2021 as part of a condition of the trade. Ottawa now owns three second round picks in 2021, for eight in total over the next three seasons.

Draft Strategy

Speaking of the slew of picks, it appears the Senators have decided that moving up in the draft will be their strategy this week. They currently hold picks #19, #32 and #44, which should give them plenty of options at the draft table. Last year they traded down to select Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick, so this year will be the reverse.

Mathematically, trading up is rarely a suitable strategy for gaining more overall value. Unless the Sens are planning on moving into the top 13, the group of prospects expected to be available after that are pretty comparable in skill level. Dorion mentioned that he hopes he can draft a player that can play for them next year, which could possibly indicate that he’s trying to move up even higher, maybe all the way into the top 10. Or maybe his expectations are just too high.

Ben Harpur Trade Possibility

Another trade the Sens could make this week may involve defenceman Ben Harpur. There are a lot of left-shot defencemen who will be fighting for a regular spot in training camp, and while Harpur has shown some versatility to play on the right side, Garrioch mentioned that Harpur may be the odd one out. The return would likely be minor (Eric Gryba fetched a 4th round pick + D-level prospect), although considering the 24-year-old defenceman was a key cog in the Sens’ historically bad defence last season, the time to move on may already be overdue.

More Trade Scenarios

Nothing concrete has surfaced yet, although Dorion mentioned he’s open to a couple other trade possibilities, including taking on a salary dump to reach he cap floor. The Senators have no shortage of space, and may even struggle to hit the floor, so acquiring extra assets to alleviate another team’s cap troubles would make perfect sense.

In a less perfect sense, however, he also said he’s open to the idea of using picks to add a veteran player. The rebuild should be the #1 priority, though, so the expectation is that any such trade should come at a cheap cost.

Brady Tkachuk Participating in Development Camp

With development camp slated to start shortly after the draft, Brady Tkachuk will be participating with the rest of the young rookies, only in the off-ice training and activities. He bonded closely with everyone last year, and wants to be around his future teammates — Josh Norris included.

Also, if you were wondering what Brady’s been up to this week, he’s back in his hometown of St. Louis celebrating the Blues’ Cup win, going as far as being in the parade. In completely unrelated news, Tkachuk will reach UFA status in 2025.

Chris Wideman’s Fallout

Speaking of people from St. Louis, former Senator Chris Wideman was a featured topic in Elliotte Friedman’s most recent 31 Thoughts column. He talks about the fallout of the whole Uber video situation, and the downturn his career took afterwards, including this quote:

“I think the No. 1 thing I learned — that I didn’t realize at the time — was how good I had it in Ottawa,” he said in an emotional 90-minute conversation. “When you’ve been in an organization for 10 years, you know them and they know you. You show up for the start of the season, the equipment guys take your gear and you know it is in good hands. You go sit in the same stall. You take it for granted. You don’t know how important that is until it’s gone.”

Coaching Decisions

Lastly, D.J. Smith will be adding at least one more coach to the Senators’ bench. With Jack Capuano hired to run the defence and penalty kill, the focus will be on bringing in someone to help the offence and power play. There’s also a chance they bring in an additional staff member after that.

One person who we know will not be joining the coaching roster is Chris Kelly. After contemplating his future, he has decided not to advance as a coach, but will continue to assist Shean Donovan in player development.

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