Silver Seven Off-Season Roundtable

With a large number of changes in Sens-land, we gather the staff for a roundtable to break it all down.

Silver Seven Off-Season Roundtable
Photo by Antenna / Unsplash

Now that Spencer's not here anymore, we can finally get down to the good stuff.


But seriously, there have been a lot of developments with the Ottawa Senators over the last couple of weeks. We've gathered the staff here to answer a few burning questions:

To say that Steve Staios and the Sens have been busy for the last couple of weeks has been busy is an understatement, and the fanbase seems a bit divided as to whether the moves are all for the better. Even in our own staff there is a range of opinions. How are you feeling about the off-season so far?

Trevor: I wrote in a recent Five Thoughts article that it's been a mixed bag for me. I love the Linus Ullmark acquisition, and the Michael Amadio signing was smart. David Perron's price tagwas a bit too high for me but he brings an intriguing angle to the team, as does Nick Jensen. It hurts that the Sens had to move a 3rd to get off Mathieu Joseph and probably didn't get exactly what they wanted for Chychrun, but I can see the outline of Staios' vision. I'd like to see Ottawa use their cap space for one more fourth line forward and a third pairing defenseman because it's still baffling that Travis Hamonic wasn't bought out. Overall it's been fine, but could have been a bit better.

Shaan: "Content" would be the most accurate word. I can see some positives in all of the moves Staios has made, and negatives in only a few. It's a relief to see a decent amount of cap space still available, especially with Josh Norris' dubious health. And Ullmark over Joonas Korpisalo is the biggest upgrade any team has made at a single position. 

Ross: I already have 2000+ words on the record that I've found the off-season plan to be incoherent. The moves range from excellent (Ullmark while also getting rid of Korpisalo) to downgrades (trading a pick to get rid of Joseph while signing Perron for $1M more).

Owen: Sentimental me feels pretty bummed about the players the Sens jettisoned. I can appreciate, however, that standing pat would have likely rendered the same results as last year – even with improved goaltending. I certainly don't feel as amped as I did two years ago when Pierre Dorion brought in Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat but then again that also amounted to nothing so I guess I'm just cautiously optimistic that a new process with result in a better outcome.

Beata: I guess cautiously optimistic is also the best way to describe how I feel. The Ullmark trade immediately makes this team so much better that I think it covers for all the other moves... and I haven't been too impressed with those other moves. I don't understand how Staios got so little for Chychrun when there was no rush to trade him, I don't think Joseph is a negative value player, and although I'm not surprised they lost Erik Brännström I think they're worse off because of it. Overall, I guess the team is more balanced, but I worry that they'll end up lacking in skill, especially once the injuries start to roll in.

Ary: I preferred action to inaction given the Senators' situation at the start of the off-season , and Staios and co. have done a lot of that where they can. I worry about the front office repeating past mistakes – mis-evaluating defencemen and depth forwards, focusing too much on physicality – but we'll have to see what the on-ice product looks like first to pass judgment in these areas. 

Nada: While I was pleasantly shocked by the fact that Ottawa landed Ullmark, that move was the high water point. I hope I am wrong but I don't see why we needed to get rid of a player like Joseph or even Branny. And that Perron signing? That will take a lot of good things happening to get me on board. A lot will be riding on whether Ullmark can give this team enough power to make them significantly better because I am not sure all these subtractions and additions have made the team better.

nkb: Like everyone else, I'm over the moon about the Ullmark trade; nothing else would have mattered if Staios had been unable to markedly upgrade at goalie and he's done just that. It would be borderline impossible to qualify for the post-season while receiving the goalie play Ottawa did this past year. Full points to Sens' management for identifying the key need and acting appropriately.

As for the rest of the team's moves, I actually think the net result is that the skaters might be marginally worse next year than in 2023-24. The blueline, much maligned as it was, does not look to me to be meaningfully improved and there is a real possibility it is weaker; certainly the third pair could be a real problem. Their forward group, if everyone is healthy, is probably a bit better.

While there has been a fairly large volume of transactions, the core of the team, besides goaltending, remains unchanged. Do you still have faith that this group can compete for the play-offs without a major overhaul?

Trevor: They should definitely be able to compete for a play-off spot, as long as Ullmark can be an average goaltender or better. I'm not going to proclaim they will make the playoffs, but I don't see why they can't be in the hunt.

Shaan: A play-off spot will come down to three major improvements: first is goaltending. Check. Second is team defense - can Ottawa ice more than 1 good pairing this year? We'll see what's what with Jensen, and if he's not able to fill the need, JBD, Guenette, or Matinpalo will need to step up in a big way. Third is finishing chances on the power-play. Moving Norris to the right circle and bringing Perron into the mix should help. I think it's more likely than not, that all three of these things improve, and so Ottawa should finish somewhere between 6th-10th in the East.

Ross: I'm cynical. They made a big upgrade at the worst position, but I also think the rest of the team is a little worse on paper. Remembering that Giroux turns 37 this year, he's already cheating time, and if he finally shows a bit of his age, this team has two top-six quality wingers. That said, if Ullmark is a top-15 goalie and the Sens don't have much issue with injury, then they will flirt with a playoff spot.

Owen: I would have had playoff aspirations for this team even if Staios had stopped tinkering at the goalie trade so yes I feel cautiously optimistic.

Beata: Yeah, sure. I've been saying it for several years now, so who even knows if this team will ever turn a corner, but I think they're good enough to make the play-offs. I agree with Ross that the skaters got a bit worse overall, but with good goaltending and good old "regression to the mean" in terms of puck luck, they can make the playoffs.

Ary: I question whether Ottawa has enough skill in their top-six forward group and top-four defence group if a marquee player is injured for a long period of time, even more so on the blue line with the loss of Brännström. Ultimately, a lot of this team's success will depend on the play of Thomas Chabot and Josh Norris. If they rebound to even 75% of their value, it's likely to be a successful campaign... but if they play like they did last season, the Sens have quite the conundrum on their hands. 

Nada: I didn't like the Travis Green hiring but I am curuious to see how the young core reacts to him. Tkachuk will be fired up and I have no reason to believe that Stutzle won't have a really good season. If Chabot and Norris can stay healthy, I think this core can do some real damage.

nkb: This looks to me like the roster of a fringe play-off team, just like last season, except this time they have a very good goalie. That alone might be enough to go places they couldn't before. That said, one gets the feeling this might be the core's last kick at the can; if things go pear-shaped this year, I'd expect almost anyone to be on the table.

At this stage, what are you most excited for? What are you least excited for?

Trevor: I'm most excited for feeling like there is a competent goalie in net who can help us win games every single time they play. I'm least excited for the inevitable injuries on defense and having to rely on Hamonic.

Shaan: Most excited for? Some saves. Something I'll be dreading will be not knowing how many game Hamonic and Zack MacEwen will play this season. A combined zero GP for both would be the best-case scenario, but anything below twenty games each would be appreciated.

Ross: I'm most excited for a healthy Stützle. He played with some kind of nagging injury for the last ~4 months of the season, so it's easy to forget that he was electric at the start of the year. Much like Trevor and Shaan, I'm least excited to see the Sens' depth exposed — this team is still set up to need Jacob Bernard-Docker or Travis Hamonic to be the sixth defenceman, and then potentially to move up the depth chart if even one guy gets hurt.

Owen: I would say I'm always most intrigued by the possibility of a player like Angus Crookshank, Max Guenette, or Roby Järventie having a big camp and making the opening night roster. I won't necessarily hold my breath though because of the thing I feel least excited about--the coaching staff. It might turn out fine but I expect some absolutely unhinged discourse nonetheless.

Beata: Like everyone else, I am most excited to watch a goaltender who can make saves. I am also least excited for another year of Hamonic, but just to be different I'll say it's if (when) Josh Norris's shoulder gives out again and we have to contend with the fact that we just don't have enough skilled forwards.

Ary: Most excited for training camp to see what the new coaching staff has in store. Least excited for replacement-level depth to be brought in to "compete" with players like Crookshank. 

Nada: Most excited: to watch the impact of great goaltending on this team. Least excited: the month of November.

nkb: I'm most excited to see what a (theoretically) fully healthy group of Stützle, Norris, and Pinto look like down the middle. Regardless of how you organize them, if they are all playing then the Sens will have enviable centre depth. I'm not looking forward to a third pairing that, given the current projected personnel, will need to be heavily sheltered in order to have a hope of staying above water.

Is there anything else that Sens' management absolutely must do before the off-season is over? 

Trevor: As I said before, they need one more fourth line forward and one third pairing defenseman. The necessary depth has not been there for years, but they have some space to add right now.

Shaan: They should look at bringing in two more players on league-minimum deals to shore up the depth. I'd target Caleb Jones as a depth D who can play both sides, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to challenge Ostapchuk, Halliday, and Jan Jenik for the 4C spot. 

Ross: "Must" depends on if the goal this year is to make the playoffs or to build a better culture built around the core. To make the playoffs, the team needs to get a better third-pairing RHD and another PK-focused bottom-six forward. If the goal is to grow for another season, then the team should probably stay the same course to give guys like Guénette and Crookshank regular chances in the NHL.

Owen:  Sign Mads Søgaard, waive Hamonic, and get Josh Norris healthy.

Beata: I don't think there's anything big that needs to be done. They should improve their depth at both forward and defense.

Ary: The team has covered a wide variety of topics that I agree with, so I'll take a different approach and advocate for the continued build out of a data science group and player development staff so that the Sens can compete with the best in the league and find value in the margins. We need it. 

Nada: Ideally, I would like to see Hamonic gone and replaced but otherwise, a few more depth additions couldn't hurt.

nkb: There's nothing new under the sun, so I'll just say finding one more competent defenseman would go a long way to ease my mind about the depth chart on the blue line. They other thing they must do is figure out how to avoid a slow start that totally submarines their season by November. But that's probably a story for another day.

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