After a season in 2014-15 that saw the Ottawa Senators put up 99 points and make the playoffs, last year was a big disappointment. Despite having a legitimate superstar in Erik Karlsson on the blueline, Ottawa went just 38-35-9 and missed the playoffs by 8 points. Karlsson put up 82 points and is a candidate to win his third Norris trophy, and would hide a lot of flaws on any team with his exceptional possession and offensive numbers.
With a very young roster, the team is another cap-floor team like Carolina (which we profiled earlier today) and won’t spend anywhere near the $71MM cap. They do however have some important names to re-sign if they want to build this core together. Here’s a look at their upcoming offseason:
Key Restricted Free Agent: LW Mike Hoffman – Following Hoffman’s breakout 2014-15 season where he scored 27 goals, the former 5th round pick improved in almost every category this season. Racking up 29 goals and 59 points, the 6’1″ winger moved to a spot on the top line and flourished in his new role, averaging almost 18 minutes a night.
Hoffman will turn 27 next season and will be looking for a long-term deal with the Senators this summer; paid $2MM last season, he’s earned a much bigger deal this time around. If the Senators aren’t willing to commit long-term to the Kitchener, Ontario native, Hoffman could sign a one-year deal and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. If he could hit that 30-goal mark in 2016-17, he’d be in for a huge payday.
Key Unrestricted Free Agent: None. The Senators only have two players hitting UFA status this summer, and both Scott Gomez and Mike Kostka are insignificant to their future plans. The 36-year old Gomez hasn’t been an effective NHL player in years, and Kostka is a minor-league journeyman who has never had NHL success.
Projected Cap Space: $17.5MM, 18 players under contract.
The blockbuster deal to bring over Dion Phaneuf from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season made a huge impact on the Sens’ salary structure going forward, inducing a cap hit of $7MM a season for the next five. Fortunately for Ottawa, Phaneuf’s deal was front-loaded and they’ll only be paying him $5.5MM in his age-35 season, despite the big cap hit.
It’s the NMC in his deal that may be troublesome for the Senators, as he’ll have automatic protection in next year’s expansion draft. With Karlsson obviously also needing it, the Senators will only have one more defenceman protection slot to use on their other young blueliners.
Overall, the team is in good shape going forward without many anchoring contracts, and a large crop of young players. They’ll try to get back to the playoffs this season, and may sign a veteran or two to help lead the group there.