Senators GM Pierre Dorion spoke on TSN 1200 in Ottawa this morning and addressed many of the most pressing issues facing his team down the stretch this season. And while that won’t include a playoff push, as the Senators hold the NHL’s second-worst record and are well outside of a playoff spot in the North Division, Dorion still stated that he would like to see more consistency out of his roster the rest of the way. The position of greatest concern right now is obviously goaltending. Ottawa is allowing 3.91 goals against per game this season, the worst mark in the league by a wide margin. The Senators’ depth in net appeared to be strong entering the season with newly-acquired starter Matt Murray at the top, promising backup Marcus Hogberg ready for a full-time NHL role, college standout Joey Daccord as next man up, and top prospects Filip Gustavsson and Kevin Mandolese to fall back on as well. Yet, Murray and Hogberg have struggled greatly and the Senators’ goaltending actually improved when the pair were lost to injury, making Daccord the starter by default. However, Daccord is now expected to miss the rest of the season due to an injury of his own. This prompted not only the waiver claim of Anton Forsberg, but also for the team to send a chartered private plane to Winnipeg to pick him up, so as to avoid any quarantine period. Forsberg, who amazingly has not played at any level this season despite being claimed on waivers three times, will start for AHL Belleville on Saturday and is then likely to dress as backup behind Gustavsson on Monday, according to The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch. Gustavsson, who made his NHL debut by providing a shutout third period in relief of Daccord on Wednesday, will make his first start on Monday and he and Forsberg appear likely to split starts until Murray and/or Hogberg are healthy enough to return to action. Dorion considers Murray “week-to-week” and hopes Hogberg will be ready for an AHL conditioning stint before the end of the month.
- Without anything to play for this season, the stretch run could actually be an exciting time for the Senators as they take a look at some other options in action before next season. That could very well include any number of current members of the University of North Dakota, once their NCAA season comes to an end. Ottawa has spent a number of high draft picks on Fighting Hawks commits in recent years and now the No. 1 team in college hockey is seeking a National Championship, fueled by Senators property. For now, Dorion says that he has informed North Dakota forward Shane Pinto and defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jake Sanderson, and Tyler Kleven to simply focus on their pursuit of a title and worry about their pro futures later. However, once the postseason has ended for North Dakota – as early as next weekend or as late as April 10 – Dorion could sign any of the group and insert them into the Senators lineup right away. He specifically called Pinto, Bernard-Docker, and Sanderson “close” in terms of their pro readiness. Bernard-Docker, a junior, and Pinto, a sophomore, are more likely to sign this year than Sanderson, a freshman, even though he was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Beyond the North Dakota players that Ottawa already owns, their link to the program and the immediate opportunity available could give them a leg up in wooing a pair of the very best college free agents available. Seniors Matt Kiersted and Jordan Kawaguchi are certainly on the Senators’ radar and could be intrigued by joining the Ottawa rebuild. Dorion did not address the immediate pro future of North Dakota transfer Jonny Tychonick, another talented draft pick whose University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks are also hoping to make the NCAA Tournament.
- As for players that could be leaving the Senators before the end of the season, Dorion opined that this could be a very quiet trade deadline for his team, a sentiment that many other teams have echoed. In a buyer’s market that is influenced by difficult salary cap situations and border restrictions, there is a feeling that there might not be much action before the April 12 deadline. Dorion claims that teams are “checking in” but there apparently hasn’t been much traction on forming actual deals. The Senators are not in a great position to trade this season anyhow. Recently re-acquired winger Ryan Dzingel is their most valuable rental piece, but may not even be available if there is mutual interest in an extension. Dzingel has already re-discovered his scoring touch back in Ottawa, notching four goals in eight games. Expensive and unproductive veterans Artem Anisimov and Erik Gudbranson, depth defensemen Mike Reilly and Braydon Coburn, and grinders Matthew Peca and Micheal Haley are the only other expiring contracts the Senators have and lack much, if any value. It could be a quiet deadline indeed in Ottawa barring a surprise move.