- The Ottawa Senators announced three cuts from their training camp today, sending prospects Chandler Romeo, Reid Valade, and Dalyn Wakely to their OHL clubs. Romeo, 19, was a seventh-round pick of the Senators at the 2021 draft while Valade and Wakely have each not been drafted. All three were not expected to play significant roles at training camp or in the preseason.
Donovan, 18, was the team’s fifth-round pick this summer, selected 136th overall after his first season in the OHL. The young defenseman had 22 points in 64 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs, after being the sixth-overall pick in the 2020 OHL priority selection.
While he was born in Calgary, this is a hometown kid for the Senators. Donovan is the son of former NHL forward Shean Donovan, who played more than 950 games in the league and is now a development coach with the organization. He finished his playing career in Ottawa, and coached with the 67’s and the Kanata Lasers, the minor program where Jorian made his name.
It’s not just nepotism that got him this deal though, as general manager Pierre Dorion explains:
We’ve been impressed with Jorian’s game since drafting him in July. He competes hard and will be a defenceman that Hamilton leans on in every situation this season. An athletic player who skates well, getting Jorian under contract today is an important step for the future of the organization.
There is real upside in the young defenseman, and Dorion is right when he says the Bulldogs will be relying on him this season. With the graduation of Nathan Staios and Arber Xhekaj, there will be big minutes available in Hamilton this season. If a player like Donovan takes over in that top role, his value could skyrocket quickly.
- Zack Ostapchuk, the 39th overall pick in 2021, is out a few weeks for the Ottawa Senators and will be sent back to junior after he’s healthy enough according to Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia. That ends any possibility that he could make the team out of camp after his outstanding playoff run for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. The 19-year-old is not yet eligible for the AHL and instead will go back and try to carry over that postseason success for an entire year.
After a brilliant end to the 2020-21 season and a strong training camp, it appeared as though Shane Pinto had set himself up to be a key contributor to the Ottawa Senators last year. He started things off by averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time through his first three games, and was set to have a strong rookie season. Then, unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder injury that would essentially end his year. He would end up on injured reserve for basically the entire thing, finishing with just one point in five games – two of which he lasted less than five minutes.
Now, finally, Pinto has been officially activated from injured reserve according to CapFriendly, and will try to give his rookie season another go. The 21-year-old center was selected 32nd overall in 2019 and dominated for two years at the University of North Dakota, before scoring seven points in 12 games in 2020-21 for the Senators.
Healthy and surrounded by improved talent, there’s a chance for Pinto to get right back to where he was a year ago. Interestingly, though, the second-line center position has been filled in his absence. Joshua Norris and Tim Stutzle now occupy those two spots, likely leaving Pinto in the third-line pivot role, likely beside Mathieu Joseph. Alex Formenton, who would be a top candidate for the other wing spot there is still unsigned, meaning it could go to someone like the recently-signed Tyler Motte for now, though training camp will determine that.
In any case, it is exciting time for Pinto and Senators fans as he takes another crack at becoming a full-time NHL player. His development is one of the things that could push the team over the edge and have them competing for the playoffs this season.
One of the unsigned restricted free agents still waiting on a contract is Rasmus Sandin of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some have suggested that the Maple Leafs could trade the young defenseman, but Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet threw some cold water on that today during the 32 Thoughts podcast.
Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I really don’t think Toronto has a desire to trade Sandin. You look at their depth chart over the next couple of years and basically every defenseman aside from [Timothy] Liljegren and [Morgan] Rielly come off the cap pretty soon. I think they have a desire to keep him.
Friedman notes that some agents believe the leverage for Sandin (and fellow unsigned RFA Nicolas Hague) has been lowered by some of the recent deals signed, including the ones for Michael Anderson (one year, $1MM) and Sean Durzi (two years, $3.4MM) with the Los Angeles Kings. Camp starts in just a few days, meaning Sandin might be absent if a deal can’t be worked out at the last second.
- The Ottawa Senators announced their full leadership group ahead of what should be a very interesting season. Claude Giroux will be one of Brady Tkachuk’s alternates, along with Thomas Chabot, after signing a three-year, $19.5MM contract this offseason. Giroux served as captain of the Philadelphia Flyers for ten seasons before reaching unrestricted free agency this summer.
- Cory Schneider will be back in the New York Islanders organization this season says general manager Lou Lamoriello, who spoke with media including Kevin Kurz of The Athletic today. The 36-year-old goaltender leaned into his role with the AHL’s Bridgeport Islanders last year, posting a .921 save percentage in 30 games, while also making one appearance at the NHL level (and winning his first game since 2019-20). Like so much other Islanders-related news, it is not clear what kind of contract Schneider will be signing, or what role is expected of him this year.
- After a successful season helping his Swedish club, Timra IK, survive its first season back in the SHL, Viktor Lodin crossed the Atlantic and saw his first North American professional action with the Senators. The 2019 fourth-round pick played well, scoring eight points in 10 AHL games and even got into his first NHL game. That success meant Lodin would be competing for a lineup spot in Senators training camp, but unfortunately he may have to wait. In today’s prospect tournament game vs. the Montreal Canadiens, Lodin went hard into the boards and sustained an upper-body injury that caused him to leave the game. While we don’t have word on the full extent of the injury, it’s surely not an ideal development for Lodin’s NHL odds.
- The Senators are expected to hold prospect Ridly Greig out of all three rookie tournament games, notes Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch. The 20-year-old suffered a shoulder injury at the World Juniors and Ottawa is expected to be cautious with him with training camps fast approaching. He had six points in five events for Canada at the tournament and could battle for a spot in the bottom six in the preseason although some time with AHL Belleville in a more prominent role might be the best move from a development perspective.
The momentum behind the Ottawa Senators continues, this time with two veteran forwards joining the group for training camp. General manager Pierre Dorion told reporters including Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia that Derick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle will both be with the Senators in camp on professional tryouts.
Brassard, 34, is a familiar face for Ottawa fans, having played parts of two seasons with the team in the past. While his time there was relatively successful, many will remember him only as the piece that the Senators received for a young Mika Zibanejad from the New York Rangers in 2016. While Zibanejad is now a star, Brassard has bounced around, playing for seemingly every team in the league to this point.
After starting with the Columbus Blue Jackets and then going through New York and Ottawa, the veteran forward has played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Edmonton Oilers. Last year saw him record 19 points in 46 games and now he is just searching for a place to play.
Dal Colle, meanwhile, is finally getting a chance with a different organization after spending his entire career to this point with the Islanders. The fifth-overall pick in 2014, he has played just 112 regular season NHL games to this point in his career and has just eight goals. Even his minor league totals haven’t been off-the-charts, though perhaps a fresh start will breathe life back into his career.
Still just 26, Dal Colle has never been able to use his size – 6’3″ – to his advantage, regularly acting like a small perimeter player instead of the power forward that some believed he could be. Now with a chance to showcase what he can do outside of the Islanders system, he’ll have to do more than he has to this point if he wants another NHL deal.
The summer of Dorion continues. The Ottawa Senators are bringing in another free agent forward that should excite the fan base, though not in exactly the same way Claude Giroux does. Tyler Motte will be signing with the club according to Luke Fox of Sportsnet, who credits colleague Elliotte Friedman for the tip. James Mirtle of The Athletic reports that the deal is for one year and $1.35MM.
Motte, 27, found his way onto our top 50 free agent list this year despite his relatively low offensive ceiling, thanks to the work ethic and skating ability that made him a fan favorite for the Vancouver Canucks. The bottom-six forward scored 15 points in 49 games for the Canucks last season before a deadline deal took him to the New York Rangers, where he was held scoreless down the stretch before tallying two goals in 15 postseason matches.
While Motte has been in the league since 2016, he really emerged onto the national stage in the 2020 bubble playoffs, when he scored four goals for the Canucks and was a wrecking ball on the ice every shift. He had 61 hits in those 17 postseason games, despite playing just over 15 minutes a night, and earned a two-year contract as a reward. That deal carried a cap hit of $1.225MM, meaning he’s barely getting a raise to join the Senators after what seems like a misread free agent period.
Signing this late in the summer is never going to result in a huge contract and now Motte will have to try again next year if he wants the security of a multi-year deal.
Where he fits into the Ottawa lineup is another story, as the team already has a number of forwards set to compete for NHL spots. Even in a fourth-line role, though, Motte can be effective. He averaged more shorthanded ice time than any forward not named J.T. Miller for the Canucks last season and was once again a physical presence, racking up 90 hits in those 49 games. He may not provide much offense – nine goals and 16 points are his career highs – but he’ll add more depth to an Ottawa forward group that suddenly looks quite impressive.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The goalie market this offseason was a busy one, with many teams looking to address their needs, but seeming to find less options than there were spots to fill. Some teams who had the need for several years were able to finally address it, like the Edmonton Oilers signing of All Star Jack Campbell and the New Jersey Devils acquisition of Vitek Vanecek. Some who found out rather abruptly that they would be needing help in net, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost Campbell, addressed it by signing Ilya Samsonov and acquiring Matt Murray. Others, who didn’t seem to be in urgent need of goalie help went out and found it anyways, like the Ottawa Senators with Cam Talbot and the Washington Capitals with Darcy Kuemper.
With all the shuffling, it seems many teams are now set in goal, or at least hope that they are. But, just as the demand maybe subsides, the supply on next year’s market will be rather rich. There appears to only be one star that will be available, that being Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Tristan Jarry, but after that, a bevy of veteran backstops, capable of being a quality starting goalies, will be on the market. Joining them are a large group of capable backups like Jonathan Bernier, Laurent Brossoit, Jaroslav Halak, and Antti Raanta, as well as a pair of intriguing, less experienced options like Adin Hill and Alex Nedeljkovic.
But, it’s this group of veterans who could pose an interesting shuffle, obtaining potentially very similar contracts based on their performance this season. Of course, the 2022-23 campaign will have a major impact on their value heading into the offseason, but for now, a compare and contrast of these five similar options could be an interesting exercise.
Contract: Two years, $5.75MM ($2.875MM AAV)
2021-22 Stats: 35 GP, 9-20-4, 2 SHO, .905 SV%, 3.30 GAA
Career Stats: 353 GP, 168-126-35, 23 SHO, .911 SV%, 2.60 GAA
Once considered one of the most exciting goalie prospects of his generations, Allen never panned out as a superstar in net, however he has become a reliable starting and backup goalie, depending on the role he’s put in. Allen spent his first seven NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues, earning the majority of playing time between 2015-2018, but a surprising breakout performance from Jordan Binnington in 2018-19 pushed Allen into a backup role. After the 2019-20 season, with one year at $4.35MM left on his contract, the Blues shipped Allen to the Montreal Canadiens for a pair of seventh round picks.
His numbers since heading north of the border haven’t been what they once were, but the real regression came when the team around him regressed in 2021-22. Allen’s next deal may very well resemble the one he signed in the 2021 offseason, but a strong rebound performance, considering the context of how the Canadiens perform around him, could increase not only increase his AAV, but also the term for the 32-year-old.
Contract: Two years, $9MM ($4.5MM AAV)
2021-22 Stats: 52 GP, 35-14-3, 4 SHO, .922 SV%, 2.17 GAA
Career Stats: 445 GP, 261-114-51, 23 SHO, .916 SV%, 2.59 GAA
A four-time All Star and two-time Jennings Trophy winner, receiving one of each in 2021-22, the answer might seem obvious that Andersen would sign the biggest free agent deal of any goaltender in 2023, even better than Jarry. But, the former Maple Leafs star netminder doesn’t come without his concerns and that could hamper his open-market potential. After breaking out with the Anaheim Ducks from 2013-2016, Andersen was dealt to Toronto where he continued to develop into one of the league’s best, posting three straight seasons of at least 60 starts and no less than a .917 SV%.
The success, however, began to taper off and in 2019-20, Andersen regressing slightly to a .909 SV% and 2.85 GAA. The 2020-21 season would be no better, his numbers dropping to a .895 SV% and 2.96 GAA as the veteran dealt with injuries. Ultimately, Campbell took over the net for Toronto and that offseason, Andersen was left to hit free agency, signing his current deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. The goalie found tremendous rebound success in Carolina and was even receiving Vezina Trophy consideration before injuries ended his season on April 16th, just weeks before the playoffs were set to begin. If Andersen can continue his strong performance and show that injuries are a thing of the past, he may be the runaway favorite in this poll, but it’s been several years since the soon-to-be 33-year-old has compiled a fully-healthy season.
Contract: Ten years, $58MM ($5.8MM AAV)
2021-22 Stats: 46 GP, 23-13-9, 2 SHO, .910 SV%, 2.59 GAA
Career Stats: 712 GP, 359-262-78, 56 SHO, .913 SV%, 2.42 GAA
An unlikely name on this list for several reasons, Quick re-emerged as an important piece in net for the Los Angeles Kings as the team itself awoke from a semi-lengthy rebuild in 2021-22. Quick still wasn’t the star he had been from 2009-2017, but after several seasons of poor play and injuries, it was a return to being the steady presence in net that the Kings had historically expected from the 36-year-old. Los Angeles had been hoping to transition the net from Quick to Calvin Petersen, especially after giving the younger netminder a three-year, $15MM contract set to begin this season, but Petersen’s struggles have given Quick new opportunity and thus new life.
Turning 37 in January, with recent history considered, even another strong showing is unlikely to propel Quick to a big payday, but if he can show that he’ll be among those goaltenders who age gracefully, his long resume as a reliable, two-time Cup winning goaltender will reward him in free agency.
Contract: Three years, $11MM ($3.667MM AAV)
2021-22 Stats: 49 GP, 32-12-4, 3 SHO, .911 SV%, 2.76 GAA
Career Staats: 396 GP, 201-142-34, 27 SHO, .915 SV%, 2.63 GAA
After several up-and-down seasons in a few cities after his trade from the New York Rangers, Cam Talbot appeared to finally settle in and take the next step with the Minnesota Wild in 2020-21, sharing the net with Kaapo Kahkonen. But, 2021-22 threw a wrinkle into the equation by no fault of Talbot, as the team dealt Kahkonen to the San Jose Sharks and brought in future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury. The Wild in turn gave the majority of the playing time to Fleury, leaving Talbot to back up. Talbot had hoped to remain in Minnesota and show he could take the net back, but after Minnesota chose to re-sign Fleury, Talbot was shipped to the Ottawa Senators, where he figures to see the bulk of playing time.
Turning 36 next July, Talbot may not see the term some of the other goalies on this list might be able to find, but much like Quick, proof he can age well in the role may ultimately work in his favor. The key for Talbot will be to show, besides his ability to age well, that his up and down career is no more, and that the solid performance in the State of Hockey was not merely an extended “up,” but is instead the new normal for the University of Alabama-Huntsville product.
Contract: Four years, $20MM ($5MM AAV)
2021-22 Stats: 31 GP, 10-17-2, 2 SHO, .911 SV%, 2.91 GAA
Career Stats: 560 GP, 261-211-62, 36 SHO, .916 SV%, 2.64 GAA
When the New York Islanders allowed Robin Lehner to walk after a breakout season where he was named a Vezina Trophy finalist in order to sign Varlamov, many around the hockey world raised their eyebrows. As good as Lehner has been, the decision to bring in Varlamov has paid dividends on Long Island, as the veteran teamed up with Thomas Greiss and later his fellow countryman Ilya Sorokin to create a formidable tandem in net. However over the life of the deal, Varlamov’s role has diminished, going from a starter to something closer to a backup. Part of that has been out of Varlamov’s control with the emergence of Sorokin as one of the league’s better goalies, but 2021-22 did Varlamov no favors either.
Though his numbers were not objectively bad, it was a step back from the player he had been the two years prior. A rebound from Varlamov, especially one that forces the Islanders’ hand to take time from Sorokin and give it to the veteran will certainly boost his value on the open market. Turning 35 in the spring and still capable of taking a significant slate of games in net for a team, Varlamov will have plenty of interest on the open market, but securing the largest deal out of these five will require a performance more similar to what we saw in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
Considering these options, who is most likely to find the biggest contract on the open market? All are legitimate NHL goaltenders likely capable of holding their own net in 2023-24 and beyond, though none are considered stars. Andersen may be the closest to a star, however his recent injury struggles could make teams wary. If it’s durability a team is looking for, Varlamov might be a safer bet, but recent performance is trending in the opposite direction, albeit not enough to scare an organization off. Either way, 2022-23 will go a long way to understanding what this market becomes, but entering the new season, who sits in the best position?
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