The Ottawa Senators have found one of their cap-floor targets, acquiring Erik Gudbranson from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick. The veteran defenseman comes with a $4MM cap hit, though is only actually owed $3MM in salary this season, the last on his current contract. Senators GM Pierre Dorion has released a statement on his newest defenseman:
Erik Gudbranson provides another sizable presence to our defence corps. He’s a reliable veteran who plays an intimidating style of game and someone who will add a combination of grit, energy and, most importantly, leadership to our lineup.
The Senators have obviously made a decision that they want to get more physical on defense this season as they continue to push young players into the lineup. After losing Mark Borowiecki to free agency, the team has now added Josh Brown and Gudbranson in the span of a week, giving them two behemoths on the back end. With the team not expected to compete for the playoffs this season, instead using it as a development year for their young core, bringing in an experienced leader like Gudbranson (who also happens to be very willing to stand up for his teammates) makes sense.
It also helps Ottawa get towards the salary cap floor without taking on any long-term money. Gudbranson will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and would likely not even cost much to retain at that point. Once one of the most hyped defensive prospects in the world, Gudbranson was picked third behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin in the 2010 draft. He was a monstrous player in junior who could skate well and was expected to take a step forward offensively, but never did once he reached the NHL. Now 28, Gudbranson has just 73 career points in 518 games.
Still, this is a nice moment for Gudbranson, who is from Ottawa and will get a chance to embrace his hometown team for the first time in his career. In a year where the scoreboard outcomes don’t matter as much as the on-ice development, he’ll be an easy player for Senators fans to cheer for with his rough style. If he can somehow find the level of play that he flashed during a short period with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019, he could even become a core piece.
For Anaheim, they get out from a bad contract and free up some space to play with in free agency. The team has no restricted free agents left to sign and had previously been right up against the cap. Now, with $4MM out the door, they could potentially get in on someone they believe can make a difference.