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Will the Sens extend an RFA offer sheet? Potential trade targets and more!

July 2, 2022, 12:31 PM ET [317 Comments]
Kevin Francis
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July will be a very telling month for the Ottawa Senators as GM Pierre Dorion embarks on the NHL Entry Draft in less than a week, followed by free agency beginning on July 13th. All signs point to Dorion making a big move on draft day, as management will be gauging what players are taken ahead of their 7th overall pick in the draft. Dorion has held talks with the Arizona Coyotes going back to the trade deadline and in recent days he has revisited those talks in the hopes of unloading Nikita Zaitsev's remaining two years on his contract while acquiring a top 6 forward or top 4 defensemen.

I've been told that the Coyotes would rather move on from Clayton Keller due to the amount of term he has remaining on his deal versus that of Jacob Chychryn. Keller has 6 years left with a 7.15M AAV while Chychryn has 3 years left at 4.6M AAV. Personally, the Sens need to keep the puck out of their net before adding more scoring if they have any hope of contending for a playoff this coming season.

I'm told Arizona's first priority in any trade is to try to move Keller before Chychryn. Ottawa has offered Arizona, their 7th overall pick plus a 2nd round pick that they acquired from Tampa Bay, Egor Sokolov and I have yet to find another prospect that would be a part of any deal, plus sending Zaitsev's contract to the Coyotes for Keller. More to come in the next few days as we approach the draft.

With the NHL buyout period beginning yesterday, you can count out Matt Murray being bought out with 15 million owing on his contract over the next two years. All signs point to Michael Del Zotto being bought out unless for some unforeseen reason Dorion is able to trade him. The most likely buyout candidate is Colin White. Still, I've been told Dorion has been instructed to do whatever it takes to trade White and his three years remaining on his deal, due to the amount of money that was paid out yesterday in bonuses(3.25 M for MDZ and Hamonic) and previous players bought out/salary retained via trade(2.187M for Ryan and Phaneuf)

When you factor in the US dollar exchange rate, it's closer to 7 million Canadian. The club is paying Pierre McGuire an additional 500k per year for the next two years too. Don't forget Dorion retained 600k of Nick Paul's contract this past season too but they wouldn't agree to pay him an additional one million on a 4 year deal. It's no wonder ownership has expressed their displeasure with how Dorion has been quick to fix mistakes by throwing more dollars out the door. Conversely, if ownership would've spent proper dollars on hockey ops, Dorion would've made better decisions when it comes to the pro-scouting side of things, possibly wiping out some of the money that has been poorly allocated to the wrong players.

When it comes to Connor Brown, I've been told that Brown feels the Sens won't offer him fair market value in advance of becoming a UFA next summer. He's referenced to those close to him that he sees his contract situation playing out the same way Nick Paul's recent contract situation ended this past spring. Add to the fact that he's not confident at all in Dorion negotiating in good faith as it was Dorion that released the numbers on the contract offer to one specific outlet in hopes of getting the fanbase on management's side and it wouldn't surprise me if Dorion trades Brown this off-season.

Don't fool yourself Sens fans, this GM tries to tell the fanbase that he doesn't negotiate player contracts through the media, but it's the exact opposite as Dorion gets that info out there if he feels they won't be able to retain a player. I know for a fact that Sens captain Brady Tkachuk was very adamant in his end-of-season meeting with Dorion to keep Brown as he views him as an integral piece of the team as they begin to contend for the playoffs.

Tkachuk was also very persistent with Dorion in upgrading the team's facilities, the Sens captain wanted his voice heard so let's see if Dorion tries to keep his leadership group happy. Factor in Thomas Chabot being as animated as he's ever been in his end-of-season exit meeting, reiterating he doesn't want to go another season with an average defense core, he really wants a consistent top 4 defense partner for the coming season. Chabot added that he wants to play more quality minutes in the hopes of becoming more productive on the offensive end as he did during the 2018-19 season.

I've been told that Ottawa is exploring the possibility of extending an RFA offer sheet to RW/C Martin Necas. After being selected in the first round five years ago, his production in his first three full NHL seasons has been solid for the role and minutes he's been given by Rod Brind'Amour. With Carolina having to re-sign numerous free agents, the Canes can't keep everyone and with the Canes having already given Ethan Bear permission to seek out an offer sheet, Necas is the other player that Carolina knows they might lose to an offer sheet this summer.

Anthony Deangelo is due a big raise but is an RFA to go with Ian Cole and Brendan Smith being UFA's on defense. Couple that with Carolina's priority of keeping UFA Vincent Trochek, while trying to re-sign Max Domi and Nino Niederreiter, that 19 million in remaining cap space will dry up pretty fast. It's definitely something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks!

One topic of conversation that came up recently from a few of the Sens players is how they are bothered with how LA's rebuild has gone much quicker, on top of already making the playoffs. Some players have made it known that when you have more productive results with player acquisitions when you invest properly in hockey ops. With the recent promotion of Trent Mann to AGM and Ryan Bowness taking on the dual role with Mann, only one new face has been added to the management side of things after losing Peter MacTavish and firing Pierre McGuire. There need to be a lot more quality hockey people added to the Sens management group in the coming weeks.

Some other quick Sens notes as we approach the draft.

1 - Look for Ottawa to possibly draft Shean Donovan's son, Jorian who played this past season with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL after being selected 6th overall in the OHL draft back in 2020. He's ranked in the upper 80's of most draft rankings and the Sens have two picks in the third round. Something to keep an eye on.

2 - Jack Capuano interviewed for the Flyers head coaching job last month and is said to not be overly happy here in Ottawa. I don't see him remaining with the team past this coming season. In a change of tune by Dorion, Pierre allowed Capuano to actually interview for a head coaching job, as he was not given permission to interview for one this past season, being told he might be needed to replace DJ Smith. Now with Troy Mann being a top candidate to be elevated to the NHL coaching staff over the course of next season, I think Capuano who once thought the best way to return to the main boss behind the bench was in Ottawa is realizing that Mann is at the top of Dorion's list now.

3 - Ottawa will gauge the UFA market and see what type of term and dollars it would take to get a player they covet if they can't acquire one of the two pieces they are looking to add this summer via the trade route. Travis Konecny is still a possible trade target if the Keller deal can't get done. Although I'm told moving Zaitsev's contract is as much a priority as figuring out the status of White.

4 - Keep an eye out for Alex Formenton possibly being moved if Ottawa can retain Brown on an extension. It's no secret that Formenton and DJ don't get along at all. There have been rumblings about Formenton since the season ended.
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