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After the season ended, Pierre Dorion indicated that the Senators might be looking at adding a veteran player to the roster via free agency due to the lack of experience on the team and their need to get to the cap floor. I wouldn’t expect Ottawa to be big spenders in free agency at all, but it looks like we might actually see a multi-million dollar deal on July 1st for once. It won’t be a very important player that comes in, but I still wanted to take a look at who the best options are to fit this role.
These might not all be players that Ottawa looks at, but they are players who I could at least envision being Senators.
As I’ve been saying for the past week or so, Spezza seems like a very likely candidate to come back, which would have sounded incredibly strange not too long ago. However, he has said that he would be open to coming back and it seems like there could be some mutual interest. He is now 36 years old and scored 27 points in 76 games this season and had 26 in 78 the previous season, so he would not be very expensive. His last contract had a cap hit of $7.5M but I would expect his next contract to be anywhere between $1M-$2.5M per season for one or two years.
He isn’t the player he used to be and would be used as a 3rd/4th line centre, but that’s okay as long as he isn’t taking away ice time from prospects who need playing time. The Senators would have a lot of centres if they sign him (White, Tierney, Spezza, Pageau, plus Smith, Chlapik, Brown, and Paul), but that can still be managed if those aforementioned four are put on the wing. Furthermore, there will always be injuries, so there would still be enough ice time to go around. If Ottawa also brings back any of Magnus Paajarvi, Oscar Lindberg, or Brian Gibbons, then that complicates things though.
A matured Spezza would be good for the team and for the fanbase, and it would make fans feel better knowing that not all former star players have bad blood towards the organization.
I don’t think Ottawa will sign a defenseman, but I wanted to talk about two anyway just in case they do bring someone in. Benn is an imperfect fit because he shoots left-handed and would add to a crowded left side, but something like that hasn’t stopped Ottawa from adding in the past (see, Nilsson). He made just $1.1M over the past three years, and at the age of 31, Benn won’t be breaking the bank as a 3rd pairing player. He posted a career-high 22 points this season, which just shows how defensive minded he is.
I think he would be a good add if they were an up-and-coming team that needed one more depth defenseman, as he can provide some stability on a bottom-pairing. I don’t think it would be a good idea to add him unless they move someone though because they have Chabot, Wolanin, Brannstrom, Borowiecki, Harpur, and Lajoie all on the left side, and some of those players deserve time in the NHL. Despite his handedness, Benn fits the type of grizzled veteran that the Senators are looking for, so he might be considered.
Boyle just seems like a Senators signing. They have signed similar-ish fourth line players such as Nate Thompson, Zenon Konopka, and Matt Kassian in the past, and I can see them going after the 34-year-old. His value around the league is quite high, as the New Jersey Devils were able to get a 2nd round pick for him at the deadline because of his solid reputation. He has always been known as a leader, and I think adding him to the Senators dressing room would definitely be a net positive.
As for his on-ice results, they are nothing special. He is a 4th line centre who will score around 20-25 points and can kill penalties, which I’m sure the Senators are looking for. I would argue that someone like Nick Paul can do that exact same thing on the ice, but then again, I do believe Boyle would be a great fit for the room. Boyle made $2.55M on his last deal, and I would expect his next contract to be slightly lower than that, which Ottawa would be able to afford. Perhaps getting Spezza will put them out of the running for Boyle, but if they don’t get him, Boyle might be their second choice.
There aren’t very many cheap right-handed defensemen available, but Lovejoy is one of them. He is 35 and has plenty of experience including a Stanley Cup from 2016. He has quietly been a solid 3rd pairing defenseman in Pittsburgh, Anaheim, New Jersey, and Dallas, and I bet Ottawa would be interested in bringing him in. The defense might be a bit crowded, but not as much on the right side, plus there isn’t a whole lot of experience in the group.
Lovejoy made $2.66M on his last contract, although I would imagine that would be going down slightly for next year. Even if he does get somewhere around $2.5M-$2.75M, Ottawa has the money because they have to hit the cap floor. He would slot in behind Dylan DeMelo and Cody Ceci and would perhaps split time with Christian Jaros. Or maybe Ottawa has a plan to move Ceci before he has to be signed, who knows? But Lovejoy is a defensive defenseman who Ottawa would most likely love to bring into the fold.
Brouwer made just $850k with the Panthers this season after being bought out of his final two years in Calgary last summer. The soon-to-be 34-year-old notched 21 points in 75 games, which is right in line with his past three seasons, but about 15 points lower than his peak. He is certainly no longer the effective bottom-six player that he once was in Chicago and Washington, but I doubt he is done in the NHL just yet.
He was an assistant captain for three seasons in Washington and two seasons in Calgary, and he has the reputation of a “character player” that is helpful for player cohesion. I have no idea how much of that is actually true, but I’m sure at least some of it is. Brouwer posted a 0.6 WAR this season, which was actually 11th on the Panthers and not that bad for someone his age. Considering his small salary in 2018-19, I can’t see him getting more than $1M on his next contract. Ottawa also has plenty of room on right wing with Drake Batherson, Bobby Ryan, and Max Veronneau in the NHL, meaning Brouwer has a spot open for him.
There are definitely a few other options out there that the Senators could sign, although it seemed like these are the most obvious fits.