By Cole Parkinson
The Ottawa Senators certainly look different heading into the 2022-23 season. While the Sens finished with only 73 points last season, the team was young and inexperienced and in the midst of a rebuild. But expectations are surely much higher coming into the new season after GM Pierre Dorion did some great work in the offseason to bolster the lineup.
First, they traded for Chicago Blackhawks’ superstar Alex DeBrincat for the number seven pick in the 2022 draft, a second-rounder in 2022 and a third-rounder in 2024. Make no mistake, this looks like an absolute steal for the Sens — DeBrincat immediately becomes one of the best players on the roster and slots onto the first line. The Sens weren’t done there as they shipped goalie Matt Murray to Toronto to clear some cap space, and with that cap space, they went out and signed Claude Giroux to a three-year, $6.5 million deal. So, with Giroux and DeBrincat added, the forward group looks very formidable.
Giroux is 34, so I don’t expect him to be the player he was with Philly, but he’s a good second liner that can chip in on that top power-play unit. DeBrincat is a stud and will bring tons of offence. While he won’t have Patrick Kane on his line, he will have skilled guys on his line that can score. With Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Tim Stutzle, that’s a great looking top six.
Tyler Motte, Michael Dal Colle, and Derick Brassard were also brought in as some depth pieces while Mathieu Joseph, Alex Formenton, Shane Pinto, Dylan Gambrell, and Austin Watson likely make the team in the bottom six. They have a fairly decent forward mix and they should be able to score — the biggest question will be if they can keep the puck out of their own net.
The defence is a mix of young and old with Thomas Chabot, Nikita Zaitsev, Travis Harmonic, Nick Holden, Artem Zub, Jake Sanderson, and Erik Brannstrom all vying for jobs. I think Chabot is one of the best defenders in the league and considering he’s only 25, he has tons of room to get even better. Both Sanderson and Brannstrom are both in their early 20s too, so the Sens have plenty of young players that can grow with this team as they get better. A young d-core with some veterans sprinkled in is a good way to head into the season and you have to hope the young guys can learn a thing or two from the vets.
After shipping Murray to their provincial rival, the Sens had an open slot for another tender with Anton Forsberg signing a three-year extension worth $2.75 million each season. Forsberg had a great year last year, so the Sens were really looking for a 1A/1B scenario and they found it with Cam Talbot. In a trade that sent goalie Filip Gustavsson, they saw the veteran Talbot come the other way to form their new tandem. Talbot posted a .911 save percentage while Forsberg was at .917 — they may not be the sexiest of names, but if they can come close to repeating their performances from last year, the Sens should be in good shape.
The Atlantic Division is still strong with Toronto, Florida, Tampa, and Boston looking to win the division. I expect the Sens to be playing plenty of competitive games come the spring though, and I’d be shocked if there was as big of a divide between the top and bottom of the division as there was last year.
The Sens have approximately $5,690,119 in cap space, according to CapFriendly, so they have tons of room to manoeuvre. I don’t see a mass shipping out of players coming for the Sens, and they may even add if they’re close to a playoff spot. I don’t see them truly being a playoff contender though, especially since Toronto, Florida, and Tampa look to be locks for the top three spots — Boston isn’t a slush either but they are getting older. So, maybe they catch fire and land a Wild Card spot. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, being competitive and playing meaningful games late in the season is beneficial for their young players.