The Ottawa Senators and their fans once again saw many familiar faces be sent off in this year’s NHL Trade Deadline. Jean-Gabriel Pageau being the most known of them all. However, despite the departures, there are still some Ottawa Senators unrestricted free agents to take care of. This article will look at each one and decide what possible options there are for them.
Ottawa Senators Unrestricted Free Agents
We start off with veteran goaltender Craig Anderson. He is likely the most popular of the unrestricted free agents. Anderson has been with the team since the 2010-11 season. In many respects, he is one of, if not the best goaltender the Ottawa Senators have ever had. Especially when the length of play is considered, however, this is very likely the end of Anderson’s amazing run with the Senators.
Unfortunately, Anderson may just not have it anymore. This is fair considering he is 38-years-old and most goalies fall off much before that. However, the past three seasons he has posted save percentages of .901, .903, and .898 respectively. All much below league average and all in a large enough sample size to mean something.
His underlying numbers are no better either. From EvolvingHockey, Anderson has had a -6.05, -9.69, and -25.11 Goals Saved Above Average in the past three seasons. He has let in more goals than an average goalie would, and although it has actually gotten slightly better over the past few years, there is no justifying keeping him another season.
The other reason Anderson’s time appears to be up is that Ottawa has two better options in net. Anders Nilsson has been hurt this season, but when he has played for Ottawa over the past year and a half he has been very solid. Someone who is proving he can be a great tandem goalie and is worthwhile to keep around as Ottawa continues their rebuild.
However, Ottawa now has a second goalie they need to give NHL minutes to. Marcus Hogberg has been very good this season as an NHL goalie. So much so that he is showing the potential of being some kind of full-time NHL starter. He may not be a guy to compete for a Vezina, but given how he has played in his young career it seems obvious there is at least room to grow into a league-average starter.
This all combined with the fact that Ottawa has more younger goalies in their system, leaves Anderson as the odd man out. Hopefully, he will get to retire a Senator this summer, however, he may also choose to help backup somewhere else. It just likely won’t be in Ottawa.
Next in the Ottawa Senators unrestricted free agents list, we have the veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey. He has helped the Senators in a few ways this season. Providing much-needed experience on the backend he was thought to be a trade chip in this year’s NHL Trade Deadline. However, the club opted to keep him. Given the high price for a veteran defenceman in this year’s market, it seems as if Ottawa could have moved him if they wanted. Instead, they chose to move Dylan DeMelo who is much younger than Hainsey.
This all suggests Ottawa likely plans on trying to bring back Hainsey for one more season. While keeping DeMelo may have been the better option, they now will need Hainsey for a weak right side. Ron Hainsey isn’t what he used to be, he probably shouldn’t be playing top-four NHL minutes anymore. However, for a rebuilding team, he can help take minutes and still be effective on the penalty kill.
With Hainsey, it seems like he will be willing to play another year in the NHL. If that is the case and Ottawa wants him to return, the fit seems natural. Ottawa has some interesting names in the pipeline for right-handed defencemen. However, none of them are ready for next year. If Hainsey were to re-sign, look for a one-year deal at around the AAV he is at now. The cap hit might be high, but the Sens will have plenty of cap room.
This is an interesting case because Mark Borowiecki is a heart and soul guy Ottawa can absolutely justify keeping around. Pierre Dorion said they want Borowiecki to be a Senator for life. However, we know that has been said about players before. The issue with Borowiecki is the bodies already in Ottawa’s system. Unlike Hainsey where there aren’t many right-handed defencemen, Ottawa will have plenty of lefties looking for a role. Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom, and Christian Wolanin are all guys who play the left side and have no reason not to be in the top-six come opening night. Borowiecki could be a seventh defenceman and sub in as needed, but that may be Mike Reilly‘s role next year.
Andreas Englund, Christian Jaros, and Maxime Lajoie are all names that Ottawa could want to try at some point next year too. In all honesty, the Reilly acquisition seems like a short-sighted move. Brannstrom has been lighting the AHL up and even looked fine in the NHL while up there. Another year of AHL “development” after a playoff run this year will do absolutely nothing for him. Which means the options for Borowiecki are somewhat limited.
If you can find a way to move on from someone like Reilly, or opt to have him play his off side if someone like Hainsey walks or you don’t like anyone else in the third pair slot, then a path for Borowiecki seems more clear. He could become a seventh defenceman who is a great locker room presence and also subs in every couple of games. A deal for him feels like it would be at one or two years for a couple of million dollars, as once again, Ottawa will need to hit a cap floor.
In “the others” category for the Ottawa Senators unrestricted free agents, we have names like Mikkel Boedker, Matthew Peca and Scott Sabourin. All three of these names make different amounts of money but for all three there likely won’t be too much thought. Boedker will likely walk or try and find a very cheap deal. However, seeing as he is already Ottawa’s 13th forward at times it feels like his time in Ottawa will be up.
For Sabourin and Peca, if they do return to the Senators organization it will be fighting for a spot come fall. The Senators simply can’t afford to give these guys any kind of big deal. Either a two-way or a small enough deal to feel comfortable moving or burying in the minors if needed. Not because of the risk of the players, but rather who may replace them. Much like Brannstrom, names like Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, Rudolfs Balcers, and even Filip Chlapik won’t benefit much from any more AHL stints after this season’s playoffs. You need to know what you have with a few of those guys. Others in that pile of names like Batherson have already shown they are NHL ready.
Regardless, you will need to make full-time space for a couple of these guys. You won’t want to just hand them a roster spot, but signing too many of the Sabourin type players would block any room for younger guys. Which is why it seems likely that if either of Sabourin or Peca return, it would be on a very cheap deal.
Next season will once again be all about growing. However, unlike this season where many younger guys stayed in the minors, there should be some legitimate progression. Ottawa will need to start figuring out what they have with some of their younger guys, especially because they will load up in this year’s draft too.
The Ottawa Senators unrestricted free agents are not huge names but they will have some big decisions to make. The team will be hoping for some modest improvement next season and depending on how the lottery falls, expectations might be even higher than that.