The Senators were the Cinderella story of the 2017 Playoffs, getting to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Second-year GM Pierre Dorion does not have #1 center, but has a club with scoring balance, a solid defense corps led by Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and a club that bought into the defensive approach of head coach Guy Boucher.
The offseason will present a number of challenges for Dorion, who will have to strike a deal to prevent the Golden Knights from taking a player who is an integral to their postseason success.
Ottawa, like most clubs, will opt to protect younger players who might be more enticing to an expansion team and expose veterans with sizable cap hits and significant term.
Dorion is likely to roll the dice that Vegas will not want to select Bobby Ryan, (making $7.25 Million for another five seasons) Clarke MacArthur (who has battled chronic concussion issues the last two seasons) and 36-year-old Alex Burrows, who was acquired from Vancouver at the trade deadline.
The Sens may prefer to lose a forward to Vegas, since they have first round pick Colin White waiting in the wings.
The report on Monday that the Senators asked defenseman Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause to be exposed and that he will decline may force Dorion to make a deal with GM George McPhee to prevent the loss of a key blueliner. Reports are the Senators are trying to trade Phaneuf.
Methot is 31, scored 12 points last season and may be a bit overpriced at $4.9 Million, but he is Karlsson’s defense partner and is the perfect compliment to the speedy Swede’s offensive instincts, while Ceci formed a formidable second pairing with Phaneuf and will be looking for a significant pay increase after next year.
The Sens also cannot protect Chris Wideman and Fredrik Claesson, but do have a top blueline prospect in 2015 first rounder Thomas Chabot (who starred for Canada at the 2017 World Junior) and big Ben Harpur waiting in the wings.
Veteran Craig Anderson has a year left on his current deal and was a key cog for Ottawa down the stretch and into the playoffs. Backup Mike Condon is an unrestricted free agent and does not have to be protected, but could re-sign with the Sens after July 1.
Projected protected players and their cap hits
Mike Hoffman – $5,187,500 through 2020
Derick Brassard – $5,000,000 through 2019
Mark Stone – $3,500,000 through 2018
Kyle Turris – $3,500,000 through 2018
Zack Smith – $3,250,000 through 2021
Ryan Dzingel – $750,000 RFA
Jean-Gabriel Pageau – $900,000 RFA
Dion Phaneuf (NMC) – $7,000,000 through 2021 *
Erik Karlsson – $6,500,000 through 2019
Cody Ceci – $2,800,000 through 2018
* If they are able trade Phaneuf, they will protect Methot.
Craig Anderson – $4,200,000 through 2018
Likely Expansion loss for Ottawa
The three most likely selections – before any trade – off the Sens roster are Methot, Ryan and Wideman.
If Ottawa were to make a trade with Vegas to select/not select a player, who would it be and why?
The Sens would have to be willing to move a top prospect like Logan Brown or younger players like Dzingel or Pageau along with a draft pick to get the Golden Knights to pass on Methot, who they could flip to a team looking to win now for young assets.
Vegas would probably want to stay far away from Ryan’s lengthy and expensive contract, especially coming off his worst offensive year in Ottawa and after turning 30.
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