NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, the Ottawa Senators.
The Ottawa Senators hope the additions of several veterans and three first-round selections in the 2020 NHL Draft can complement their emerging core and accelerate their rebuild.
“I think everybody’s on the same page to try to get there to be competitive,” owner Eugene Melnyk said. “I think our fans would really enjoy seeing us in the playoffs this year. And then once you get to the playoffs, then anything can happen. I think our big years are coming in the next three years.”
Ottawa’s blueprint to reach that goal centers on finding a balance between youth and experience. The Senators anticipate further development from 21-year-old forward Brady Tkachuk, who has scored 89 points (43 goals, 46 assists) in 142 NHL games, and 23-year-old defenseman Thomas Chabot, who has scored 119 points (29 goals, 90 assists) in 205 games.
“We are in that mode of still developing,” Melnyk said. “Yet the mandate is we want to be a competitive playoff team.”
Added to that are veteran players Ottawa hopes will provide mentorship and results, including goalie Matt Murray, forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Alex Galchenyuk, and defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
The Senators also used the draft to add talent after finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference last season (25-34-12, .437 points percentage) and missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third straight season.
Among their three first-round picks were two in the top five: forward Tim Stuetzle at No. 3 with a pick acquired from the San Jose Sharks in a trade for defenseman Erik Karlsson on Sept. 13, 2018, and defenseman Jake Sanderson at No. 5 with its own first-round selection. Ottawa also selected center Ridly Greig at No. 28 with a pick acquired from the New York Islanders in a trade for center Jean-Gabriel Pageau on Feb. 24.
“I think it was one of the biggest nights in franchise history when you add the quality of the three players we added,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said of the draft.
Of the three, Stuetzle appears to be the player who can offer the most immediate help. The 18-year-old scored 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 41 games for Adler Mannheim of Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany’s top professional men’s league, last season, and is on the verge of a full recovery from arm surgery Oct. 15.
“My focus is on making the team [this season] and being a regular contributor,” he said.
One day after the selections of Stuetzle, Sanderson and Greig, Murray was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward prospect Jonathan Gruden and a second-round pick (Joel Blomqvist) in the 2020 draft.
“I see a team that’s headed in the right direction and headed there pretty quickly,” Murray said. “I paid a little bit of attention at the draft. This is a young team stacked with talent and absolutely headed in the right direction.”
Murray won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins (2016, 2017). The 26-year-old is 117-53-19 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 199 NHL games, and Dorion said he “without a doubt” will be the starter this season.
The signings of Dadonov (91 goals in 280 NHL games) on Oct. 15 and Galchenyuk (135 goals in 549 games) on Oct. 28 bring much-needed punch to an offense that ranked tied for 24th in the NHL last season (2.68 goals per game). Gudbranson, acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks for a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft on Oct. 8, is an Ottawa native who brings 518 games of NHL experience.
“All the pieces are in place now,” Melnyk said. “We’re just waiting for everybody to hurry up and grow.”