NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Ottawa Senators.
1. Is Matt Murray the solution at goalie?
The Senators acquired Murray in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 7 and signed him to a four-year contract two days later. He won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins (2016, 2017) but was inconsistent last season (20-11-5, 2.87 goals-against average, .899 save percentage) splitting time with Tristan Jarry. The Senators are confident Murray can regain his championship form.
“Matt’s played in high-pressure moments and will stabilize our defense with his presence back there,” Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion said. “And he brings a presence.”
The Senators view the 26-year-old as entering his prime and see him as a mentor for the goalies in their organization, including Marcus Hogberg (5-8-8, 3.12 GAA, .904 save percentage in 24 games with Ottawa last season) and Joey Daccord (15-6-2, 2.61 GAA, .915 save percentage in 24 games with Belleville of the American Hockey League).
2. Will the power play improve?
Ottawa’s power play scored on an NHL-low 14.2 percent of its chances last season (30-for-211) but offseason additions should help.
Forward Evgenii Dadonov, who signed a three-year contract Oct. 15, is coming off an NHL career-high 11 power-play goals, which tied forward Mike Hoffman for the Florida Panthers lead last season. Known for a quick release, Dadonov has scored 47 power-play points (25 goals, 22 assists) over the past three seasons.
Forward Alex Galchenyuk, who signed a one-year contract on Oct. 28, has scored 106 power-play points (41 goals, 65 assists) in 549 NHL games. His offensive creativity, coupled with Dadonov’s finishing prowess, should complement the playmaking skills of defenseman Thomas Chabot and the net-front presence of forward Brady Tkachuk.
3. Which prospects could make an impact this season?
All eyes will be on forward Tim Stuetzle, selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Dorion said the 18-year-old, who can play wing and center, will be given every opportunity to make the team and believes he is NHL-ready.
Forwards Josh Norris, who scored 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in 56 games last season with Belleville of the American Hockey League, and Alex Formenton, who scored 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists) in 61 AHL games, are expected to begin the season with Ottawa and play regular minutes. Forward Logan Brown, who scored eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 23 games with the Senators last season, will get a long look during training camp.
Defenseman Erik Brannstrom, who had four assists in 31 games with Ottawa last season, and forward Drake Batherson, who scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 23 games, could also be in the lineup to start the season.