Senators News & Rumors: Chabot, Nilsson, Brown, Duclair & Prospects

Although the NHL’s regular season has been suspended, hockey news is still regularly emerging from the Ottawa Senators organization. Although little of that news involves players on the ice, it does involve players within the organization as they await the end to the COVID-19 disruption.

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In this post, I’ll try to keep Senators fans more up-to-date on news emerging from the team.

Item One: Thomas Chabot Thinks the Senators Have a Great Future

Although the Senators ended the NHL’s suspended season with the second-worst record in the league, if you ask Thomas Chabot what he thinks about playing for the Senators he’s quite clear that he believes Ottawa is close to turning the corner. He believes the team will have a bright future.

As Chabot explains, it’s about his teammates: “When you look at the guys that were on the team this year, everybody’s getting a year older, everybody’s got one more year of experience, so I think yes, definitely we want to take a step next year.”

Thomas Chabot Ottawa Senators
Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Chabot further waxed on about the talent within the organization: “When you look at the guys that were down in [Belleville of the American Hockey League], some of those guys are going to want to make the jump and have an impact on our team next year. So definitely I am thinking that we will be a stronger team, a better team next year and I think everybody in the locker room agrees on that and everybody wants to do it and make it happen.”

This season, Chabot’s done his part. He has the highest average time on ice in the NHL averaging 26 minutes exactly, and he’s scored 6 goals and 39 points in 71 games for the 2019-20 season.

Item Two: Anders Nilsson and Artem Anisimov Are Both Ready if the Season Re-starts

Two concussion sufferers – Anders Nilsson and Artem Anisimov – have reportedly healed and would be ready to play if the NHL would resume its regular season. Senators general manager Pierre Dorion noted specifically that Nilsson passed his baseline test.

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Dorion noted earlier this week, “It would be for him to get on the ice to get practice time to see how he would feel, but he’s going along in the right direction.” Because Nilsson hasn’t played since Dec. 16 because of his injury, I’m certain he’d like to give it a go as well. (Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion isn’t ready to throw in the towel on season,” Ottawa Sun, 14/04/20)

Anders Nilsson Ottawa Senators
Anders Nilsson, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Anisimov wasn’t out quite as long as Nilsson, suffering his injury on March 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But he, too, is ready. Prior to his injury, Anisimov had scored 15 goals and 20 points in 49 games this season. 

Item Three: Connor Brown Isn’t Talking Contract with the Senators – Yet!

Perhaps it’s only me, but if I were a decision-maker inside the Senators organization, one player I would sign was Connor Brown. Brown will become a restricted free agent at the end of 2019-20, but I believe he’s a good player for the Senators for two reasons. First, he actually wants to play in Ottawa; and, second, he’s so versatile. He can kill penalties, provide offense, and always be a model of an honest and hard-working on-ice leader. He might not become the highest-scoring forward in the franchise, but he’s the kind of player an organization loves to have around.

That said, I’m hoping the news this week that the organization isn’t having discussions with Brown about next season is simply a matter of waiting for the season to officially be over. It was reported that Dorion won’t negotiate during the pause, because the team’s simply waiting to see the NHL’s plan for the rest of the regular season.

Connor Brown Ottawa Senators
Connor Brown, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brown certainly made his presence felt on the team. He scored a career-high 43 points (including 16 goals) in 71 games. He’s one of three RFAs the team has. Anthony Duclair (who made the All-Star Team for the first time) and Chris Tierney are the others.

Item Four: Anthony Duclair Is Stuck in the Senators’ Holding Pattern

As noted above, a second restricted free agent on the Senators’ roster is Anthony Duclair, and he too is stuck in the current Senators holding pattern. Dorion admitted that the team was getting around to talking contracts with upcoming RFAs before the season was paused March 12 but just hasn’t to date.

Related: Senators Re-Sign Pending RFA Chabot

As Dorion admitted, “We were going to start overall discussions with some RFAs when the season came to a pause, and we’re probably going to wait to see what happens if we resume the season or if we don’t, so we don’t expect to do anything (until the offseason) when it comes to RFAs.”

Duclair, who’s always carried the reputation of a star-in-the-making, had his best season by scoring a career-best 23 goals and 40 points in 66 games. As noted earlier, he was named as an NHL All-Star.

Anthony Duclair Ottawa Senators
Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It would be nice to see him have a chance to see what he could do with an improved roster. Ottawa’s like home for him, having grown up in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, less than 200 kilometers east of the nation’s capital city.

What’s Next with the Senators?

During his interview with the Ottawa Sun, Senators’ general manager Dorion reminded us all that NHL players and teams were not the only ones impacted by the suspension of hockey. He had hoped that players in the organization’s AHL Belleville affiliate would have a chance to play in the 2020 AHL Calder Cup playoffs. 

He noted, “The fact that these players, whether they would have played one round in the playoffs or they would have played all the way to the Calder Cup finals, our biggest loss as an organization is the fact that these players won’t get to play.”

Ottawa Senators Prospect Josh Norris
Ottawa Senators Prospect Center Josh Norris during the Ottawa Senators Development Camp on June 25, 2019 (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dorion also noted that the AHL canceling its season “hurts our organization more than anything that’s gone on right now.” The Senators would have loved to see young prospects like Josh Norris, Vitaly Abramov, Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton, Erik Brannstrom, Filip Gustavsson, and Joey Daccord develop by playing more this season. Norris, especially, is an interesting prospect. He had scored 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in 56 games this season, which tied him for fourth in AHL scoring.

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Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, I believe Chabot was right in Item One above – the Senators have a great future.