Welcome to Senators’ Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Ottawa Senators throughout the 2018-19 season. From trending topics to surging prospects to news and notes, this is your weekly roundup on all things Sens.
After losing eight straight games, the Senators are pulling themselves out of the league’s basement. They’ve now won four of the last five, starting with the California trip where they ended their skid. This past week, the team took down the Colorado Avalanche 5-2, beat the Carolina Hurricanes and fell to the St. Louis Blues. While they are no longer last in NHL, the playoffs seem out of reach at this point as they are 15 points back of the wild card spot. They sit 15th in the Eastern Conference and 28th in the NHL.
Here are the notable headlines and stories from the past week.
Latest News on Pending Free Agents: Duchene, Stone, Ceci
Senators Offer Duchene, Stone Contract Extensions
One year ago, the rumours circling the Senators were around what they were going to do with Erik Karlsson. This season, the rumours surround Matt Duchene and Mark Stone. It seems general manager Pierre Dorion is prepared this time and has already made steps to ensure that his two star players are Senators for a long time.
According to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, Dorion flew out west to meet with Pat Brisson, Duchene’s agent.
“Told the visit was for Pierre Dorion to show how serious the Ottawa Senators are in re-signing Matt Duchene,” said Kypreos. “And along with those discussions came an offer. I’m told it’s in the ballpark or the vicinity of $64 million over eight years.” He adds, “I deem it certainly as a fair offer for Matt Duchene.”
It seems that Stone is in a similar situation, although the exact numbers aren’t clear. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that he believes Dorion and the Senators have offered a deal, but that has yet to be confirmed.
“They met with Stone on Monday, a couple of days before they met with Matt Duchene. I believe they also presented something that they are willing to take a look at, an idea of where the Senators are willing to go. I’m not as certain about the numbers as Nick reports with Duchene, but I would have to assume that for Stone it’s probably higher. But I think that they’re really trying, there’s no question about it. There’s some optimism there, we’ll see, and when Stone gets back from the road trip, we’ll see what the next phase of that is going to be.”
Duchene and Stone are currently first and second on the team in both points and goals, with Stone on top in both. Stone has 22 goals and 50 points in 49 games so far, just ahead of Duchene’s 20 goals and 46 points, although Duchene has played nine fewer games than Stone. Until they sign deals, the hockey world will be watching the statuses of Duchene and Stone closely as the trade deadline approaches.
Ceci Likely to Get Traded
With the report coming out last week that Cody Ceci was available, it seems as though teams are lining up to inquire about him. Unlike Stone and Duchene, Ceci is a pending restricted free agent. Even if he doesn’t have a contract by July 1, the Senators will retain his rights. But it looks like the 15th-overall pick from 2015 may be leaving the only team he’s ever known.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that teams have been contacting Dorion on the availability of the 25-year-old. While the focus in Ottawa is on the two forwards, the rumours around Ceci should be closely watched as well. Before Taylor Hall was traded to the New Jersey Devils, there was a rumour that there could be a Ceci-for-Hall trade. Whether Ceci would actually bring back an elite player remains to be seen, as the Senators are in a selling position. At the time of the Hall rumours, the team was in a much better spot.
Ceci has long been the whipping-boy of Ottawa, taking criticism from fans for the better part of his six-year tenure in Ottawa. However, he is second on the team in average time on ice (22:40), behind only Thomas Chabot (23:48), leads the team in blocked shots (95) and is fifth in hits (59). He’s not the point producer the team thought he would be, but he is impacting the lineup.
Senators Get Boost With Anderson’s Return
For the first time this season, the Senators are able to dress two NHL-calibre goaltenders. Craig Anderson returned Saturday night after missing 12 games for the club. In that stretch, Mike McKenna and Marcus Hogberg were handed the reigns. That led to McKenna being shipped off to the Vancouver Canucks, along with Tom Pyatt, for Anders Nilsson, who has locked down the number two position and could even be a 1B option for the team moving forward.
Despite his numbers, Anderson has been solid for the Senators this season. He’s kept them in games, stolen a couple and has been a leader on this young team. In 32 games, the 37-year-old has a 14-14-3 record to go along with 3.56 goals-against average (GAA) and a .906 save percentage (SV%). Since joining the Senators, Nilsson has played in seven games, earning a 4-3-0 record while sporting an impressive 2.14 GAA and a .931 SV%.
For now, Nilsson appears to be a temporary fix in net as he’s a pending free agent, but he has definitely surpassed the other goaltenders who have played for the Senators this season. Mike Condon started the season as the backup, losing both games he played in with a 6.38 GAA and an .800 SV% before getting sent down to the Belleville Senators.
Then came McKenna, who held on to the job longer, but couldn’t hold onto the spot once Anderson was hurt. McKenna went 1-4-1 with a 3.96 GAA and an .897 SV% before being traded to Vancouver. Finally, prospect Hogberg got the call-up after impressing in Belleville but went 0-2-1 with a 4.09 GAA and an .884 SV% and has been sent back down.
As long as Anderson stays healthy, the Senators should be set in net for the season with Anderson and Nilsson.
Senators’ Prospect Norris Out for Season
The Senators’ prospect pool took a big hit this past week with the announcement that centreman Josh Norris will be out for the remainder of the season. The undisclosed injury took place during the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships where Norris helped Team USA to a silver medal. In the tournament, Norris was one of the team’s top performers, collecting three goals and six points in seven games. It’s unknown when he sustained the injury.
“It’s disappointing to have my season end and I’m going to miss being on the ice with my teammates every day, but it’s something that I have to take care of,” said Norris, as reported by the University of Michigan. “I am looking forward to working hard during rehab and am excited to get back on the ice. I’m going to be here supporting my teammates throughout the rest of the season and wish them the best of luck.”
Norris was in the middle of a breakthrough season with Michigan, collecting 10 goals and 19 points through 17 games. His goal total is tied for first on the team, while his points are second to fellow Team USA member Quinn Hughes. His goals are also seventh in the nation and third in the Big Ten. The San Jose Sharks’ 19th-overall pick in 2017 was even nominated for the Hobey Baker Award.
This may impact where Norris plays next season, as it was seeming like he may make the jump to play with his best friend Brady Tkachuk in the NHL. Now, with his injury requiring surgery and a long rehabilitation expected, that future is even less clear than it was. It’s likely that Norris will remain with the University of Michigan next season where he’ll likely be even more of a star than he was this season. This will build his confidence, allow him more time to develop and make sure he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.