Improving the Senators’ Forward Depth

Depth at every position is essential to success in the NHL, and the Ottawa Senators know this as well as anybody. The way key injuries piled up in the playoffs last season proves that the Sens will need their whole roster to contribute if they plan on making another playoff run. However, it’s already clear that the team’s forward depth could be improved.

While the Senators boast an impressive top-six, the third and fourth lines look pretty thin after only a couple injuries. Early season injuries to Zack Smith and Bobby Ryan are forcing the team to get creative with the bottom-six.

After keeping rookies Logan Brown and Alex Formenton with the team for the first couple weeks of the season, the Sens called up Chris DiDomenico and Jack Rodewald from Belleville. While DiDomenico has been surprisingly effective, tallying six points in his first nine games this season, the team can’t reasonably expect this rate of production to continue.

The Missing Piece

Looking at Ottawa’s forward group, it’s clear that something is missing. While DiDomenico, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Tom Pyatt form an effective third line, the fourth line is where things start to get weird. Before he was sidelined with a hamstring injury, defenceman Chris Wideman slotted in as a right winger alongside Nate Thompson and Alex Burrows.

While Sens coach Guy Boucher was originally going to ice 11 forwards and seven defencemen, he decided to mix things up during the team’s last game in Stockholm. Being a true team player, Wideman accepted the role but this is far from an ideal situation.

Chris Wideman
Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Wideman (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

So who is Ottawa’s missing piece? Well, one could argue it’s Clarke MacArthur. While the veteran winger only suited up for the last four games of the regular season in 2017, he was an important part of Ottawa’s playoff run. Given his concussion history, having him back in the lineup last spring felt like a bonus. His return also came with uncertainty and, as it turns out, it was warranted.

MacArthur is currently living in Florida with his family and Sens GM Pierre Dorion’s recent comments make it sound like he won’t be returning to the lineup to shore up the offence. So, if Dorion wants to improve his forward group, he’s going to need to look at other options.

Waiting for White

One of these options is a player whom many fans expected to see in the lineup on opening night. Colin White’s transition to the pro game hasn’t been as smooth as the organization would have hoped. He broke his wrist while blocking a shot in his first preseason game this year. It was a crushing blow to the 20-year-old forward since a spot on the roster was his for the taking.

Last season was a busy one for White who won a gold medal with the United States at the World Junior Hockey Championships in January. Following the end of his NCAA career with Boston College, White headed straight to the AHL. After recording three points in three games, he was called up to play two games in the NHL.

White was with the Senators throughout the playoffs but only suited up for one game. After recovering from his wrist injury, he is starting to find his game in the AHL with five points in his first seven games in Belleville.

Dorion said in an interview with TSN 1200 that White won’t be called up until he’s “the best player in Belleville,” so the timeframe for his return is pretty vague.

Too Many Defencemen

In the same interview, Dorion mentioned that he isn’t actively looking to trade for another forward but if he changes his mind, he’ll likely use the depth on defence to improve his depth up front. The Sens have seven defencemen on their roster, including temporary winger Chris Wideman. They also have several defensive prospects like Thomas Chabot, Christian Jaros, Ben Harpur and Andreas Englund who all hope to get a chance to play in the NHL soon.

Ottawa has lots of NHL quality defencemen, but arguably only one top pairing blueliner. This makes trading one of the team’s depth defencemen a bit more difficult since there’s no guarantee that Ottawa will get anything of value in return. After all, the Vegas Golden Knights have been unsuccessfully trying to offload one of their many mediocre defencemen since the expansion draft.

Among the players that the Senators might consider trading, Cody Ceci would likely get the best return. However, Boucher has shown a lot of confidence in the 23-year-old, as he’s been given tough assignments against the opposition’s top players.

Cody Ceci
Cody Ceci (photo: Amy Irvin)

Ceci is also a restricted free agent this summer, and given that Erik Karlsson, Derick Brassard and Matt Duchene will all need new contracts the following year, the Sens might be forced to choose between Ceci and fellow impending RFA Mark Stone. Of course, it’s possible that Ceci, an Orléans native, might take a hometown discount to stay in Ottawa. But if the Senators want to improve their forward depth without giving away another draft pick, trading Ceci might be the way to go.