Senators Set 2022-23 Opening Night Roster: What Next?

After a busy summer, the Ottawa Senators are ready to start the 2022-23 season. Derick Brassard inked a one-year, league minimum contract on Monday [Oct. 10], turning his professional tryout into a full-time role. However, confirmation of the 35-year-old’s return wasn’t the only key development.

The Senators also finalized their opening-night roster, drawing training camp to a close. There’s plenty to be excited about heading into Ottawa’s first game versus the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday [Oct. 13]. Here are the main storylines to keep an eye on:

Senators Announce 2022-23 NHL Roster

General manager (GM) Pierre Dorion named his roster earlier this week, which included three netminders, seven defencemen, and 15 forwards:

For the first time in a while, it’s difficult to pick holes in Ottawa’s group. The Senators return with a new and improved attacking core, with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux arriving to significant fanfare. They also added bottom-six stalwart Tyler Motte, beating out competition from across the league for the 27-year-old’s signature.

Jake Sanderson’s emergence was the top development on the blue line this summer. The 21-year-old’s impressive performance in the preseason caused a shuffling of the back end, with Nikita Zaitsev set to lose his status as an everyday NHLer.

There was also plenty of upheaval between the pipes. Matt Murray and Filip Gustavsson departed in the offseason, paving the way for Cam Talbot to enter the fold. However, an injury to the 35-year-old means that the Senators will start the season with a tandem of Anton Forsberg and Magnus Hellberg, who they claimed off waivers last week.

With those factors in mind, this is how The Hockey Writers expects head coach D.J. Smith to set his lines against the Sabres:

Brady TkachukJosh NorrisDrake Batherson
Alex DeBrincatTim StützleClaude Giroux
Tyler MotteShane PintoMathieu Joseph
Parker KellyMark KastelicAustin Watson
Thomas ChabotArtem Zub
Jake SandersonTravis Hamonic
Erik BrännströmNick Holden
Anton Forsberg
Magnus Hellberg
  • Injured: Cam Talbot (G)
  • Extras: Derick Brassard (F), Dylan Gambrell (F), Nikita Zaitsev (D)

Players to Watch on the Belleville Senators

There are a couple of noteworthy omissions from the roster, starting with forward Ridly Greig. Despite suffering an injury and starting training camp as a long-shot candidate to crack the squad, he made a positive impression and sits at the top of the list of midseason call-up candidates.

Jacob Bernard-Docker also missed the cut after an impressive training camp. The 22-year-old defenceman, in the final year of his entry-level contract, made eight appearances in the NHL last season and is again in contention to join the team when called upon.

Jacob Bernard-Docker Ottawa Senators
Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Mark Kastelic is another player on the Belleville Senators to watch out for. The 23-year-old centreman notched four points (two goals, two assists) in 16 NHL appearances last season and proved in training camp that he can put his physicality to use against elite opposition.

Finally, it’s worth keeping Ottawa’s uncertain netminding situation in mind. Talbot’s injury means that prospects Mads Søgaard and Kevin Mandolese could be thrown into the deep end if the situation unravels further.

Why Trading for Jacob Chychrun Still Makes Sense

It’s common knowledge by now that Jakob Chychrun is unhappy with the Arizona Coyotes, and the Senators are still in the market for reinforcements on the blue line. There’s a deal to be struck between Dorion and Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong. Chychrun, who is paid $4.6 million against the salary cap through 2024-25, has registered 142 points (53 goals, 89 assists) in 337 regular-season appearances for the Coyotes.

Related: Senators Should Make Themselves a Favourite to Land Chychrun

“The team approached me a couple of times, one before the [2021-22 season], one early in the season and we just had discussions about where I was mentally and where the team was at,” Chychrun said at the start of training camp. “Knowing the type of competitor and person that I am, they indicated if this rebuild was going to be difficult on me that, if I wanted to be in a different situation, they were going to be willing to make that happen.

“[I] decided to take them up on that offer and try to move on to a better situation [because of] my desire to win in this league. Careers are so short, the time flies by, and I’m in my seventh year in the NHL. It’s just crazy…  I think the team understands that [I want] to get moved to a situation with a chance to win and a team that’s fighting for the Stanley Cup.”

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While the Senators still have work to do to become true contenders, they are heading in the right direction and would benefit from adding Chychrun to the mix. The 24-year-old can play on either side of the defence, is a composed puck mover, and would be a major asset in all situations.

Once he recovers from the wrist injury that kept him out of the preseason, the Senators should move quickly to add a future star to their top four. It could be the difference between sticking in the playoff hunt and being cut adrift before Christmas.

Final Assessment of ‘The Summer of Pierre’ Dorion

It was a wild ride but Dorion ticked virtually every box this offseason, with the acquisition of a high-quality defender his only outstanding task. The Senators will start the season with $4.1 million in projected cap space – which could be utilized at any point.

Dorion’s most impressive move was acquiring DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks for three draft picks. If he finds a way to extend the sniper, the deal will look even better in retrospect. Giroux’s arrival is also important, not least because he will make a major impact on the team’s on-ice fortunes. The 34-year-old’s decision to commit to the Senators also signals a clear culture shift: it’s time for Ottawa to start winning again.

Claude Giroux Florida Panthers
Claude Giroux, formerly of the Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On a less positive note, goaltending is an issue. It remains to be seen whether Forsberg and Hellberg will be able to carry the load in Talbot’s absence – although that development was beyond Dorion’s control. All in all, the Senators are a much better team now than they were this time last season. It’s up to them to deliver improved performances to help the team climb up the standings.

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