The Ottawa Senators are looking to make a New Jersey Devils-like leap in 2023-24. In order to do that, they need to figure out plenty of things in terms of roster development. They have core pieces to push them to that level in Tim Stützle, Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, and Alex DeBrincat if they are able to retain his services.
Looking at their roster now, it is clear that they have two major holes that need addressing. The defence core is solid, provided they are able to stay healthy for the majority of the season. The Senators finished this season with a record of 39-35-8, as injuries plagued them throughout the season.
Another thing that resulted in a handful of unwarranted losses last season was the goaltending. If the Senators are willing to run it back with the same roster, they may be unable to improve goaltending due to the salary cap.
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As it stands right now, Anton Forsberg and Mads Sogaard are the projected starters. In a “1A/1B” situation, are these goaltenders good enough to provide playoff-level goaltending? That is the question that general manager Pierre Dorion is contemplating, and it could decide their playoff hopes this upcoming season.
According to Money Puck, Forsberg led all Senators goaltenders in goals saved above expected (GSAx) last season with 8.1. Every other goaltender to play at least five games for the organization was in the red for GSAx, which ultimately derailed their playoff push and lost a chunk of valuable points.
There are plenty of names out there that could be potential replacements, but arguably none more impactful than Connor Hellebuyck from the Winnipeg Jets. The 28-year-old goaltender is coming off of a tremendous season, posting a .920 save percentage and a 2.49 goals-against average. Acquiring him would be expensive, but it would put the Senators firmly in the race in the Eastern Conference.
The bottom six for the Senators was in flux last season, with rookies, mid-season trades, and injuries throwing chemistry out the window. Next season, this will have to be a more solidified group, and it is projected to shape out that way.
Ridly Greig played 20 games for the Senators in 2022-23 and posted nine points in those contests. He will be a major factor in making the bottom six a more reliable and potent unit. Next season is when Zack Ostapchuk, a former second-round pick, could make the jump to the NHL and provide a boost to the forward group.
With their cap issues, these upgrades will likely have to come from within the organization rather than the free agency period. Having said that, there are always cheap, valuable pickups across the league during free agency. And if the Senators can attain one or two of those, their forward core will be in an incredible spot heading into next season.
Shane Pinto and Greig being staples within that group project for them to be much improved in 2023-24, with the potential for trade deadline acquisitions to make it even better.
The Senators Are in a Good Spot Heading Into 2023-24
The Senators are looking like a dangerous bunch heading into next season, as the trade for Jakob Chychrun at the deadline has them firmly in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. They will not be picking in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft as a result, but their window to win and get into the playoffs started last year, and it will be the expectation heading into next year.
Injuries are the biggest question mark surrounding this team. While Chychrun is dynamic and a game-changer, he misses plenty of time with injury. Josh Norris is coming off of a major shoulder injury, and many other players were hurt down the stretch as the Senators pushed for the playoffs. Next season, they may have enough organizational depth to make up for injuries. But if they are to make the playoffs and go on a successful run, health is paramount.