The Ottawa Senators had their fair share of highs and lows in 2022-23. Despite showing signs of improvement and edging closer to a playoff position, their progress was hindered by inconsistent performances and significant injuries to key players.
As the Senators plan for the upcoming season, general manager Pierre Dorion will be assessing the unrestricted free agents (UFAs) he could add to his roster in a bid for upward mobility.
South of the border, the New York Rangers had an eventful season of their own, making a splash at the trade deadline to fortify their lineup and secure a playoff ticket. However, their postseason participation was short-lived, falling victim to an early exit at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.
With the Senators on the lookout for potential signings, the Rangers could provide a potential source of talent. As free agency approaches, Dorion will undoubtedly be evaluating his options to enhance his roster and take another step toward the organization’s ultimate goal of postseason success.
In this article, we will delve into the potential UFA signings that the Senators could target from the Rangers.
Vladimir Tarasenko: A Potential Top-6 Gamechanger for the Senators
When it comes to injecting offensive firepower into their top-six forward group, the Senators need to look no further than Vladimir Tarasenko. Acquired by the Rangers from the St. Louis Blues before the trade deadline, the Russian showcased his scoring ability throughout the season, making him an enticing target for the Senators if they desire a marquee addition this summer.
Tarasenko notched an impressive 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) in 69 regular-season appearances last season, contributing four points, including three crucial goals, in seven playoff games. This level of production provides a window into his ability, despite his advancing years.
At 31 years old, the former 16th overall pick will take a wealth of experience to any team he joins. His expiring contract, an eight-year deal worth $7.5 million per season, could present the Senators with an opportunity to acquire an experienced scoring threat without burdening their salary cap space in the long term.
Tarasenko’s ability to find open spaces, unleash accurate shots, and create scoring opportunities would add a much-needed dynamic to Ottawa’s attack. Moreover, the fact that he is just one season removed from an impressive 82-point campaign showcases his ability to produce for a playoff contender. If the Senators are willing to swing big this summer, they should look no further than the experienced attacker.
Niko Mikkola: Adding Defensive Depth to the Senators
In their pursuit of reinforcing their defence, the Senators should consider Niko Mikkola as a free agent signing. Packaged to the Rangers from St. Louis alongside Tarasenko, the 27-year-old brings a combination of size, experience, and defensive prowess that would be useful for Ottawa.
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Throughout 2022-23, Mikkola made 81 appearances split between the Blues and Rangers, contributing six points (one goal, five assists). While his offensive contributions may not be eye-catching, his primary strength lies in defending.
Standing at an imposing 6-foot-4, Mikkola utilizes his size and physicality effectively to disrupt opponents and defend his own zone. The Finn has gained valuable experience in his three seasons in the NHL, building on his time in the Finnish Liiga. This knowledge, coupled with his defensive skills, will make him an enticing option for a handful of clubs this summer.
With his last contract worth $1.9 million per season, the Senators could squeeze Mikkola onto the roster. The former fifth-round pick’s defensive instincts and physical presence would solidify Dorion’s defensive depth chart and provide valuable insurance against injuries or fatigue during a long season.
Jaroslav Halak: A Reliable Backup Option for the Senators
As the Senators focus on developing their promising rookie goaltenders – including Danish stopper Mads Sogaard, bringing in Jaroslav Halak as a backup option would be a prudent move. With his wealth of experience, the 38-year-old would offer stability and mentorship while providing a reliable presence between the pipes when called upon.
Halak posted a .903 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average through 25 appearances for the Rangers this season. While these numbers may not be elite, Halak has consistently recorded a save percentage of .900 or higher throughout his career, demonstrating his ability to provide solid goaltending in any situation.
Approaching the end of his career, Halak has accumulated a wealth of experience since being drafted in 2003. A former ninth-round pick, his longevity in the league speaks volumes about his ability to adapt and compete at a high level.
Given the Senators’ desire to provide Sogaard with the necessary development time, Halak would serve as an ideal backup, offering reliable goaltending and leadership when called upon. His presence would provide a safety net for the team, ensuring a smooth transition between the pipes and allowing the Senators to confidently develop their younger goalies.
Looking Ahead for the Senators
As the Senators look to make strategic moves in the upcoming free agency period, targets on the Rangers are enticing options to address their needs. Tarasenko’s offensive prowess and playoff experience would make him an excellent addition, while Mikkola’s defensive skills and size would provide valuable depth on the blue line.
The Senators should also consider the availability of other Rangers free agents, such as forwards Patrick Kane and Tyler Motte, who could bring additional offence and versatility to Ottawa’s lineup.
With careful consideration, the Senators have the opportunity to strengthen their roster in free agency and continue their push toward playoff contention in the competitive landscape of the NHL.