Senators Need to Invest in Connor Brown

When Connor Brown was acquired via trade on July 1, the attention was on the departure of Cody Ceci. Prior to his Ottawa Senators debut, he was an effective bottom-six forward with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was the main part of the deal going to Ottawa, but what no one saw coming was how effective and valuable he would be to the Senators.

Connor Brown Ottawa Senators
Connor Brown, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

So far through 66 games in the 2019-20 season, Brown has established career highs in assists and points while maintaining his trademark physical play. He has shined in an expanded role, something he never got to experience in Toronto. Although unexpected, his play this season has shown both fans and management that he needs to be a part of the Senators’ future.

Connor Brown as a Development Tool

Taking a deeper look at Brown’s future, it is vital to keep him in Ottawa as long as possible because of how well he fits in with the high-skill players. While he isn’t a traditional top-six forward, he meshes well with those types. Having a veteran to help the development of younger players is key for the team. While on a line over 62 games, Brown and Brady Tkachuk have had a 52% Corsi.

Brady Tkachuk Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While this alone is not overly impressive, you must consider the following: He is playing a new role while playing on a poor team and Tkachuk still adjusting to the NHL. If he follows this season with consistent results, it is a very good sign of things to come.

Connor Brown’s Future Role

Since Brown is 26 years old, he is on the older side of a younger team like Ottawa. When the Senators’ deep prospect system eventually reaches the NHL, his age would normally make him the odd man out. However, assuming the team will be ready to compete for a Stanley Cup in three to five years, that would make him anywhere from 29 to 31 years old when the time comes to win.

When you try to project the team’s roster three years from now, you’ll see that a few prospects are taking up space in the top-six; including whomever the Senators will take in the 2020 NHL Draft. What is harder to predict is who will fill in the more flexible roles in the bottom-six.

Brown is the perfect candidate for a future team filled with star power. In his short time in Ottawa, he has showcased that he is more than just a point producer. There is always space on a team for a player who gives 110 percent every night. Especially players whose effort isn’t always showcased on the scoreboard.

An Investment for the Future

Players like Brown are a good investment because they are incredibly good value. His current contract, which expires on July 1, is worth $2.1 million per year. On his current deal, he is actually in the top 100 in cost per point, and 32nd when looking at standard restricted free agent contracts. While he is due for a raise, I believe the team can get him for a very good price. While he is eligible for arbitration, the process is jarring and is not good for either side. The Senators need to get him locked in for the long-term.

In order to lock him up now, a slight overpayment may be required. That may look bad over the first year or two, but it is a wise investment. You can compare Brown to a player like former Senator Tyler Ennis.

Artem Anisimov Tyler Ennis Mark Borowiecki
Ottawa Senators right wing Tyler Ennis celebrates a goal (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

Both players are prototypical bottom-six players. Ennis is faster, but Brown is more physical. The largest contract in Ennis’ career was a five-year, $23 million deal in 2014. I see this as a comparable. It may be a big risk, but it’s a gamble that the team should take.

Having a player like Brown on the roster is vital for a contending team. The bottom-six on Stanley Cup teams are often overlooked, but they are necessary to a winning team. A player who can fit a specific role, and play it well can be the final piece to a championship team. When the time comes, Ottawa will want a player like him, and in order to secure that player, the team needs to take the risk. Brown’s future is something the Senators need to invest in.