Now that the Stanley Cup Playoffs have begun, the Ottawa Senators only have the NHL draft and free agency to look forward to. While the draft is the best place to add talent and rebuild your franchise, free agency can still offer up some good players to insert into your lineup.
Related: Revisiting the Mika Zibanejad Trade
Even though free agency is notoriously known as the day NHL general managers give out terrible contracts, if done properly, they can certainly be beneficial. The Senators have a lot of young talent in the system and they will be adding more in October, but what can they find in free agency that would also help?
For this article, I decided to look at one goaltender, one defenceman, and one forward that made the most sense for Ottawa. There was no sense in reaching for the stars. Here are the three players that could be good targets for the Senators to reach out to during the free agency period.
In one of the stranger deals that took place on deadline day this season, Robin Lehner was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Vegas Golden Knights. Corey Crawford had dealt with injuries over the last few seasons, so sending Lehner to Vegas where Marc-Andre Fleury is the established number one goalie, didn’t make too much sense either. Unless they only grabbed him for a playoff run this season — which is a smart move — a long-term contract doesn’t seem likely in the City of Lost Wages for Lehner.
It’s surprising that Lehner hasn’t been able to stay long-term somewhere since his fantastic season with the Islanders in 2018-19. Mind you, it’s only been three quarters of a season with Chicago and then he was traded to Vegas. But, after his stint with the Islanders, it seemed like he would finally get a steady deal. Going back to the Senators’ organization might be the spot where he can succeed again and lock in a few years of security.
Ottawa had originally drafted Lehner back in 2009 with the 46th-overall pick. After spending five seasons with the Senators, the Buffalo Sabres picked him up and this would be where he started to break out. The Senators shifted from Lehner to Craig Anderson and they haven’t looked back since. Until now.
If Anderson does decide to retire, his $4.75 million cap hit will come off the books. Although the Senators have Anders Nilsson locked up for next season at $2.6 million, the money coming back for Anderson can help Pierre Dorion piece together a deal for Lehner. Right now, the organization has roughly $7.1 million in cap space according to CapFriendly. THW’s Danny McCloskey wrote about Lehner being a potential fit in the Ottawa crease, but wasn’t so quick to mention the fact that they traded him away in the first place.
Tyler Toffoli is one of the more interesting names that are on the list of unrestricted free agents this year. At just 28 years old, he has the potential to be a steady 20-goal scorer in Ottawa, as well as adding some grit and toughness. Also, protecting some of the younger, more talented guys in the system benefits as well.
Related: Mark Stone’s Top 5 Expressions
While he might not be on the elite forwards list of free agents, Toffoli brings playoff experience and leadership qualities the Senators could use as they transition into their new generation of star players. He doesn’t command too high of a cap hit and given his age, I don’t see the Senators having a problem in giving him a bit of a longer deal.
It was originally stated by Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet back in February that the Canucks would have a tough time keeping Toffoli. The Canucks acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings for Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, a second-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick if he re-signs with Vancouver.
Given that the Canucks and Jim Benning will put all their attention on re-signing Jacob Markstrom and prepping for the future contracts of Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, Toffoli is more than likely to be pushed aside for another team to grab him.
As I had talked about in my previous piece, the Senators have great young prospects on the blue line or on the cusp of cracking the lineup full-time. While I suggested that they should draft forwards with their first couple of picks because they have some defensive prospects in the pipeline, it doesn’t mean they can’t add an established NHL blueliner for right now.
The Calgary Flames and T.J. Brodie have a long-standing relationship. However, it seems like the Flames are ready to move on. Having drafted Brodie back in 2008 with the 114th pick, the Chatham, Ontario-born defenceman was almost dealt during the last offseason. If it wasn’t for Nazem Kadri turning down the move to Calgary, Brodie most certainly would have been wearing the blue and white this season. Who’s to say he still can’t move to Ontario?
A veteran, puck-moving defenceman to help the likes of Chabot and Brannstrom would be a nice piece for the Senators. Brodie has played 634 career games in the NHL and his most recent contract with an average annual value of $4.65 million will be sure to come down a little bit wherever he signs his next deal.
There are many players available for the Senators to choose from in free agency. Those listed here are by no means a perfect fit, but they do have a lot of upside for a young, up-and-coming team. Have any different players in mind? Let me know in the comments below.
Giovanni Siciliano is a freelance contributor for The Hockey Writers that focuses on the Ottawa Senators. He is a lifelong hockey fan who aims to give his readers more knowledge and better insight pertaining to the game. When Giovanni isn’t covering the latest news & rumours in Ottawa, he is usually crying about being a Detroit Lions fan, playing video games or rewatching The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Office or Seinfeld for the 1000th time. After completing an internship at The Hockey News, and having his stories published like this one, Giovanni knew he wanted to make this a career and share his passion for the game with others. He hosted the FaceOff Hockey Podcast before joining the team at THW, and currently co-hosts and produces the Improversation podcast. To interact with Giovanni about the Sens, NHL, NFL, T.V shows or games, you can follow him on Twitter by clicking here. You can also read more of his articles here.