It’s been a busy and productive 2017 so far for the Ottawa Senators. With the second half of the season in full swing, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is making some roster moves.
The team is looking like a well-oiled machine lately. They have solid defensive structure under head coach Guy Boucher and the top three lines are starting to roll. The Sens have also inducted the first member into their Ring of Honour, Bryan Murray.
Three Scoring Lines
When Mike Hoffman received a two-game suspension for his cross-check to the head on Logan Couture, he may have actually helped his team long-term. The incident itself was an ugly, retaliatory hit by Hoffman, but the resulting line juggling has improved the Senators.
Prior to the Hoffman suspension, Boucher was still playing with line combinations to get the most out of his roster. Zack Smith moved up to fill Hoffman’s void and thrived, scoring three goals and five points in two games. Smith’s strong play resulted in Boucher placing Hoffman on the third line with Pageau and Pyatt, a combination that has stuck to this day. Smith was recently signed to a four-year, $13 million contract.
Zack Smith value:
Put in a scoring role can get you 20, can play wing or centre, kills penalties, good wheels & is an SOB to play against.
— Steve Lloyd (@TSNSteveLloyd) January 23, 2017
With Hoffman playing on the “third” line, the Sens now have three threatening lines. Any one of the top three lines could play first-line minutes on any given night. The following chart shows how the scoring has been spread among the top nine forwards.
The Senators have the advantage of being able to rely on all of these lines, creating favourable matchups most games. Having three solid lines was a big reason the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup last spring. The Carl Hagelin-Nick Bonino-Phil Kessel third line wreaked havoc for them in the playoffs, with teams unable to suppress three scoring lines.
Trade for Tommy Wingels
On Tuesday, Dorion pulled the trigger on a trade for San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels. The trade sent Buddy Robinson, Zack Stortini, and a 2017 seventh-round pick to the Sharks in exchange for Wingels.
Looking forward to starting my new journey with the @Senators. Excited to arrive in Ottawa.
— Tommy Wingels (@tommywingels57) January 25, 2017
Wingels has been an effective fourth-line player for the Sharks, and can also perform well in a third line role. Described as a speedy, tireless worker and a favourite in the dressing room, he will improve the Senators’ fourth line. The combination of Chris Neil-Curtis Lazar-Chris Kelly has combined for only four goals this season. The 28-year-old Wingels has five goals and eight points in 37 games for the Sharks this year.
Wingels, a pending unrestricted free agent, has a salary of $2,475,000, although the Sharks will retain 30 percent as part of the deal. Wingels will be a welcome addition to the Senators, especially considering the cost of acquiring him. Both Robinson and Stortini are AHL-caliber players, and a seventh-round pick rarely becomes an NHL regular. If Wingels fits with the Sens’ fourth line, they can likely resign him to an affordable contract. If not, he will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Boucher will need to decide who to take out of the fourth line to make room for Wingels. The two most likely candidates to replace are Lazar and Neil. Since Neil has the ‘A’ on his jersey and plays a consistent role, Lazar looks like he could be the odd man out.
Bryan Murray Becomes First in Ring of Honour
Longtime Senator Bryan Murray has become the first to be granted a spot in the Senators’ Ring of Honour at Canadian Tire Centre. The ceremony took place on Tuesday, with his former team, the Washington Capitals, in town.
Murray spent time coaching and managing in Washington, Detroit, Florida and Anaheim before coming to Ottawa. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin presented Murray with a jersey with the number 343, the number of wins Murray had in Washington.
Murray coached the Senators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, losing to his former team, the Ducks, in five games. He was named GM in the summer of 2007 and held the position until last spring.
In the summer of 2014, it was announced that Murray had been diagnosed with cancer. Later that year, he announced that he had Stage 4 colon cancer, and it had spread. Since his diagnosis, Murray has been active in spreading awareness, especially cancer prevention through screening and tests.
Bryan Murray standing at centre ice and kicking cancer's ass is pretty cool.
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) January 25, 2017
Despite his diagnosis, Murray continues to be part of the Senators’ executive team as a Senior Hockey Advisor. He has been an inspiration to all as he continues to do what he loves, not letting cancer control his life.
Covering the Ottawa Senators and 67s. Carleton University ’16.