After a tough start to the season, the Ottawa Senators could make some roster changes to get things back on track, but will anything happen before the end of the calendar year? The Senators are still going through a rebuild, with many promising young players already establishing themselves with the NHL roster while others are taking strides in the minors or elsewhere, but there was a hope that on-ice results would begin to move forward. With the results not as expected at this early stage of the season, could making some changes to the existing roster help to turn the tide?
Why The Senators Should Consider a Move
While the Senators were not expected to take the NHL by storm this season, there was a reasonable belief that progress would be made and that the team would begin to climb the league standings with the influx of young talent emerging.
A 3-7-1 record to begin the season — with four consecutive losses at the time of writing — is far from what the team hoped, and a change may be needed to inject something different and help them begin to pick up points. The results have not been wholly surprising given the number of injuries to key players the team has already experienced, losing centres Shane Pinto and Colin White for extensive periods, while also seeing No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray miss games recently, and forward Austin Watson placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.
Suffering losses of important players already is a disappointing turn of events for the Senators, but the gaps could be plugged with new additions that may even provide an upgrade in some areas, with Claude Giroux rumours still present and general manager Pierre Dorion himself willing to make changes if he deems it necessary. With the Senators currently having $13.8 million in cap space, there is plenty of room for the team to operate with to bring in a player or two to give them a boost.
Why The Senators Should Wait
Adding new players seems to be a simple solution to the Senators’ problems right now, but there are some considerations that should be made before any such move is made. First, what is the cost of bringing in a player of any real significance? The Senators should not be looking to fill out the offence with fourth liners, which they could easily do with the players already in their system.
A legitimate impact player or two is needed to truly affect on-ice performances and contribute to the team’s turnaround in fortunes, but they come at a price. It may be one that the team isn’t comfortable with paying, especially if roster players or prospects are the potential ask. With that, there are also plenty of promising young players still progressing in the minors that could become solid NHLers in the near future, possibly even before the end of the current campaign. So, why not give them an opportunity to shine before looking to bring in an external solution. If a player can’t be identified, or realistically acquired without the cost becoming a talking point beyond the deal, then the Senators may simply have to wait for their injuries and absences to return to the line-up before assessing whether or not pulling the trigger is worth the risk.
How Likely Are The Senators to Make a Move?
The Senators have shown a willingness to make additions if the opportunity arises, as seen with the recent trade with the San Jose Sharks for depth centre Dylan Gambrell. This deal, however, did not make a significant change to the Senators’ roster, with Gambrell only costing a seventh-round draft pick in 2022 and slotting in on the fourth line, whereas it is likely that the team would need to consider making a change of real substance to help them get out of their rut.
When Pinto and White return, the Sens’ centre depth will look far more secure, thanks to the addition of Gambrell, but further additions on the wing could help bolster the offence even further and support the development of young guys like Alex Formenton and Tim Stützle.
Dorion isn’t the kind of general manager to simply jump on a trade if he doesn’t see the long-term value in it, and a patient approach would appear to be the most likely if the team is expecting their injuries to clear up soon, giving them hope of changing their form internally. If, however, results continue to be disappointing, Dorion may be forced into making a move before things spiral out of control and the team find themselves in the conversation for a lottery pick in 2022.
James is a British sports writer covering the Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers.