Senators News & Rumors: Tkachuk, Crookshank, Brannstrom & More

The Ottawa Senators reported to the Canadian Tire Centre this morning for their pre-camp physicals with one notable absentee. Brady Tkachuk and his agents Craig Oster and Don Meehan (Newport Sports) are still negotiating a long-term deal with the club, which has kept him off the list of 54 names who will attend training camp. Should a deal get done before the regular season, Tkachuk will join the mix. 

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Also, prospect Angus Crookshank is out long-term with an injury. With the end of rookie camp, it’s time to take a look at who impressed. 

Tkachuk Still Holding Out

Sens general manager Pierre Dorion wanted this deal done before the start of training camp. As the team starts to prepare for the upcoming season, the Tkachuk contract situation is becoming a distraction, if not for the players, then for the fans.

Brady Tkachuk Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The team has offered Tkachuk an eight-year contract worth $8 million per season. It’s unclear if he believes he’s worth more than that, but it must be one reason he has yet to sign on the dotted line. However, looking at comparable contracts, Dorion’s offer seems fair.

Andrei Svechnikov, who the Carolina Hurricanes took ahead of Tkachuk in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, signed an eight-year deal in August worth $7.75 million per season. His numbers are very similar to Tkachuk’s: Svechnikov has 59 goals and140 points in 205 career games, while Tkachuk has 60 goals, 125 points in 198 games. 

Tkachuk isn’t the only restricted free agent yet to sign with his club. Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks are other big names still waiting to join their team at training camp. Rasmus Dahlin was taken off the board on Wednesday when the Buffalo Sabres agreed to a three-year contract worth an average annual value of $6 million. 

Hughes and Pettersson are training together in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while negotiations play out between the Canucks and their agents, Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry; the two sides are still divided on money and term. 

Senators Rearrange Depth Chart

In Tkachuk’s absence, the Sens will have had to adjust their lineup a bit. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun sees the first-line combination as Nick Paul on the left with Josh Norris at centre and Drake Batherson on the right. He expects the second line to look like this:

The Senators didn’t even have Chris Tierney pencilled into this group when the season got underway but with little trade value, he’s back and, by all accounts, determined to push for more time. If that’s the case, he’ll be in the mix for the second line with Colin White and Shane Pinto.

from Bruce Garrioch, ‘Garrioch: The Senators will open camp as efforts to get Brady Tkachuk signed continue,’ Ottawa Sun. 9/21/2021.

Of course, Tim Stützle will also be on that line, which leaves Alex Formenton, White/Pinto and possibly Tyler Ennis for the third line and a whole lot of questions for the fourth, outside of Auston Watson. Chances are, prospects Parker Kelly and Egor Sokolov will get a chance to start the season if Tkachuk is not on the opening night roster, but both are unlikely to stick around for the full 82 games. 

Tim Stützle Ottawa Senators
Tim Stützle, Ottawa Senators, first NHL game Jan. 15, 2021 (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Of course, everything will change in an instant when Tkachuk signs, so line formations at practice tomorrow will likely be temporary. 

Sokolov a Rookie Camp Standout

Speaking of Sokolov, earlier this week, I noted that he needs to spend more time in the American Hockey League to develop, and that’s on par with discussions throughout the organization. However, as mentioned above, he could start the season with the Sens or be a mid-season call-up. He isn’t ready for the big show just yet, but the Senators should help him acclimate to the NHL with several test stints. 

The Russian forward impressed in the second game of rookie camp but drifted in his first outing. That kind of inconsistency is typical for a player his age and will need to be worked on before he earns a regular spot on head coach D.J. Smith’s roster.

Pinto, Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker all looked good during the two games and in practice. As mentioned, Pinto could be in the running for a regular role, but Thomson and Bernard-Docker will be hard-pressed to find a spot on a crowded blue line. Expect Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub to line up as the first pairing in camp, followed by Michael Del Zotto and Nikita Zaitsev as the second pairing and Nick Holden and Victor Mete in the last spots. 

Angus Crookshank is on the training camp roster, but he suffered what looked like a knee injury in Monday’s game that will keep him out long-term.

Notice I didn’t mention Erik Brannstrom? He’ll also be in tough this training camp. Acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Mark Stone trade with high expectations, an injury last season set Brannstrom back a bit, but he will be given an opportunity to knock someone out of a job.

With things kicking into high gear this week, we’ll see what the Senators have in store for what many will hope is an improved squad over last season’s basement finish. Check out all The Hockey Writers’ Senators’ season preview content here and follow along as our Sens writing team gets you prepped for opening night on Oct. 14. 

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