Now that the offseason for the Ottawa Senators is in full effect, the news might be a little slow for the next few months. However, there are still some Senators making headlines outside of the NHL, and it’s giving fans jitters to drop the puck for the 2021-22 season. With the way they ended their season, 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, it wouldn’t surprise me to understand that most fans are upset seeing the Montreal Canadiens go as far as they have (so far) and wonder that if they had a better start to their season, they could have made it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well.
That’s all in hindsight, and the only way to get over that is to look ahead to next season. While they most likely will re-enter the original Atlantic Division next season with teams like the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers coming back into the fold, there is confidence going forward that they will be able to put up a fight and be competitive. In the meantime, here is what’s making headlines in Ottawa.
Item One: Connor Brown and Nick Paul Shine at IIHF World Championships
The 2021 IIHF World Championships that took place in Riga, Latvia, over the last couple of weeks may have lost some eyeballs due to the continuation of the Stanley Cup Playoffs but not for fans of the Senators. The Sens had four of their players overseas in Lativa playing for their respective countries. Artem Zub represented the Russian Olympic Committee while Connor Brown, Nick Paul and Jacob Bernard-Docker dawned the red and white maple leaf.
Zub played in six games where he recorded one assist before he and the Russian’s were ultimately eliminated by Canada. The Canadians went on to defeat the United States 4-2 in the semifinals and then Finland 3-2 in overtime of the gold medal game. A beautiful give-and-go play from Paul and Brown sealed the victory for Canada in just under seven minutes of the period.
This play may have not been executed in Senators gear, but it is another layer to add to the great finish that the players and organization had when the season ended with a win on May 12. against the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime. Brown had taken the momentum he built this season and brought it over to Latvia, where he finished as the tournament’s top scorer with 16 points.
“Really, halfway through the year, I started to believe that I had a different level to my game,” Brown said. “I feel like I’m starting to reach my potential and trusting my instincts fully on the ice. That’s why I was so excited to get over there, keep that rolling and just play and offensively trust my instincts to make plays.” (from ‘GARRIOCH: A gold medal performance helps Senators’ winger Connor Brown cap off what was a terrific season’ Ottawa Sun, 08/06/21)
Brown and Paul also got to share this moment with Senators teammate Jacob Bernard-Docker. Bernard-Docker was a last-minute player added to the Canadian blueline once the news broke that New Jersey Devils defender Kevin Bahl was no longer going to be on the roster.
“We had a lot of Ottawa staff and players. They’re unbelievable guys that work hard and deserved to be there,” said Paul. “Hugging those guys after spending all season with them, it just meant that much more. We see them all the time. To share that with them is awesome and it’s something that’s good for our group that we can bring into next year.” Senators’ staffers John Forget, Alex Menezes, Dom Nicoletta, and Dr. Tim Cregan were all a part of the Canadian team at the tournament.
The Hockey Writer’s Ryan Shuvera has more on the Senators’ performance here.
Item Two: Senators Land 10th Overall in Draft Lottery
When the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery concluded, the Senators found themselves in the same spot as when they entered. They didn’t move up or down in a night that saw the Buffalo Sabres retain first-overall and the second pick going to the Seattle Kraken as they enter the NHL Draft for the first time. The Senators went into the lottery with the 10th-best odds (a 4.5 percent chance of winning No. 1 and a 9.3 percent chance at No. 2.)
Selecting where they’re slotted (currently) isn’t the worst spot to be in. Yes, it’s not in the top five, where they selected twice last year, but there will still be quality players to choose from that may be able to get into the lineup sooner rather than later.
“This is a good draft. Our scouts, and the organization, are looking forward to selecting a player at 10th overall. We know we’re going to get a good player that’s going to help us have a long, successful run for years to come. With the 10th overall pick, we feel we’re going to get a quality player, an impact player, that will definitely be able to help us win. Someone that’s going to be able to jump into our lineup, hopefully, in the next few years. It will be interesting to see who the first nine players are that go, but we feel we’re going to get a good one at No. 10.”– Pierre Dorion, (from ‘GARRIOCH: After lottery balls drop, Ottawa Senators stay in No. 10 spot for NHL draft’ Ottawa Sun, 02/06/21)
While Pierre Dorion suggested that they’re happy where they are, TSN’s Shawn Simpson has reported that they may look to do something with the pick. Whether that’s moving up, down, or trading out of the first round in general, their goal is to find someone for the immediate future. If you take a look at mock drafts circulating online from big and small media outlets, the Senators could have one of Jesper Wallstedt, Fabian Lysell, William Eklund, Chaz Lucius, Zachary L’Heureux or Fedor Svechkov available to them.
The Hockey Writer’s Dayton Reimer has more on potential players available at No. 10 here.
Item Three: Senators Sign Viktor Lodin to Entry-Level Contract
The Senators announced on June 1. that they signed forward Viktor Lodin to a two-year entry-level contract which will begin at the start of the 2021-22 season. Lodin was selected at 94th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft and is the seventh and final member of the Senators’ 2019 draft class to have signed an entry-level contract with Ottawa. He was born in Leksand, Sweden, where he recently played his first season in Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan League for Timra IK.
“Viktor gained significant professional experience by playing an integral role in Timra’s championship win last season,” said Dorion. “A bit of a late bloomer in that he was drafted as a 19-year-old, he’s a big forward who can play either centre or wing and possesses high-end skill with a raw ability to score.” He ranked fourth among team skaters with 14 goals and 26 assists for 40 points over 47 games. He also posted a plus-14 rating while helping Timra IK to the Allsvenskan League championship that comes with a promotion to the SHL for 2021-22.
What’s Next for the Senators?
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Brady Tkachuk and Senators management haven’t begun talks on an extension for the pending restricted free agent. There are rumours that the captaincy might be the cherry on top when it comes to a long-term deal, but nothing has been said officially. Team owner, Eugene Melnyk, indicated in an interview that it would be difficult to have “somebody” (Tkachuk) on a bridge deal and also awarded the captaincy.
It’s no secret that the next captain will either be one of Tkachuk or Thomas Chabot. Chabot has seven years left on his deal, so it’s pretty obvious Melnyk wasn’t referring to him when talking about a bridge deal. We can expect more details on this situation as we get deeper into the summer.