While it is hard to see an entire fanbase agree on one thing, most people are on the same page with the Senators’ goaltending situation and that it needs improvement. Anton Forsberg and Mads Sogaard are the two projected NHL goaltenders for next season, and while both have proven to be NHL-quality, that tandem isn’t generating much confidence to take this team to the next level and reach the playoffs. The Senators have spent a lot of assets on building this team to get to this point, but one more big piece added to the crease would really solidify this roster.
While there has been and will be more conversation about the current tandem and whether it is good enough or not, it is worth just briefly touching on it here. Sogaard is young and doesn’t have a full season of NHL duties under his belt yet, and while his numbers were below average, he played in some of the most important games of the season and gave the Senators a chance to win most nights. Forsberg suffered a pretty ugly lower-body injury, tearing MCLs in both legs, ending his season. That is a tough injury to come back from, and while he is expected to make a full recovery ahead of training camp, who knows what level of play he will be capable of after that.
Regardless of whether a goaltender is acquired through free agency or the draft, making the money work will be a challenge. With upcoming contracts for Alex DeBrincat and a handful of restricted free agents (RFA), general manager Pierre Dorion is going to have a lot of work to do. For the sake of the conversation about potential goaltenders, let’s ignore the cap implications, as there is so much up in the air with the current situation. If it comes down to DeBrincat getting traded, the money will be no problem.
Connor Hellebuyck Wants to Win
Jim Parsons did an excellent job talking about the potential landing spot for Connor Hellebuyck being the Senators. The proven Vezina-caliber goaltender has expressed his interest in winning in his season-ending press conference, and with the future of the Winnipeg Jets’ direction currently undefined, there is a chance the superstar netminder gets traded this summer.
Though the Senators will be looking for a long-term fix in net, Hellebuyck only has one year left on his deal. The potential of a sign-and-trade is definitely possible, and it has become clear that players are willing to commit to Ottawa and the group they have built. Having players like Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris all sign long-term shows commitment, and that has attracted players like Claude Giroux to want to join the team. The number that Hellebuyck might command could be among the highest for all goaltenders, but he is worth it.
Related: Senators And Jets Have Means To Make Huge Hellebuyck Trade
Finishing top four in Vezina Trophy voting in three of the previous five seasons and likely earning another top-five spot this season, Hellebuyck has been consistently one of the best goalies in the league. On top of the Vezina, he has also earned Hart Trophy votes in those same seasons, finishing as high as sixth in the 2019-20 season. Hellebuyck would be the piece that truly puts Ottawa over the hump.
A potential mock trade for a sign-and-trade deal could be something within the realm of Anton Forsberg, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ridly Greig, a 2024 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick.
Two Hurricanes On the Table
The Carolina Hurricanes will have quite the decision to make after their playoff run this season. In the crease, they have Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen set to become unrestricted free agents (UFA), and Pyotr Kochetkov has already signed a four-year extension. Raanta has played the majority of the playoffs so far, but Andersen was called upon for the series-clinching Game 6 against the New York Islanders.
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It is hard to imagine that all three goaltenders are with the Hurricanes for next season, as they would all be on NHL contracts, and while there is an argument to be had that this trio would be the right move, I expect one to hit free agency.
Andersen is an interesting situation. The biggest issue with the Danish netminder is his health. He only suited up for 34 games this season and has a history of missing some time with an assortment of injuries. That doesn’t bode well with Ottawa’s problems, as injuries led them to their seventh-string goaltender this season. But if he can stay healthy, Andersen has proven that he can be one of the top goaltenders in the league, placing fourth in Vezina Trophy voting last season.
Raanta put up a phenomenal 19-3-3 record this season, and while he has never been a heavy-workload goaltender, he has proven that he is capable of winning games for his team. He has been a bit of a journeyman, playing for four teams in his ten years in the league, but he is a consistent .910 save percentage (SV%) or higher goaltender that often has a winning record. Either one of these goaltenders would be a good option for Ottawa to look at to create a tandem with experience.
Hart Could be Available
The Philadelphia Flyers are headed into a true rebuild under the regime of interim general manager Daniel Briere, and Carter Hart could be on the move.
Hart had a strong season on a weakened Flyers team, registering a .907 SV% and a record of 22-23-10. Those numbers don’t jump off the page and grab your attention, but the 24-year-old has so much promise. Per Money Puck, Hart was the 15th-best goaltender in terms of goals saved above expected. He was one of the only bright spots for the Flyers this season.
The Flyers would likely be looking to take picks and prospects back, and while his value may be uncertain, it wouldn’t be cheap. Hart has one more season under contract at just under $4 million, which is very affordable for Ottawa right now. His next contract is entirely dependent on his performance next year, but he will still be an RFA. The Senators could be a perfect match for Hart and could be among the top suitors for the Senators to look at.
There are a handful of UFAs this summer the Senators could look at, and while they aren’t the biggest and flashiest names, they just need to be the type of goalie to create a strong tandem with Forsberg. The obvious benefit to signing a UFA is that it only costs money and no assets.
Tristan Jarry has had a rollercoaster of a season. Dealing with plenty of injuries and a struggling Pittsburgh Penguins team, his future is still to be determined. The Penguins have been using him regularly, but with injuries, he has only played 177 games over the past four years, averaging out to 44 games a season. If the Senators can get half a year of solid hockey out of Jarry and split the other half with Forsberg or Sogaard, that is a capable tandem.
Semyon Varlamov has been one of the more consistent goaltenders in the league over the past decade. Typically in the .910-.915 SV% range, he’s been pretty sheltered while playing behind the superstar goaltender, Ilya Sorokin. At 35 years old, the Senators may be worried about acquiring another veteran at that age after the Cam Talbot experiment didn’t work out. However, Varlamov is a very different situation.
There have been little to no signs of regression thus far, and he is committed to winning. There is a possibility he stays in the New York Islanders crease to keep one of the NHL’s best tandems, but there is also a chance he wants to go elsewhere to prove he has more in the tank. In terms of UFA options, this would be my top target.
Joonas Korpisalo was the answer in the crease for the LA Kings while they were on the hunt for a playoff spot. He had a fantastic season on one of the worst teams in the league, registering a .913 SV% and an 11-11-3 record with the Columbus Blue Jackets. After being acquired at the trade deadline, his stats just improved from there. He struggled in the playoffs, only posting an .892 SV%. But even then, it is hard to maintain strong numbers in a best-of-seven series against a team with three 100-point scorers, including two of the top players in the league.
Dorion Has His Work Cut Out
There is a lot of movement to be done. Again, what comes of the DeBrincat situation will truly tell how much freedom Dorion has to make an addition in the crease, and he may ultimately decide to roll the dice on Forsberg and Sogaard. I think it is imperative that the Senators make an upgrade, but I understand those who may have a vote of confidence in the current tandem.