Senators Signal an Organizational Shift With Stützle Extension

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Ottawa Senators signed former third-overall pick Tim Stützle to an eight-year extension worth $8.35 million in average annual value (AAV).

The aggressive offseason for the Senators continues, as they previously added Alex Debrincat and Claude Giroux to boost their forward core. These moves, along with the extension, represent a shift in the franchise’s direction.

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They’ve failed to make the playoffs the last five seasons and are just now climbing themselves out of a rebuild. Six years later, and general manager Pierre Dorion is making major additions and signings that have reportedly boosted ticket sales tremendously from last season. The excitement for Senators hockey is returning, and the days of rebuilding are no more. This team is gearing up for a playoff run in not only 2022-23 but for many years to come.

Stützle Will Have to Reach His Full Potential for Contract to Pay Off

In his rookie season, Stützle posted 28 points in 53 games and had many flashes of talent but spent most of the season adjusting to the NHL game. He built on that production in year two, posting 58 points in 79 games, and looked much more confident in his decisions with and without the puck.

This contract is quite the gamble for the player that he has been up until this point, but it could turn into a bargain if he ends up hitting his full potential. He was set to become a restricted free agent (RFA) in 2022-23, but he now becomes arguably the most polarizing piece for the organization to build around. If the 20-year-old centre fails to pan out, how likely is it that the rest of the rebuild does? It is a high-risk, high-reward move that the Senators were willing to take and could potentially turn out to be the best decision for the future of the franchise.

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

The additions of Debrincat, who scored 41 goals and 78 points last season, along with Giroux, who’s a veteran leader and a proven NHL playmaker, will benefit Stützle more than any other player in Ottawa. He’s projected to start on the second line alongside those two and be the centrepiece of what has the potential to be one of the best scoring lines in the NHL.

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Debrincat, Giroux, and Cam Talbot are all players who Dorion went out and acquired, but the biggest offseason story around the senators might be the extensions they handed out to their young core. Josh Norris signed a long-term contract for eight years with an AAV of $7.95 million after scoring 35 goals in 2021-21. With Stützle now signed for the same term, the Sens have the majority of their young core locked up for the foreseeable future.

Pierre Dorion Ottawa Senators 2015
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

The one issue they may run into is a lack of veteran leadership. Yes, they were able to bring in some veterans, but the main core of this team is still very young, which sets them up to have an extremely wide range of outcomes. Outside of Giroux, every member of their top-six forward group will be under the age of 25 entering the 2022-23 season. The management group is banking on all of these players hitting the start of their prime at the same time, which very well could happen as early as next season.

Stützle’s Results Should Improve Every Year

The Senators are jumping the gun on what he could develop into and planning to save money by signing him long-term before he has a breakout season. A great comparison is how Jack Hughes‘ contract situation was handled last season. The New Jersey Devils signed him to an eight-year, $8 million AAV contract before his breakout year, and now that contract looks like a steal going into his fourth campaign. Hughes broke out and played at a point-per-game level, recording 56 points in 49 games before he suffered a knee injury that brought it to an end.

The Senators are hoping for the same jump, especially when it comes to his play at even-strength. As we can see from this beautifully displayed analytics card, Stützle’s strengths lie with the man advantage, as well as being an above-average finisher and playmaker. He plays his best offensively off the rush, but he will need to sustain more offensive possessions to get that “EV Offence” number to the typical elite-centre level.

Tim Stützle
Tim Stützle’s wins above replacement (WAR) player card, 2020-22

Having two outstanding, proven NHL star wingers this season will improve the “hockey card stats” tremendously, with those being the standard goals, assists, and points. But these analytics and these categories can only be improved by Stützle, as he works to improve his defensive game and become more of a force when the rush falls apart.

This contract will kick in next year after his entry-level contract (ELC) expires, with the Senators now having Batherson, Norris, Stützle and Brady Tkachuk signed through 2026-27. CapFriendly projects they will have $22.6 million in cap space next offseason, which provides them with the opportunity to sign Debrincat long-term as well.

There is a buzz around this team that hasn’t been there in years. The management group is winning the fans over by being aggressive and signing the fan-favourite players for the foreseeable future and doing it when they’re still young. These moves provide a new direction for the franchise that has been lacking in the past, and they have supplied fans with hope for a successful season.

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