For the first time in a while, the Ottawa Senators have had an uplifting offseason. They snagged Claude Giroux in free agency, parted ways with underperforming netminder Matt Murray, and signed star centreman Josh Norris to an eight-year contract extension.
As a result, the temperature of general manager Pierre Dorion’s hot seat has cooled, and he can breathe easy ahead of puck drop in 2022-23, safe in the knowledge that his rebuild has reached “the next phase.”
Although the Senators are unlikely to spend to the cap limit, the organization’s time in the bargain basement is over. They are on the road to competing for silverware and are only two seasons away from erasing most of their dead money. With that in mind, here’s a look at the franchise’s three most lucrative contracts, listed in order of average annual value (AAV), and assess which is the most team-friendly.
Brady Tkachuk, Left Winger, Age: 22
Ottawa’s captain has six years remaining on his $8.21 million AAV contract. Brady Tkachuk penned his contract just hours before the 2021-22 season started and will reach unrestricted free agency after 2027-28. Considering the 22-year-old’s status, his contract is fair value for both parties. He registered 67 points (30 goals, 37 assists) in 79 appearances last season and is on track to becoming a top left-winger.
Moreover, there is potential for Tkachuk’s deal to be of better value in its second half, so the team is in line to receive a double whammy benefit in the years ahead, with the salary cap likely to rise and their captain set to improve his offensive production.
“I’m just super happy to be here, super happy to be back in Ottawa,” Tkachuk told reporters shortly after signing his extension. “It’s kind of a crazy day, and just words can’t really express how happy and excited I am to be back.”
Dorion added, “He’s the one that drives the bus for our team. He brings us into battle every night, and to get it done for seven years, I think, is a great thing for the organization.”
Unless the former fourth-overall pick’s production dips, his contract will be a positive for the Senators’ cap situation for years to come.
Thomas Chabot, Defenceman, Age: 25
Ottawa’s number one defenceman also has six years remaining on his $8 million AAV contract. Thomas Chabot ratified the deal back in September 2019, a year before it kicked in, and will hit unrestricted free agency at 31. Like Tkachuk, the 6-foot-2 blueliner is a cornerstone piece of the club and has a key role to play in leading them back to Stanley Cup contention. He amassed 38 points (seven goals, 31 assists) in 59 appearances last season for a career record of 188 points (42 goals, 146 assists) in 313 games.
Although the left-handed blueliner missed the final weeks of the season with a hand fracture suffered in a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, he is one of the Senators’ most reliable players when healthy and a trusted top-pair defenceman. With that said, Chabot’s contract is of reasonable value, and, like Tkachuk, it should improve in the back half, buoyed by increased production and the end of the flat cap era.
Josh Norris, Centreman, Age: 23
Earlier this summer, the Senators and Josh Norris shook hands on an eight-year, $7.95 million contract extension in what was a statement signing for the franchise.
“We’re very pleased to come to a long-term agreement with Josh,” Dorion said in a press release. “He’s a versatile forward who continues to mature into an exceptional NHL player. His scoring prowess has already shown to be a considerable asset for us and one that will help us reach the next level.”
The 23-year-old added, “It’s been an exciting 24 hours. I remember when me and Pierre had our exit meetings, we both kind of agreed to kind of get it done as soon as we could, and he kind of held his word on that, and I thought the negotiations went really well. Yeah, it was a smooth process, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
The former San Jose Sharks draft pick recorded 55 points (25 goals, 20 assists) in 66 appearances last season. He also led Ottawa in power-play goals (16) and was second in power-play points (23), earning a career-high average ice time of 18:35.
Norris is slightly overpaid at the moment: if he was paid just a slither under $8 million last season, the Senators would have been a little underwhelmed by his production. As a result, he must continue to make improvements to ensure the deal works out favourably for Ottawa. However, the whole point of signing an eight-year deal is to lock a player in for their prime years at a reduced cap hit. The Sens have that with Norris, and it should work out favourably in the end.
Senators’ Cap Management Improved Under Dorion
The cap situation at the Canadian Tire Centre has unquestionably improved over recent years. In fact, two of Dorion’s summer acquisitions will headline the club’s upward mobility. Giroux, 34, is signed to an excellent contract worth $6.5 million against the cap for the next three seasons; a discounted rate considering his 65-point haul (21 goals, 44 assists) in 2021-22.
Alex DeBrincat is also on a team-friendly deal. Although his agreement expires next offseason, there is every chance he will outperform his $6.4 million cap hit as he aims to maximize his earning potential as a restricted free agent after 2022-23.
All in all, the Senators are in a healthy position heading into the preseason. The clouds are lifting in Ottawa.