The Ottawa Senators were one of the few teams who didn’t play after the NHL paused its schedule in mid-March as they simply weren’t good enough to make the expanded playoff scenario. However, things could be a lot different in the 2020/21 campaign as the club as made several offseason moves to improve the roster. In addition, Ottawa also had three first-round picks in the recent NHL Entry Draft.
One of the most important acquisitions has been goaltender Matt Murray, who was brought over in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Jonathan Gruden and second-round draft pick this year. Murray adds plenty of experience as he won a pair of Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 2015/16 and 2016/17 and has been one of the league’s upper-echelon netminders over the past few years.
The team also acquired blue liner Erik Gudbranson in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks and signed unrestricted free agents Alexander Galchenyuk from Pittsburgh and Evgenii Dadonov from the Florida Panthers, making general manager Pierre Dorion a busy man so far in the offseason. It’s understandable why Dorion has been working overtime since Ottawa finished in second-last place in the Eastern Conference last season with a record of 25-34-12 for 62 points and a points percentage of .437.
The Senators have missed the playoffs the past three seasons but with the 26-year-old Murray signing a four-year contract the team should certainly be blessed with more consistent goaltending. Murray has posted a minimum of 20 wins in each of the last four NHL seasons and went 20-11-5 in 2019/20 with a goals-against average of 2.87 in 38 outings. He also has a 91.4 save percentage in 199 career regular-season NHL games.
The 28-year-old Gudbranson is expected to be a physical presence on the blue line while the 31-year-old Dadonov and 26-year-old Galchenyuk should bring some offensive flair. Ottawa also picked up 28-year-old forward Austin Watson in a deal with the Nashville Predators as well as defender Josh Brown in a trade with Florida. Dorion then used his first-round draft picks to take forward Tim Stuetzle third overall, rearguard Jake Sanderson fifth overall and forward Ridly Greig 28th.
Of course, the Senators also lost some pieces of the puzzle as forward Bobby Ryan signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent after Ottawa bought out his contract. In addition, veteran goalie Craig Anderson wasn’t re-signed and is an unrestricted free agent while defenceman Mark Borowiecki signed with Nashville. Forward Anthony Duclair is also currently an unrestricted free agent after posting 23 goals and 40 points in 66 games last season and so is defenceman Ron Hainsey. Forward Mikkel Boedker also left the team to sign with HC Davos in Switzerland.
As far as young prospects go for the upcoming season, the 18-year-old Tim Stuetzle notched seven goals and 34 points for Mannheim in Germany last season while 21-year-old forward Josh Norris racked up 31 goals and 61 points for in 56 outings for Belleville in the American Hockey League and 21-year-old forward Alex Formenton posted 27 goals and 53 points in 61 AHL contests. The Senators already had some fine players with the likes of forwards Brady Tkachuk and Artem Anisimov and blue liner Thomas Chabot.
The Senators may not become a powerhouse over night, but the club is definitely on the right track. Given time, they should gradually and steadily start to climb the NHL standings over the next few seasons and could soon find themselves back in the playoff mix.