Free Agency: Day 1 Sens Recap

The first day of free agency frenzy is behind us. What did the Senators do?

Free Agency Around the League

It was a busy day. An army of blue checkmarks on Twitter are probably icing their sore thumbs after spending the day frantically tweeting, trying to keep up with all the signings. A few big names inked some interesting deals. Dougie Hamilton signed a 7 year, 63 million dollar contract with the New Jersey Devils. Zach Hyman showed that, like Hamilton, he also is not afraid of commitment by signing a 7-year deal with the Oilers. And, to add a little comedy to the day, Seattle traded recent expansion draft pick Vitek Vanecek back to Washington for a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. The Capitals then blessed our timelines:

Sens Connection

Of note for the Senators, Mike Hoffman signed a 3-year deal with the Habs, which means Sens fans at the Canadian Tire Centre will once again get to watch Hoffman score plenty of goals. Only this time it’ll be for a divisional rival.

Much to the chagrin of many Sens fans, Pius Suter signed a 2-year deal with the Red Wings. Suter’s name had been put forward as a potential good fit down the middle in Ottawa. The Senators are apparently on the market for a C, and players like Strome (NYR), Henrique (ANA), and Eichel (BUF) have been identified as potential candidates. Though a deal to bring in Eichel seems pretty unlikely, in my opinion.

Former Senator great Cody Ceci also got stability and made bank after signing a four year, 13 million dollar deal with Edmonton.

The Trade

The Ottawa Senators kicked off day 1 of Free Agency not by signing a player but by making a trade. Sens fans didn’t have to wait too long for this one. Just after 11:30 am EST, the Sens announced that they traded Evgenii Dadonov to the Golden Knights in exchange for Nick Holden and a third-round draft pick in 2022.

Evgenii Dadonov severely underperformed in his year in Ottawa. While the return isn’t impressive, I think most Senators fans are happy to see Dadonov’s hefty contract off the books. And, of course, we will always have this:

At 34 years old, Nick Holden isn’t going to surprise anyone with what he can and cannot do on the ice. The Senators know what they are getting. That is, bottom pairing guy who is fairly responsible defensively and who can play both at LD and RD, making him a versatile option for DJ Smith in 2021-2022. All in all, I’d say this was a safe trade for the organization. They have lots of young guys who can now possibly get an extended look at the 1RW position, or they could use some of that cap space to sign a replacement for Dadonov. Personally, I hope they settle for option one.

The Signings

Unlike their trade, the Sens’ first signing of the day was more controversial. A few hours after announcing the Dadonov trade, the Senators announced that they had signed veteran blueliner Michael Del Zotto to a two year, 2 million AAV contract.

To be clear, the term is not what makes this deal controversial. Despite being in the league for what seems like forever, Del Zotto is surprisingly only 31 years old. The controversy is due to the fact that, by bringing in Holden and signing Del Zotto, the Senators find themselves with a little bit of a log jam on defence. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. Competition is healthy, after all. But Sens fans don’t have to look back too far in the past to remember that bringing in vets can sometimes backfire. They just have to think back to last year, when the Senators signed guys like Braydon Coburn and Erik Gudbranson, who were absolutely abysmal with Ottawa. The organization seems hell-bent on repeating their mistake. In come more vets. But the blunder seems especially egregious considering some of the other names that were available: David Savard, Jake McCabe, and Patrik Nemeth, are a few examples that might have actually improved the team.

So, with Holden and Del Zotto in, Brannstrom and Mete now find themselves on the outside looking in despite being clearly the more capable players. I think what worries Sens fans the most is the possibility of seeing Erik Brannstrom traded away before having been given a shot to really prove himself at the NHL level.

Reinforcements

It wouldn’t be the first day of free agency without the Senators announcing some depth moves. True to form, the Senators made the following announcement:

So, welcome to the team, Andrew Agozzino. Agozzino will likely spend the year in Belleville, and will likely be asked to slot in to the big club occasionally to fill in for injured regulars. Agozzino has had minimal impact in the NHL, having played only 46 games, but he has put up some decent numbers in the AHL over the years. By all accounts, he seems to be a fairly responsible two-way forward that might provide some leadership as the Baby Sens look to make a playoff push.

The Coach

Finally, the Sens also announced that they have extended DJ Smith for another two years. Sens fans have seen a lot of bench bosses over the years. Thirteen coaches, to be exact. DJ is the fourteenth Ottawa Senators coach. That is a rather large number of coaches for a franchise that’s only been in the league for 28 seasons. Fans have been hoping for a little more stability.

Sens fans have been highly critical of DJ during his tenure in Ottawa. Some of the criticism has been warranted, some not. On the bright side, DJ has shown that he is willing to adapt and be flexible. This was evident last year when the team decided to give more ice time to the younger players while scratching some of the vets following poor play. So, I think DJ has earned the opportunity to prove himself. He’s got two years to show that he’s the right fit for the young team in Ottawa. If he fails, well, at least we’ll always have this:

Free Agency Continues

So that’s a wrap for day one of free agency. The Sens are still reportedly looking to acquire some pieces. Look for them to try to sign or trade for a 1-2C. Unfortunately, this means that some important players with potential might get shipped out of Ottawa since it is very unlikely that they will find what they are looking for in the free agent pool.

Let us know what you think. Will the Sens sign more players? Will they land Eichel? Who should they give up in order to acquire the pieces they desperately need?

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Pierre Corbett-Roy Written by:

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