Free Agent Forwards Ottawa Should Avoid


Heading into the off-season, General Manager Bryan Murray has said recently (and many times before that) that he is looking to acquire another top six forward. I’m not surprised that he wants another forward, but it is interesting that he wants to improve the first two lines considering there are six clear players that deserve to be there. Depth forwards would be welcomed from everybody, but another second line acquisition would seem a bit odd.

While there are a few good players out there, there could also be some land mines that the Senators need to avoid. I don’t think there will be any solid top six forwards out there on the market, and that’s why free agency is more about acquiring depth players in this day and age.

There are some players I really do not want Ottawa to sign, and here is a short list of them:

1. Chris Stewart

This seems like an obvious one to me, and everyone else. Murray has been connected to Stewart before and it’s terrifying. There was a point a few years ago that I would have loved to acquire him, but definitely not anymore. He has had three very good seasons in his career, but the last time he was effective was in 2013. In the two seasons since, he has averaged only 35 points per season, which is what a third liner produces.

Does he have the potential to be a good point producer? Sure, but I think those days are behind him. He was even scratched in the playoffs for Minnesota, so it’s not as if he is somebody that will dramatically change the Senators team. He has also had abysmal possession stats, and that’s not just because he was on Buffalo for a while.

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I would not mind whatsoever if Stewart were commanding a salary between $1-2 million and he was playing on the third and occasionally the fourth line. However, his cap hit this season was $4.15 million. He might get less as a free agent because of his poor performance, but I can’t see him getting anything less than $3 million.

Murray seems to love Stewart, and I’m a bit worried about that. The only way I would be on board with signing him is if he took a significant discount. His best days are behind him.

2. Erik Cole

The Senators may feel like they need a veteran presence amongst the forwards to take the next step, and Cole has the pedigree of a top six forward. However, signing him probably would not work out. Cole is turning 37 years old, and he’s not what he used to be. I hope that the team is smarter than this, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see that they checked up on him.

He has consistently been a 50-60 point player in his career, and if he were five years younger I might advocate for signing him. But here are his point totals for the past three seasons: 13 in 47 games, 29 in 75 games, and 39 in 68 games. He was decently effective this past season for Dallas and Detroit, but I’m not sure how much we can rely on him at this age.

He carried a $4.5 million cap hit last season, and because of his past he will most likely get at least $3 million like Stewart I would suspect. Considering how tight Ottawa is for money, Cole shouldn’t even be considered.

Feb 22, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Dallas Stars forward Erik Cole (72) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Stars 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

3. Martin Erat

No. Just…No. Erat was the one who the Washington Capitals traded Filip Forsberg for, and that trade looks dumber every day. Erat could be relied upon in the past, but now he is a shell of his former self. Are you sensing a trend here? In the past three seasons, he has a measly 17 goals. His assist totals make his point totals semi-respectable, but he has only average 36 points per season in that time span, compared to his usual 50+.

There is no way that Erat will make $4.5 million next year like he currently is, but I still wouldn’t make the gamble even for say $2 million. His points per 60 is at the rate of a lower level third line player, and I would suspect that to get worse. There are better options for Ottawa, and if they want a top six solution he clearly is not that.

4. Antoine Vermette

I’m sure many Senators fans want to see a Vermette reunion in Ottawa. He’s a good player, but he’s not someone who Ottawa needs. Over the course of his career he has averaged 43 points per season, which looks like a fringe second line centre/solid third line centre.

But there are some concerns with him, as with the Chicago Blackhawks he had only 3 assists in 19 games after being traded there. He has had two 50+ point seasons, but for the most part he normally hovers around 35-40 points.

Here is his HERO chart:

It’s pretty staggering that only his ice time per game is at the level of a second line player. The Arizona Coyotes were able to net a first round pick and a prospect for him, and I don’t know how. He can be a nifty player, but his salary is $3.75 million, and he may even get a raise.

Ottawa simply doesn’t have a need for him either, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau or Curtis Lazar as the third line centre. This may seem like an obvious “don’t sign,” but I’m sure there are fans calling for Vermette.


For most of those four players, you were probably thinking “of course we shouldn’t sign him!” And that’s what should go through your mind, but I’m not so sure that’s what the Ottawa management team thinks. I hope that at the end of the day they miss out on a few of these players and are essentially forced to keep the current top six or sign a better option for the third or fourth line.

All four of the aforementioned are going on a downward trajectory, and it’s simply not smart to give a significant amount of money to them. If any of these players are signed, then it will be a huge mistake in my mind. They need to save all the money they can for their young players.

We’ll see how it plays out on July 1st.

Next: Matt O'Connor Decision Coming Tomorrow