Signing Matt O’Connor Gives Ottawa Multiple Options


Well it’s official. Boston University goalie Matt O’Connor has decided to sign a two-year entry-level deal with the Ottawa Senators , after weeks of speculation as to where he would end up. The three finalists were the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers. In the end I am a bit surprised he didn’t choose to go to the Oilers, just because of their need for a goalie and they may be a team on the rise if they can actually make some smart moves.

It was quite the good news to hear today, and no matter what happens with O’Connor’s development, this gives the Senators plenty of options and it makes them better. The only thing it cost them was money, and not much of it at all ($925,000 per year plus bonuses). There’s no guarantee he becomes a good goaltender, and like any player signing out of college he is risky.

Garret Hohl said it best:

The main focus is on the second tweet, and he does have a point. There’s a small chance O’Connor will become a great goalie, but having him for free is better than not having him. Not many goalies come out of NCAA and become All-Stars, but perhaps he can buck the trend.

I won’t dive too deep into his career numbers, but here they are nonetheless.

His past two seasons have been fantastic, but before that he most likely wouldn’t have gotten much attention from NHL teams. He’s 23 years old (same age as Robin Lehner as of now), so if he doesn’t develop in the next couple years then he probably won’t ever make it.

But his potential isn’t that important right now, and I’m not going to analyze if he has what it takes. Instead, what this signing does is give Ottawa a few options in terms of trading a goalie for an asset in an area of need. At the beginning of the year I would argue that the Senators desperately needed to draft a goalie this summer, but now I don’t think so. Andrew Hammond came out of nowhere, and he can be an NHL backup or AHL starter.

Signing O’Connor means the need to draft a goalie is far less, even after another goalie is traded. I’m not going to worry about the goaltending situation right now, because they have four goalies that have some potential. That’s a good thing, and they can parlay one of them into a different forward or defenseman. Bryan Murray has said that if Hammond accepts Ottawa’s offer, then they will trade one of Anderson or Lehner.

Now with four goalies under contract, things get a bit complicated. But here are essentially the three options for the Senators right now in order of most probable to least:

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1. Sign Hammond, Trade Lehner. NHL: Anderson and Hammond. AHL: O’Connor

This is the most plausible scenario, considering the team was already looking to see what others were offering for Lehner. It’s a sad story because he’s had concussion problems of late, and he was supposed to be the goalie of the future. I still wholeheartedly believe in him, and if they do trade him, a few years down the road they will regret it.

I can’t imagine Hammond not signing, as he won’t be asking for a whole lot of money and he knows how fortunate he is to be with Ottawa and that they gave him a shot. O’Connor will most likely be the AHL starter no matter what, because one of Anderson, Hammond, and Lehner has to go.

As for a return for Lehner, I have no clue to be honest. His value is quite low right now compared to the past, and perhaps all they can get is a draft pick. I would expect the pick to be at least in the second round though. If they must trade him, then I hope the team tries to zone in on a young defenseman. Edmonton will try to acquire a goalie, and they have a few that perhaps may be available.

They most likely will not trade Darnell Nurse, but perhaps a player like Oscar Klefbom is worth it for them. That’s purely speculative, but in my opinion Ottawa should try to get a young defenseman that is on his way up. They shouldn’t trade for a prospect with no experience, because they need help now. But Lehner won’t net them a legitimate top four defenseman, so they may have to go for potential in a trade.

Perhaps Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres could be good partners, and the Senators should at least try to pry Rasmus Ristolainen or Nikita Zadorov away from them by including another piece. Lehner won’t get as big a return as Anderson, but there’s a chance it could still be something of quality.

Feb 10, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Ottawa Senators goalie Robin Lehner (40) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

2. Sign Hammond, Trade Anderson. NHL: Lehner, Hammond. AHL: O’Connor

This option is less likely, but it’s still very possible. Anderson is 34 years old, and although he has been amazing for the team in 4 and a half seasons, he will get worse as he ages. People don’t want to believe that, but even Martin Brodeur became a replacement level goalie by the end of his career. Trading Anderson would mean they have an eye on the future, as Lehner still has lots of years ahead of him.

Nevertheless, this is the riskiest move. As of now, Anderson is their best goalie. Trading him would make the team worse, and they would have to hope that Lehner takes a step forward and that he can be their guy. Either that, or they would need Hammond to continue his magic. Lehner has had some injury problems, and banking on him to be as good as Anderson for years to come is very risky.

This also has the most upside, because Anderson will get the biggest return in a trade, and if Lehner does become what they hoped then they still have a plethora of goaltending. I’m not sure what teams would be interested in Anderson, but rest assured many teams would be calling. This would be the toughest move, as it has the biggest risk but biggest upside.

The fact is that this signing gives Ottawa flexibility and gives them a free asset

3. Let Hammond Go. NHL: Anderson, Lehner. AHL: O’Connor

I can’t imagine this happening, purely because of what I said before. The Senators gave Hammond a chance when nobody else did, so I very much doubt he would walk away from the organization. However, in terms of risk, this is the safest thing to do.

Anderson should be the answer in the next couple seasons, but after that he will decline. That’s why long-term it would be nice to have Lehner as well. This option has a down side too though, because the Senators wouldn’t receive anything from a trade. They need help on the backend, and letting Hammond walk for free isn’t exactly good business.

If Ottawa really does want to play it safe, then this is the route.


In a vacuum, this deal isn’t even about which specific goalie Ottawa signed. It could have been any good University goalie, but the fact is that this signing gives Ottawa flexibility and gives them a free asset. If Lehner is traded and the Senators get a young defenseman in return, they essentially got that player for free because Lehner is replaced with O’Connor.

It’s a win-win even if O’Connor doesn’t turn out, because they odds say that he won’t. Still though, it’s better to have an extra prospect than to not. I love the signing, and it’ll be very interesting to watch how the goaltending situation unfolds.

Next: Free Agent Forwards Ottawa Should Avoid