As part of my series discussing Pierre Dorion’s tenure as General Manager of the Ottawa Senators, I will be going over some of his free agency pickups, specifically analyzing his worst free agency signings. As always, these are not in any particular order, I’m just listing them as they come to mind.
After the Ottawa Senators reached the Eastern Conference Finals, and being eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-17, and lost Marc Methot to the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, Pierre Dorion decided to replace the veteran defenseman via free agency in order to try to continue to compete. Johnny Oduya was signed to a one-year contract with a cap hit of 1 million dollars. Entering the 2017-18 season, Oduya was placed on the first pairing with fellow Swede Erik Karlsson, in hopes to replicate the chemistry that Karlsson found with Methot.
Unfortunately for the Sens, things did not go as planned as Oduya would struggle to play in this elevated role as he was 35 at the time of this signing. The Senators would begin a free-fall and initiate a multi-year rebuild. Oduya would last 51 games with the Senators before being placed on waivers and be claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers, which he would finish the year before retiring.
Michael Del Zotto
As the Ottawa Senators would hope to make the next step in their rebuild by beginning to win more regularly, they needed to make a few additions to their blue line. On July 28th, 2021, the Ottawa Senators would agree to a two-year contract with veteran defenseman Michael Del Zotto earning him a cap hit of 2 million dollars with hopes that he would rejuvenate his career and return to being a top-4 caliber defenseman.
When signing him, Pierre Dorion would have this to say:
"“He’s someone that is mobile, he’s got great experience who is a great pro. […] He can mentor our younger players. He’s seen it all, he’s a first-round pick. He’s had to sign a two-way contract. He’s a great puck-mover and he’s going to really fit in well with our team.”"
Del Zotto would struggle to stay in the NHL lineup throughout his time with the Senators, ultimately suiting up in 26 games for the NHL team, scoring 3 goals and 10 assists for 13 points. He was ultimately bought out at the end of the first year of his deal and is now playing with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL.
On the first day of free agency in 2019, the Ottawa Senators would hope to gain some experience on the back end to mentor up-and-coming defensemen. Pierre Dorion would sign Ron Hainsey to a one-year contract at 3.5 million dollars, and name him an alternate captain right away.
At first glance, Hainsey was a serviceable stay-at-home defenseman who would provide solid depth as a third-pairing option at this point in his career. The problem is he was signed to be Thomas Chabot’s partner on the first pair. Hainsey would suit up in 64 games with the Senators that season and would announce his retirement at the end of his contract. He was not bad by any means, but there were much better options to pursue, such as Anton Stralman, Tyler Myers ( on a two-year deal, he would have been a better option than Hainsey), Carl Gunnarson, or even Alex Edler.
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Looking back, Dorion has not signed many players via free agency, but most of his targets have not hit as he had hoped. I find it ironic that this list is solely comprised of veteran defensemen who are passed their prime. I was fully expecting to rant about Erik Gubranson, and if he was deployed in the correct role he would have been amazing, but he was a trade, not a free agency pickup. I guess I could have discussed him earlier on in the series, but it’s okay.