With new ownership of the Ottawa Senators on the horizon, Pierre Dorion’s future is in question, so it makes sense to look at his tenure as the Ottawa Senators’ GM.
It is not entirely fair to state that the team has not made the playoffs in 6 straight years because of Dorion. Until this year, Dorion’s teams were bottom five every year in terms of spending on players’ salaries—way under the cap. Clearly, Dorion did not have the financial backing from the Ottawa Senators’ late owner, Eugene Melnyk, to build the team to its full potential.
Without the ability to spend money to make the team competitive, Dorion tried to rebuild the team mostly through trades. By trading Erik Karlsson, he got Josh Norris and eventually was able to draft the cornerstone of the franchise, Tim Stützle—huge wins for the Senators. Dorion also traded Mark Stone, which he converted to Egor Sokolov and Erik Brännström – a less successful swap. Dorion got a first-round draft pick for Matt Duchene and 2 seconds for Ryan Dzingel. He traded Jean-Gabriel Pageau, which got them Ridley Greig who should be a really good NHL player.
Dorion has made his share of bad trades, like any GM. He traded second-rounders for Derek Stepan, and Matt Murray and acquired a 2nd rounder alongside Nikita Zaitsev who had a tumultuous tenure in Ottawa, and Connor Brown who was a very good player for Ottawa until he was traded for a 2nd round pick in 2024. Dorion also dumped Matt Murray’s contract for a 2023 3rd round pick and traded a 2023 2nd round pick to get rid of Nikita Zaitsev’s contract to Chicago but did recoup a 2nd for Connor Brown this offseason.
Dorion in Free Agency did not sign many players to big contracts, although he did spend with the signing of Evgeny Dadonov whom he traded a year later. Dorion also let Anthony Duclair become a UFA when he had his RFA rights. However, last off-season he did sign Claude Giroux to a 3-year deal worth 6.5 million a year. While he’s signed a bunch of the Senators’ young core after finishing their entry-level contracts. Tim Stützle starts an 8-year contract at $8.35 million next year; Brady Tkachuk is signed for 7 years at $8.205 million; Thomas Chabot is signed to 8 years at $8 million; Josh Norris, 8 years at $7.95 million; Drake Batherson, 6 years at $4.975 million; and Artem Zub for 4 years at $4.6 million.
Similarly, Dorion’s drafts have been variable in quality. Notably, he drafted the current captain, Brady Tkachuk, emerging star Tim Stützle, and rapidly maturing Jake Sanderson—all of whom will be pillars of this organization for years to come. But he has also drafted Jacob Bernard-Docker, Lassi Thomson and Tyler Boucher, all in the first round, none of whom have lived up to their promise.
This year the Sens were out of the bottom 5 in the league in salary spending, but not by that much. They were 7th-last at $79,251,602. Even though they spent more, they did not spend like the majority of the NHL and are 28th in payroll this year.
No GM has a perfect record, but the fact is most have had much more money to spend than Dorion. Still, since the purse strings were loosened a little, Dorion signed Claude Giroux, locked down Tim Stützle long-term, and acquired Alex DeBrincat and Jakob Chychrun. Other than Debrincat, all those players are with the Senators for a couple more years.
Of course, what happens with Debrincat will be a huge inflection point for Pierre Dorion’s success as GM of the Ottawa Senators.
That’s Pierre Dorion’s history as Ottawa Senator’s GM. But how should he be judged and should he stay on as Senators’ GM under new ownership?
Dorion has had a bunch of hits, and his fair share of misses. In the end, this team improved substantially this year and barely missed the playoffs, getting 86 points this year compared to 73 points last year in the 2021-22 season. If Dorion is able to keep Debrincat and the Senators have a full year of Chychrun and hopefully a healthy Josh Norris, this team should make the playoffs.
Unless the new Senators ownership can get someone like a Kyle Dubas or someone else clearly an upgrade than Dorion, I do not see why the Sens should move off Pierre Dorion until next year. On paper, he has put this team in a place where they should be a playoff team; but the games aren’t won on paper.
New ownership may want to come in and get their own crew. But it might be worth them looking to see what Dorion can do with a little more financial backing. If they do let him go, my bet is that he gets picked up somewhere else fairly quickly.
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