The Ottawa Senators have plenty of questions to answer, but Alex DeBrincat’s future is the first that needs to be addressed.
In 82 games with the Senators, DeBrincat scored 27 goals and provided 66 total points but was unable to help guide D.J. Smith’s team to the playoffs, which was largely the expectation from the fanbase prior to the start of the season.
Ottawa Senators Have a Decision to Make
His options are limited, in terms of where he will play next season, but for the Ottawa Senators, it is important that they make a decision on how to approach DeBrincat as soon as possible, as whatever is decided could have a big impact on the rest of the team’s off-season plans.
The decision over whether or not trading DeBrincat could be the best move for the team to make has been looked at extensively throughout hockey media, but the knock-on effect of the DeBrincat Decision could shape how the Ottawa Senators approach free agency.
At the time of writing, the Senators have one glaring need: goaltending. Beyond this, the team looks largely set on the defensive side of the ice, and their top six forwards form a strong core that can keep the team competitive moving forward.
This means that looking further down the line-up, potentially looking for more depth scoring options, would be the logical route for the team to take when July 1st rolls around, but if DeBrincat’s future lies elsewhere this off-season then that throws up more questions.
The Ottawa Senators could conceivably qualify DeBrincat this summer, which would see him make $9 million for the 2023-24 season should he sign it, and simply accept that he is likely to leave in a year’s time unless the team shows even further growth and can actually reach the post-season.
This would push the tough decision further down the line, as a move at the deadline could be in play especially if the team finds themselves on the fringe of the playoff picture or unexpectedly out of the picture altogether.
This would allow the team to focus on more pressing needs, especially as it’s unlikely DeBrincat would force the issue when he would receive a decent pay rise and would only be tied down for another year – one in which he could put up bigger numbers and land himself a hefty, long-term deal next time.
However, if it’s clear that DeBrincat really does not see himself playing for the team beyond this year, then a trade could be used to try and address the Senators’ needs.
Using him to land a starting goaltender, or a like-for-like swap for a top-six forward could be options, otherwise, a package deal that fills out the roster might be the best offer available – especially from contenders who are lacking draft picks as bargaining chips.
Addressing the top six this summer is not an ideal situation for Pierre Dorion, who would likely prefer to focus on strengthening the team in other areas and address the goaltending issue, but if DeBrincat’s future is not to be in Ottawa, then taking the hit early and getting a good deal arranged could be the right thing for the team.
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If this decision lingers, however, it could impact how the team handles free agency and the draft and could even leave the team empty-handed if it rolls much further beyond July 1st.
Some teams have suffered as a result of drawn-out negotiations, and the Ottawa Senators can’t really afford to let an RFA such as DeBrincat have such an effect on the team’s operations.
For better or worse, a decision needs to be made and it’s not one that can be sat on for too much longer.