Evaluating Pierre Dorion’s Last 12 Months as GM of the Ottawa Senators

OTTAWA, CANADA - MARCH 18: Tim Stützle #18 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his second-period goal with teammates Jake Sanderson #85 and Claude Giroux #28 during the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on March 18, 2023 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, CANADA - MARCH 18: Tim Stützle #18 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his second-period goal with teammates Jake Sanderson #85 and Claude Giroux #28 during the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on March 18, 2023 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

Today’s the day, the end of this round of bidding for Sens Ownership, and while we wait for some news, I figured it’d be a good idea to talk a bit about Pierre Dorion. I know I recently wrote a series about all of his best and worst moves, but I think the fairest way to evaluate him and figure out if he deserves to keep his job under new ownership. For the purposes of this article, I will look at each and every trade and signing that the Ottawa Senators have completed in the last 12 months and give it a simple “Hit” or “Miss” grade, and after all of that, I will tally up the percentage of hits and misses in order to grade Pierre Dorion’s year. I will omit AHL transactions as Ryan Bowness handles anything AHL related.

Related Story. Analyzing Pierre Dorion's Worst Free Agency Pickups. light

Dylan Gambrell Extension

On June 15th, 2022, the Ottawa Senators signed depth center Dylan Gambrell to a one-year extension. At first glance, his 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points in 63 games is underwhelming, but it has to be remembered that he’s not a goalscorer or a point-getter by any stretch of the imagination. On most teams, he’s the 13th forward who will slot in on a rotational basis or for injury-related reasons. I’ll say he played about as well as I expected him to, so I’ll give his transaction a hit.

Colin White Buyout

As much as I love Colin White, and will cherish him in Ottawa Senators lore, this move was extremely expected as he did not perform up to expectations with the Sens. The team bought out the final three years of his contract and he signed with the Florida Panthers. Could he have been useful this past season with all the injuries the Sens had? Sure. But you can’t look at this transaction in that sense. He was bought out because both sides needed a fresh start. This transaction is also a hit.

Alex DeBrincat Trade

On draft day, the Ottawa Senators held the 7th overall pick and opted to trade it in a package to acquire superstar winger Alex DeBrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks. DeBrincat is one of the purest goalscorers in the NHL and probably the purest goalscorer the Sens have had since Dany Heatley. Sure his first season with the Ottawa Senators could be considered a “down year” but he still scored 27 goals. 27 goals would lead the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. He’s going to be just fine. This is another Hit for me.

Matt Murray Traded to Toronto

When it came to goaltending, the Sens had two options. Either you buy out the final two years of Matt Murray‘s deal, or you find a way to unload his massive cap hit. The Sens were somehow able to dump 75% of his salary to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and at the same time kind of ruined their offseason and made it quite more difficult to acquire a quality goaltender. The Maple Leafs decided to acquire Murray instead of re-signing Jack Campbell. That’s the ultimate Sens’d in my eyes. It also cost pretty much nothing. Just a third and seventh-round pick. Murray did not start a single game in the playoffs for the Leafs, they opted to instead play their third-stringer in his place. Absolutely a Hit in my eyes,

Cam Talbot Trade

The first blunder of this list, the Ottawa Senators opted to trade struggling young goalie Filip Gustavsson for proven veteran Cam Talbot. On paper the trade made sense. The Sens wanted to find their way to the playoffs and upgrading the goaltending position was a way to do it. Unfortunately for Cam Talbot and the Sens, this would blow up in their face, as Gustavsson played like a top 5 goalie in the NHL this past season while Talbot performed at the rate of a mediocre tandem goalie. Talbot struggled with injuries all season and it just did not work out, and he’s going to free agency. First miss on this list.

Next. Will the Cam Talbot Trade Haunt the Ottawa Senators?. dark

Claude Giroux

The best player in the 2022 Free Agency Class, Claude Giroux decided to come home as he signed a three-year contract with his hometown team in the Ottawa Senators. Giroux was instrumental in this team’s top 6 this last season as he served as a mentor to quite literally everyone, but most specifically Tim Stützle, who managed a 90-point season. Giroux scored his 1000th NHL point this season with the Sens and finished the year with 35 goals and 44 assists for 79 points. He had a career-high in goals at THIRTY-FIVE years old. This was easily Pierre Dorion’s best transaction in the last 12 months. Definite Hit,

Connor Brown Trade

Next comes the trade that sent Connor Brown to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a second-round pick. I get the principle of the trade, Brown was in the team’s top 6 but would be slotted down to a third-line role most likely with the upgrades in DeBrincat and Giroux, so it made sense on paper to complete this trade. I will say, Brown is ideally a third liner on most contenders anyways, and is one of the best penalty killers in the entire league. Brown is exactly what the Ottawa Senators needed this past season, and it sucked that he was not there. I would look at bringing him back via free agency big time. Another Miss.

Josh Norris Extension

The day after acquiring Claude Giroux, Pierre Dorion was able to sign elite center Josh Norris to an eight-year extension at the very reasonable cap hit of 7.95 million dollars. Josh Norris scores goals like nobody’s business, but he’s also an amazing two-way forward, who can be a force to be reckoned with on the Penalty Kill. Sure he missed a lot of time this season to injury, but that’s okay, he’s got a lot of hockey left in him. Absolute Hit.

Mathieu Joseph Extension

Acquired near the 2021-22 Trade Deadline, Mathieu Joseph impressed in his first bit with the Sens. He scored at a point per game pace to finish the year, and earned himself a four-year contract with the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately, Joseph was a bit of a victim of the team’s improvement as he lost quite a lot of ice time in his new role in the bottom 6. Joseph played the role that Connor Brown should have been in. He did not perform up to expectations. He managed 3 goals and 15 assists for 18 points in 56 games. I’ll put this contract extension as a miss, as I think Joseph is one of those players who has to be playing at the top of the lineup in order to benefit from his skillset.

Erik Brannstrom Extension

Erik Brannstrom was signed to a “prove you wrong” contract last year, and it benefited him greatly. He had the best season of his young career so far, completely evolved his game, and became a defensively responsible defenseman who was able to contribute on the rush. He fixed his defensive awareness issues and has been great with the Ottawa Senators. He was one of their best defensemen this past season, and he finds himself looking for a raise right now. This was a hit.

Tim Stützle Extension

In the span of two months, Pierre Dorion was able to ensure his top two centers would remain with the team long-term, as Tim Stützle was signed to an eight-year extension at 8.35 million dollars per year, making him the highest-paid player in the franchise’s history. This contract does not even kick in until next season, it was extremely intelligent of Dorion to lock his star up before he would blow up and ask for more. That’s exactly what happened as Stützle became Ottawa’s first 90-point getter since the 2007-08 season as he scored 39 goals and 51 assists for 90 points. This was Dorion’s best transaction, even better than the Giroux signing. Definite Hit.

Tyler Motte Free Agent Signing

On paper, this signing should have worked. Tyler Motte is a penalty kill specialist who can contribute a decent amount of offense in the bottom 6. Unfortunately, the Tyler Motte Experience would not bode well in Ottawa as he would not perform up to expectations, but it’s okay because not every move will work out. It was a one-year contract at a low cap hit, that the Sens were able to later unload. I’ll mark this as a miss.

Derick Brassard Signing

The ultimate warrior, Derick Brassard entered the year on a PTO, and impressed enough to earn himself a one-year contract out of it, and was easily Ottawa’s best bottom 6 forward this last season, scoring 13 goals and 10 assists for 23 points in 62 games. He fought so hard to stay in the lineup and genuinely made an impact on the team. I’m hoping he comes back. He played in his 1000th NHL game this season and scored 2 goals in that specific game. Another hit.

Mark Kastelic Extension

Mark Kastelic was able to establish himself as a full-time NHL player this season and played pretty decently in his role as fourth-line center. For the first time in a long long time, the Sens have their top 4 centers clearly set in stone. Kastelic is the ideal fourth-liner, being a defense-first guy who will make you pay with bone-crushing bodychecks and the ability to fight against pretty much everybody.

Artem Zub extension

As he was entering the final year of his deal, Artem Zub needed a new deal. He was signed to a four-year deal earning him 4.5 million dollars annually. I think that cap hit is perfect for a player of his caliber. He is a legit top 4 defensive defenseman and that is something this team has missed for quite some time. Hit.

Tyler Motte Trade

As I previously stated, the Motte experiment in Ottawa did not work as expected, so he was traded close to the trade deadline to the New York Rangers for a pick and Julien Gauthier. Gauthier played well in Ottawa in the limited role he was given. In 17 games, he managed 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points. He also showed some good chemistry with Mathieu Joseph which is a nice bonus. Going forward I’m unsure if Gauthier will stick around but I would like to see him signed to a one-year deal. This is a hit.

Nikita Zaitsev to Chicago

In a bid to open up some cap space, the Ottawa Senators were able to offload the cap hit tied to struggling defenseman Nikita Zaitsev for the price of second and fourth-round picks. Zaitsev did not do well in Ottawa and it was good to see him find a new home. This is another hit.

Jakob Chychrun Acquisition

After getting rid of bad cap, the Ottawa Senators were finally able to make an upgrade on the blue line as they acquired star defenseman Jake Chychrun for a low price of a protected first-round pick (12th overall this year), the 2024 second-round pick that was acquired in the Connor Brown trade, and a 2026 second-round pick. This was a surprisingly low price to pay and was a massive win for the Senators. Clearly another hit.

Patrick Brown Trade

The final transaction I will be mentioning is the acquisition of Patrick Brown from the Philadelphia Flyers. I’ll be honest in saying I had no idea who Patrick Brown was when he was acquired, and that’s not really a good thing because I enjoy watching Flyers games once in a while. Brown is not a bad player by any means but there were so many better options available as a depth forward. I’ll be putting this trade as a miss simply because there were better guys available for a very similar price.

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Closing Thoughts
Overall, Pierre Dorion completed 19 transactions (I don’t count the Dylan Ferguson acquisition because that was a Ryan Bowness AHL thing.) and hit on 14 of those. Altogether, that would give Dorion a hit percentage of 74% effectiveness. If we want to dive a bit deeper, let’s look at trades VS signings. Dorion made 8 trades in the last 12 months, and 5 of those were hits. In percentage, that would be a trade effectiveness of 63%. Compared to signings/extensions, Dorion made 10 signings and/or extensions, hitting on 8 of them for a percentage of 80%. Contracts are clearly Pierre Dorion’s biggest strength (other than amateur scouting but that’s not relevant for this piece) and it can be argued that he doesn’t even do that alone as one of Ryan Bowness’s responsibilities as AGM is to help with these. For fun, I think I’m going to compare contracts signed before Bowness’ arrival to this year in a future piece, as before Bowness was round, Peter McTavish helped in this role.

Altogether, looking at Dorion’s Effective Percentage of 74% earns him a B in Canada’s grading system.