It’s been a couple of days, Vladimir Tarasenko is an Ottawa Senators player. I still can’t believe I’m saying that. Another sentence I cannot believe I’m uttering is that the Ottawa Senators are a cap team. According to CapFriendly, the Sens currently have $895,953 in cap space. This is okay, until you consider that Shane Pinto has not yet signed a contract, and unless he’s willing to accept one year at pretty much league minimum (750K), something’s got to give in order to make room for him in the lineup. Let’s look at a couple options.
Bye Bye Joseph?
At first glance, Mathieu Joseph appears to be the odd-man-out, and you’d be right to think that, because it’s my first thought too. When he was initially acquired by the Ottawa Senators, he scored 4 goals and 8 assists for 12 points in the final 11 games of the season, which was great production, but unfortunately things have not been as great for him in Ottawa. This past season, he was only able to manage 3 goals (none scored at 5v5), and 15 assists for 18 points, while playing in 56 games. Unfortunately that was just not good enough production out of him. My theory with Joseph, is that for him to be playing at his maximum capacity, he has to be a top of the lineup player. This was evident when he scored at over a point per game pace when we first aquired him, he was playing on the top line. The one issue with that, is with the talent already on the Ottawa Senators, I don’t think it’s likely we see Joseph in any role that’s higher than the fourth line. 2.95 million dollars is pretty expensive for a fourth liner on a cap-team. Those funds could surely be used elsewhere (I.E Pinto Extension)
A bit like Joseph, I think Erik Brannstrom‘s time with the Ottawa Senators may be limited, but for the opposite reasons. Brannstrom had a great season last year, and we should expect him to build off of that. The issue is, he’s not penciled into the lineup, he’s sharpied in on the fourth line. There is nothing Brannstrom can do to take away ice-time from the likes of Thomas Chabot, Jake Chychrun, Jake Sanderson and Artem Zub. He will never be more than the 5th best blue liner on this team, and that is at no fault of his own, the guys ahead of him are just that good. The only way he cracks the top 4 is if Zub slides down to the third pairing, and at a 4.5 million dollar price tag I don’t think the chances of that are high, or if we’re considering that the top 4 would be completely left handed, and that could also be an issue. Branny’s too good for the third pair, and trading him away would open a roster spot for Tyler Kleven. It’s not often you can say your team is getting worse when trading away a quality defenseman. This is such a good problem to have, we’ve just gotten to the point where we can’t afford this problem anymore. Trading Branny away for picks could also help replenish our prospects a bit as the team will have to plan on eventually replacing Claude Giroux when he inevitably retires. I think we could get a second round pick for Brannstrom.
What about Anton Forsberg?
While I don’t think this is option is, or should be considered, it’s an option nonetheless. Anton Forsberg is realistically this team’s backup goalie, and while his contract is actually pretty good compared to his ability, there are a few backup goalies remaining in free agency that the team could look at getting for close to league minimum. The reason I don’t think this option will be considered is because if Forsberg is traded away, you immediately have to get a new backup, as I think Mads Sogaard will play the year in the AHL.
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These are just three options the Sens could explore to gain cap space. While there may be other solutions, like trading away Dominik Kubalik, I don’t think that option is realistic as he was just acquired. I’d expect to one of Joseph or Brannstrom to be traded away before Training Camp begins.