No Room For Error In Ottawa Senators 2018-19 Season

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Mid-August has rolled around and the hockey world is as quiet as it can be for the moment. While the majority of NHL teams got their work done last month, the silence is not unforeseen. The Ottawa Senators weren’t one of those teams to finish up their work. After a puzzling draft to some fans the Sens have stayed quiet almost all summer long. With a horrid 2017-18 season behind them, the Ottawa Senators 2018-19 season has to be stronger. Will they hold up, or sink to the bottom of the league anew?

Ottawa Senators 2018-19 Season Crucial for Future Success

Throughout last season the Sens made some moves that left fans asking if they were making the right decisions. Head coach Guy Boucher even made some line-up adjustments that did not sit well with the fans. But when it’s all said and done the Ottawa Senators 2018-19 season is crucial for the future success of the organization. With their three best players all set to be unrestricted free agents next July, the Senators need to find a way to convince them to stick around. For many reasons, the Sens have no room for error in the upcoming NHL season.

NHL free agent frenzy

Open Market For Their Stars in 2019 Free Agency

Matt Duchene

When the Senators acquired Matt Duchene on November 5th, 2017, they were in the middle of playing hockey in Sweden as part of the NHL Global Series. After acquiring Matt Duchene the wheels started falling off for the team which seems odd considering the type of player he is. After a poor first half of the season, Duchene started to shine towards the end. To put into perspective how topsy-turvy his year really was, here are his stats throughout stretches of time of the season.

From the dates of November 5th to January 1st, Duchene had a total of six points in 23 games played. Having the same number of points as former Senator Nate Thompson and current Senator Tom Pyatt. From January 1st to March 1st, Duchene had 23 points in 25 games. With 19 of his points coming at even strength. He finished fourth on team scoring with 49 points in 68 games. This was also second amongst forwards.

With all the positives, Duchene brought towards the end of the season, there now is one thing for the Sens to keep an eye on. Heading into his contract year Duchene will look to play like he did to help the Senators win and get top dollar. The Sens will have to prove to Duchene, an integral part of their core, that they are a winning team. If all goes according to plan and, Duchene decides to stay in Ottawa he’ll look to get an expensive paycheque. With a cap hit of $6 million right now, Duchene will look to get up over $8 million per year on his next deal.

Mark Stone

Mark Stone has been one of the Senators best forwards for a while now. Heading into the 2017-18 season, he was looking to continue that level of play. He did just that. Stone finished the season with 62 points in 58 games. He tied for first in team scoring and was the top forward on the team. He was also a lethal player at even strength, scoring 49 of his 62 points in that situation. 79% of his total points came during 5vs5 hockey. He also ranked first on points per 60 on the team with 3.10. Stone also finished first in assists per 60 with 2.10.

The following stats are since the 2014-15 season, Stone’ first full pro year in the NHL. Over that time, Stone ranks second in all-time team scoring. He has played a total of 284 games with 91 goals and 150 assists for 241 points. He also ranks fifth all-time on the team in games played. Thus far to play a full NHL season, Stone hasn’t missed much time at all ever since joining the Ottawa Senators. This past season was the only season missed a significant amount of time playing only 58 games. The past three seasons he’s played 80, 75, and 71 games.

Current and Next Contract for Mark Stone

After four dominant seasons in a row, Mark Stone went in this off-season as a restricted free agent. Thankfully, Stone and the Ottawa Senators settled before their arbitration hearing. A one-year extension worth $7.35 million. If this is the Senators “show me” contract to Mark Stone, it seems nonsensical considering his career so far.

When the Ottawa Senators 2018-19 season kicks off, Stone along with Duchene will evaluate their options as they’re both in their contract years. One thing to make note of is Mark Stone is will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The Senators will no longer hold his rights the second the clock strikes July 1st. They’ll have to discuss with Stone if he’s planning to stay or leave, and his dollar amount wants prior to Stone walking away. A Stone extension would do wonders for the team in terms of their future. General manager Pierre Dorion has his hands full going into the 2019 free agency. Stone can not sign an extension with the team before January 1st.

Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson. The name we’ve heard over and over since February of this year. With all the drama and trade speculation that surrounded Karlsson this summer, nothing took shape. Karlsson still remains a member of the Ottawa Senators and it looks like they’ll start the season with their superstar on their roster. All eyes for the season will be on Karlsson. Usually, all eyes are on the superstar for his level of play and while that will still happen they’ll be another reason for keeping an eye on Karlsson.

Heading into his contract year, Karlsson will look to help the Ottawa Senators win regardless of the drama surrounding his stay. Drafted in 2008, Karlsson has built a name for himself with the Senators and the City of Ottawa. Most would say he is the best Sens player ever, and certainly the best since the Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley era. Holding team records and league awards Erik Karlsson has done it all since he joined the Ottawa Senators. He has evolved into a franchise player for the team and for many he is the best defencemen in the NHL.

Coming into the 2017-18 season off of ankle surgery, Karlsson was still lights out for the Senators. He tied for first in team scoring with Stone at 62 points. Karlsson scored nine goals and registered 53 assists in the process. Despite missing the first several games of the year, Karlsson still ranked sixth among NHL defenders in scoring. First in points per game with 0.87 amongst defenders that played at least 50 games. He also ranked second amongst NHL defenders in even-strength points with 43.

Erik Karlsson and the Questions Around Him

The Ottawa Senators 2018-19 season will be one filled with question marks and speculation once again. General manager Pierre Dorion and head coach Guy Boucher will look to be a contending team with captain Karlsson at the helm. Heading into this season the main question will be where will the captain end up.

With an Erik Karlsson trade on the horizon the Senators will try to make the most out of their situation. If or when a trade does break the Ottawa Senators will look to get a boatload of assets. To some fans that opportunity may have already passed. The Sens have gotten multiple offers on their captain but never felt like it was the right package. Now with only this upcoming season left on his contract, teams might not be willing to sell the farm on a player who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

If the Ottawa Senators 2018-19 season goes downwards, Karlsson might not even want to stay in the nation’s capital any longer. He’ll be 29 years of age when July 1st, 2019 arrives, and he’ll likely look to join a contending team. For the Sens best interests, it’d be a crafty move to trade Karlsson if they’re a poor team, unless he wants to re-sign. Pierre Dorion cannot let his best player walk in the summer for nothing.

The Ottawa Senators surely enough have the cap room to re-sign Karlsson, but spending high dollar amounts was never in the Senators budget. If Ottawa wants to re-sign Karlsson, then they should go all in on trying to be a contending team and show him that they can win now and in the future.

No First Round Pick

If wanting to show their core they’re able to win important to the Senators, this sure should be. Let’s revisit the Matt Duchene trade one last time quickly. In the three-way trade the Senators sent over their 2019 first round pick and other assets to the Colorado Avalanche. The Sens bet on themselves having a strong next couple years and decided after all that the pick was fine to move. They were wrong, to say the least. After such a poor season even with their key players on the team, the Sens could be even worse next year. Except for this time they have no first round pick to possibly land in a lottery spot again because of the Duchene trade.

The 2019 draft looks to be focused on consensus first overall pick Jack Hughes and is loaded with top centres. With the Sens likely to have a poor season and no first round pick, Ottawa is running into a world of trouble. This is one of the main reasons on why the Senators are looking for a first rounder plus more in return for Erik Karlsson. They are looking to add a need and to possibly boost their youth with other assets that come their way. Whichever turn the Karlsson path takes, the Senators are in dire need of a first round pick. The Ottawa Senators 2018-19 season will present many dark clouds over management’s head. It’s time to see how they dig themselves out of the deep hole they’re in.

 

Main Photo: STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – NOVEMBER 11: Guy Boucher, head coach of Ottawa Senators during the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series match between Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators at Ericsson Globe on November 11, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)