Ottawa Senators Free Agency Targets: Right Defense

Leading up to the Ottawa Senators free agency target discussion, they have some decisions to make. The addition of, two-time 41-goal man, Alex DeBrincat was a major statement, and now we wonder what is next. At the very least, the Senators want to fight for a playoff spot. One way to bolster their odds is with the addition of a top-four Right Defense (RD) – not necessarily a right shot, but someone comfortable on the right side. Therefore, this should be their main objective in the free agency.

Ottawa Senator Free Agent Targets: Right Defense

Current State of Sens Defence

To begin, a review of the lineup to show why a top-four RD would be a suitable addition. Overall, their defence seems to be solid. Firstly, Thomas Chabot is the ace of the staff. He’s a minute-muncher, provides some offensive flair, and slots in as the top LD. Next, Artem Zub fills the role of their only current, true RD who can be a top-four defender. Also, Nick Holden, who at times, last season, was arguably the Sens best defensive defenseman. His numbers do not necessarily support this claim, as his Corsi For Percentage Relative (Rel CF%) was -11.2. In contrast, his 19 points and +/- rating of even, on a team that struggled with goaltending, did point to his consistent performance throughout the 2021-22 season. To sum up, these 3 pieces are the reason the Ottawa Senators Free Agency Target Right Defense is what is required.

For the rest of their defence, they do have solid options, with their strong supporting cast. Jake Sanderson is looking to make an impression in his rookie season and may end up being rewarded with some power-play time. However, he does not expect to be relied upon as a top-four defenseman at this point. Between Nikita Zaitsev, Erik Brannstrom, or Travis Hamonic, the Senators should be able to provide the support needed, or in case of injury. In addition, Michael Del Zotto could contribute. That is, if he stays motivated, which was evidenced by a great job of staying fresh playing at the AHL level. He did well once re-called, registering a Rel CF% of 2.7, along with 3 goals and 13 points in just 26 games. Although, with all these pieces, none of them have been able to solidify a top-four standing, but would make for a fine third pairing.

Best Available Right-Defence Free Agents

For these reasons, the Senators should focus their agent efforts on a top-four RD. They require an asset to take the load off of Chabot and Zub. Chabot has notoriously been among the league leaders in minutes played over the last few years. So, here is a list of the top-10 options available in the market. As a side note, despite this being a top-10, not all options would necessarily be an upgrade to their current roster.

Rank Name Team Salary $ in Millions
1 P.K. Subban Devils 9
2 John Klingberg Stars 6
3 Josh Manson Avalanche 4.45
4 Ben Chiarot Panthers 3.5
5 Jan Rutta Lightning 1.7
6 Erik Gudbranson Flames 1.95
7 Justin Schultz Capitals 5
8 Andrej Sustr Ducks 0.75
9 Ilya Lyubushkin Maple Leafs 1.35
10 Brett Kulak Oilers 2.2

Let’s take a more detailed analysis of the top three candidates, and why they would be a good fit for the 2022-23 version of the Ottawa Senators. Each of these players will offer a substantial upgrade to the top two pairings.

Top Targets

P.K. Subban

Even though some circles may think Klingberg is the top choice, consider why Subban may be the top sought-after missing piece to the proverbial puzzle. The ceiling is still quite high, as he has hit 50 points four times throughout his 13-year career. His age and experience would be an asset to the youth on defence. Furthermore, he is a great skater, and aside from last season (at 18:18 time on ice), he has never been below 22 minutes a game throughout his career. Finally, the reason it might be the best option for the Senators is that he might be the most willing to sign. For example, they could offer him a one-year deal, worth north of $6 million, just as a trial to see if he can regain some of his 2013 Norris trophy form.

John Klingberg

For many people, John Klingberg is regarded as the top choice among RD available in free agency. This fact will increase both the demand and price for this commodity. His 47 points last campaign, shows he still can perform, although not quite to his max of 67 points, which occurred in the 2017-18 season. Conversely, is that the +/- rating of -28 is a bit concerning, especially on a team that was so competitive. This probably highlights, in part, how dominant Jake Oettinger was, in terms of bailing his friends out. Furthermore, he makes nice first passes, and he did have a very respectable Rel CF% of 7.1. To conclude, if the term and price is right, he would be a solid fit for the Ottawa push to the post-season.

Josh Manson

Manson represents another viable option. Setting himself apart from other rear-guards is his physicality. In 2021-22 he compiled 179 hits and 70 blocks. Throughout his career, he has routinely been above 20 minutes. From the 2017-18 season, his career-high of +34, points to his ability to play at an elite level. He played a vital depth role with the Avalanche on the Championship run. Whether it is his toughness or experience, Manson would be an interesting addition to the young and offensive-minded Senators defence.

Decisions, Decisions

In summary, each of these players would be a key asset to the Senators strategy. Other names on the list, such as Jan Rutta or Erik Gudbranson might work as well. Rutta played 17 minutes a game for a Cup finalist, and would be able to handle more responsibility for the Sens. Gudbranson struggled on his first go-around with the organization, but would be revitalized coming off a strong +15 on a competitive Flames team. Whatever the Sens choose to do, they will need more depth on the right side of the defence, and whether they do it through free agency or trade, adding a piece through free agency might be a good place to begin.