With the Ottawa Senators off to a nice start in the pre-season, the focus shifts to the potential upcoming moves. First of all, is the Joshua Norris injury front. Next, it is the still, unsigned, RFA (group 10.2 c) Shane Pinto. Then, we have to move onto those potentially on the move to free up cap space. The top candidates, likely end up being Mathieu Joseph and Erik Brannstrom. As much excitement as this is around this group, General Manager Pierre Dorion still has some work to do.
Josh Norris says he’s close. Didn’t commit to playing tomorrow but says he will be back soon. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) September 28, 2023
The Potential for Josh Norris to Move Into the Ottawa Senators Lineup
We start by mentioning the Josh Norris situation and his lingering shoulder injury. He played five games in 2022-23 before injuring the shoulder. Next, came the decision to rehab or elect for surgery. Norris ended up playing 3 more games in January before shutting it down and having surgery. Fans were excited when over the summer Norris was able to shed the notorious yellow, non-contact jersey. However, it was short-lived, and he currently finds himself out of the Senators exhibition scheduled lineup. The team has been saying all along he is on track, and they just want him for a couple of pre-season games. Coach D.J. Smith has hinted that if it were the regular season he would likely be playing. With the season less than two weeks away, we will see.
The Camp Holdout Causing Ottawa Senators Potential Moves: Shane Pinto
Despite the potential for concerns, it seems like Norris is on track, and there is one figure to focus on. That figure is the unsigned, 22-year-old centre, Shane Pinto. The contract misalignment between Dorion and Pinto seems far enough apart, that it will require something significant. For Pinto, he had a big rookie season, in his only full NHL campaign in 2022-23, recording 20 goals. The problem with what Pinto might be asking too much is at 22, he still has only played one NHL season. What further complicated things, was Dorion spending to the cap. The signings of Vladimir Tarasenko and Joonas Korpisalo, and the acquisition of Dominik Kubalik could end up as fate changers. Fate changers for the Sens playoff hopes, but more relevant today, their current roster alignment.
It seems with some recent contracts, such as Alex Newhook’s signing, Pinto can command more money than he could have otherwise. And that seems to be exactly what he is doing. It is difficult for Dorion to find that compromise on the bridge deal, that buys time for the salary cap to increase. Many of the Sens important core group is locked up, so there will be extra money available. Unfortunately, right now, the Sens are at the cap and need to think of another strategy to re-sign Pinto.
Making a Case for Mathieu Joseph
One of the names that pops up as someone for the Senators to trade is Mathieu Joseph. There was a rumour that the Philadelphia Flyers were close to making a move. The problem was they reportedly asked for a prospect, and the Sens shot it down. That prospect is Tyler Boucher. In any case, the Senators are close, and Joseph is a serviceable asset to many NHL teams. His career PPG of 0.35 has been consistent. His speed and grit, allow him to be versatile, and is a respectable NHL penalty killer. Not to mention being around the Tampa Bay Lightning back-to-back Stanley Cup locker room, he has lots of desired intangibles. Oh yeah, and he’s hot in the pre-season right now.
What About Some Branny?
Another name that makes sense to move, is the 2017 15th overall pick, acquired in the Mark Stone deal, defenceman Erik Brannstrom. The Senators had high hopes for Brannstrom when they acquired him. It is conflicting that he has underachieved. Conversely, the argument is that he has not been given a strong enough opportunity. Over five seasons with the Senators, he only has 190 games and averaged just under 17 minutes a night.
Those that watch Brannstrom on a nightly basis, know he does a lot of the little things well. For a smaller guy, he can take a hit and isn’t afraid to get in lanes. As was on display in 2022-23, he is near elite status as a skater, when he is pivoting up the ice on a rush. Finally, consider the fact about the lack of opportunity overall and also not much on the power play. Having obtained 49 career points is decent. Therefore, he would be another valuable asset in trade to free up cap space to sign Shane Pinto.
At the End of the Day, Who’s Ready for Some Hockey?
The Norris discussion aside, it seems that the highest priority for Dorion is finding cap space to sign Pinto. The two more likely players to be moved, Joseph and Brannstrom, have a lot to do with their salaries. It seems like teams would request a prospect to go along with the deal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since the Senators do have quite a few guys pushing for depth roles. It is still up in the air, how the Sens depth translates to a strong AHL team in Belleville. But, for pushing for jobs on the third and fourth lines or third pair, there is competition. Hence, one of the types of prospects would be available for a trade. For example, defencemen battling for depth roles like Jacob Bernard-Docker or Lassi Thomson. Losing one prospect is acceptable without giving up too much security in organizational depth.
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