It’s no secret that, for some time now, the Ottawa Senators have been in the market for a top six forward. Yesterday, they filled that void in a huge way, acquiring 24-year-old left winger Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks. With a $9 million salary this season, the two-time 40 goal scorer immediately becomes the Senators’ highest paid and most accomplished forward. Since 2017, DeBrincat ranks eighth among all NHL players with 160 goals.
Just hours before the 2022 NHL Draft was to begin on Thursday night, the Senators sent three draft picks to Chicago to acquire the 5-foot-7 DeBrincat. Chicago receives Ottawa’s first and second-round selections in 2022, along with the Sens’ third-round choice in 2024.
With Chicago entering a rebuild, you’d think a star, 24-year-old sniper would be exactly the kind of player the Hawks would want to cling to and build around. Clearly, rookie GM Kyle Davidson has other ideas. With only one year left DeBrincat’s deal, he was seen as their most tradeable asset (Patrick Kane has a no movement clause and he’s not afraid to use it), the one player right now truly capable of bringing in some very useful parts for the rebuild. But almost everyone in hockey (outside of the Hawks front office) agrees today that Chicago’s compensation in the deal wasn’t enough.
The average annual value of DeBrincat’s current deal is $6.4 million. But in actual salary, he’s due $9 million for this season, the final year of the deal. Qualifying offers for restricted free agents are based on the final season of their expiring deal so the Sens would have to qualify him at that $9 million rate (average annual value) to keep his rights for at least another year.
Historically, free agents have moved on from Ottawa because the Sens wouldn’t get them into that truly high-end tax bracket. DeBrincat is there already. His base salary will go from $5.1 million to $9 million this fall. With the Sens already agreeing to pay DeBrincat high-end dough, money likely won’t be the stumbling block it usually is and a long-term extension seems far more likely than usual.
“Alex’s acquisition brings immediate and additional firepower to our forward group,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a club press release. “He’s a dynamic forward who’s a scoring threat when in the offensive zone. He maintains great vision, has exceptional skill and a quality shot, which helps him score from virtually any part of the ice. He’s a consistent performer and an underrated playmaker who Senators fans are certain to enjoy watching play in Ottawa.”
With the right shooting DeBrincat on the left, and Josh Norris on the right, the Sens’ top power play unit is going to be ridiculous, with elite one-timers coming from both sides.
The move was warmly greeted on social media by Senators’ fans with only a few even thinking ahead to a possible extension for DeBrincat. This fan base rarely gets to strut about deals this big. This is the kind of money-be-damned trade the big market teams always seem to make.
Earlier in the day, fans weren’t quite as content. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dorion reportedly had a deal to send goalie Matt Murray to Buffalo. That one didn’t go over well with fans, or Matt Murray for that matter. Murray completely nixed the trade with his no movement clause. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the deal would have seen the Sabres and Sens flip first round picks. And the Sens would retain a quarter of Murray’s remaining salary. That’s how badly the Sens want to move on from Murray, who has probably played his last game for Ottawa. Had he not nixed the deal, the Sens would still have had Buffalo’s 16th overall pick to send to Chicago for DeBrincat but they probably would have had to throw in another asset, maybe even an actual prospect.
But that was barely on the radar on such an exciting day for the club. The Senators’ young crop of forwards was already starting to emerge as an excellent group. Now add in DeBrincat, a healthy full season from DRsake Batherson, Shane Pinto and Mathieu Joseph, and all of the kids moving a year closer to their prime, it’s hard not to day dream about the possibilities for this season.
Opening night Projections:
Opening night can’t come soon enough.
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine Sports