When the Ottawa Senators announced, last fall, that they had signed Russian sniper Evgenii Dadonov to a three-year, $15M contract, excitement was palpable in the nation’s capital. It had been quite awhile since the team had attracted a marquee free agent, and Dadonov’s arrival — at a bargain price — seemed to be a sign that the Senators’ rebuild was getting off the ground. But after what amounted to a career-worst season for Dadonov in 2021, fans are now wondering if they were sold a false bill of goods.
By: Brandon Maki
It was unquestionably a disappointing year for the 32 year-old Dadonov. The former Florida Panther notched just 13 goals and seven assists for 20 points through 55 games, but more troubling was his lack of contribution with the man advantage. Touted for his 34 powerplay points over the past two seasons, Dadonov managed just one in 2021, and even found himself removed from the top powerplay unit altogether.
It’s only natural, then, that Senators fans would have concerns about Dadonov going forward. Some have even suggested that general manager Pierre Dorion should expose him in the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft, giving the league’s newest team the opportunity to take Dadonov on for free.
While frustration is understandable, this would be a short-sighted move. Dadonov being owed $10M over the next two years is in no sense a hurdle for the Senators, with plenty of cap room to spare even after extensions are handed out to the likes of Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson. It’s also small potatoes for a Seattle Kraken team with plenty of cap space and nothing in the way of expectations, and they could absolutely be inclined to take a flier on a player who has scored 202 points over his past four seasons.
It may not be likely that Dadonov hits the 70-point mark again, as he’s entering the twilight of his career, but there’s no reason to think that a down season is a sign of things to come for the Senators forward. One only has to look at Dadonov’s underlying metrics to see that his play was actually in line with his past few seasons. Dadonov’s Corsi rating improved to 51.96% from last year’s 51.89%, and he also posted one of the best defensive campaigns of his career, allowing only 26.04 expected goals against: his lowest ever in a full season.
Despite Dadonov’s play keeping with the overall trends of his career, it’s impossible to ignore his drop in production. His expected goals plummeted from 37.16 to 26.1, but still, there is reason to believe that next season won’t yield more of the same. Dadonov generated 308 scoring chances through 55 games in 2021, which amounts to about 5.6 per game. The season prior, Dadonov had 403 scoring chances across 69 contests, averaging 5.8 per game. When bearing in mind that he scored 27 more points in 2020 than he did in 2021, it becomes apparent that Dadonov dealt with some seriously rotten luck through his first season in Ottawa.
Dadonov was also forced to make several difficult adjustments, going from Florida to Ottawa in a spectator-less, pandemic-shortened season, and just wasn’t deployed alongside the same calibre of linemates. The Senators are no slouches, but they simply don’t have a player as talented as the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov, who Dadonov spent most of his time with in the Sunshine State.
As things progressively go back to normal, and with a year of adjustment under his belt, it seems apparent that Dadonov is primed for a rebound season in 2022.