Making Sense of the Senators’ Dollars and Cents

Sens fans often express some dismay when it comes to their team’s finances, largely due to Eugene Melnyk’s reputation as being somewhat stingy. The team, though, finds itself in a reasonably advantageous position with their salary cap. The good folks at Cap Friendly suggest that Ottawa currently has just under $28.5 million in cap space.

By K. Joudry

Now, having cap space isn’t the same thing as being able to spend cap space. Sens fans understand this reality far too well.

Nevertheless, the team can be active in free agency. The NHL as a whole is experiencing a tighter-than-usual bottom line because of Covid-19 and lost revenue from limited games and fan attendance. As a result, Ottawa’s cap space represents a sizeable portion relative to the rest of the league. If fact, they currently have the 8th most cap space.

Before you spend all of that money, remember that Ottawa has key players they need to re-sign, the restricted free agents foremost among them. Indeed, both Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson are RFAs.

Batherson, a 2017 fourth-round pick, has exceeded expectations. During the Covid-shortened season, he scored 17 goals and added 17 assists. 34 points in 56 games is an impressive feat for the 23-year-old forward.

Tkachuk, meanwhile, looks to be on the cusp of joining the NHL’s elite players. Ottawa may be inclined to give Batherson a bridge-deal, but look for them to lock-up Tkachuk long-term. Still only 21, Tkachuk was chosen 4th overall and has gone on to average more than 0.5 points-per-game in all three NHL seasons. In other words, Ottawa may be inclined to sign him to a long-term deal. They’ve thought highly of him from the outset – they wouldn’t have used the 4thpick if they hadn’t – and Tkachuk has done nothing but reward them for this belief.

Keep in mind that Ottawa will likely find a little more financial wiggle room once the expansion draft takes place. The expansion draft is scheduled for July 21; free agency begins on July 28. Obviously, we’ll need to wait and see who Seattle chooses, but Ottawa may find themselves with some extra cash following the Kraken’s selection.

The Athletic’s Ian Mendes and Ryan S. Clark speculated that Chris Tierney could be an intriguing option for Seattle, a player who is currently accounting for a $3.5 million cap hit. Moreover, Evgeni Dadonov’s $5 million cap hit seems somewhat palatable, at least according to the speculation provided by Mendes and Clark.

Even after signing the RFAs and internal UFAs, then, Ottawa could reasonably find themselves with $15+ million to spend in free agency. That’s not an insignificant amount, all things considered. NHL money just isn’t as plentiful right now, so Pierre Dorion has a semi-substantial amount to work with.

A quick look at a list of the top available free agents suggests that there are plenty of viable options on the market. Veteran players like Alex Ovechkin and Tuuka Rask seem like remote possibilities. Perhaps someone like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (still only 28) or Gabriel Landeskog (ditto) could be of interest.

Thankfully, Ottawa will have options, and that’s worth a lot at this point. They have the ability to retain their own impact forwards while being competitive for players they identify as having the potential to help the rebuild. This simple reality makes the upcoming free agency worth watching.

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