White Out: Senators Are Parting Company With Former First Rounder Colin White

When the Ottawa Senators drafted centre Colin White in round one of the 2015 NHL Draft, he was a blue-chip prospect, a core piece in the Sens’ future plans. And four years later, he still looked the part. White finished the 2018-19 season with 14 goals, 27 assists and 41 points, top 10 among NHL rookies in all 3 categories.

So, the Senators signed him to a massive six-year contract worth $28.5 million (average annual salary of $4.75 million). The long-term contract was generally welcomed by most Sens fans. It was a lot of money, but the signing came at a time when there was very little faith in the organization’s desire to commit long term to their best young players. Senators’ GM Pierre Dorion was thrilled at the time, getting the green light to lock up White.

“We’ve identified Colin as one of our core young players who will help drive our team’s success in both the short and long term,” said Dorion, on the day of the signing three years ago. “Colin plays the 200-foot game that is so coveted in today’s NHL. He can skate, play on both special teams and is a character player and leader who loves hockey and this city. While he is coming off a season where he finished among rookie leaders in many categories, we also know he is just scratching the surface of his potential in this league. We’re very happy that Colin will be a Senator for the next six years.”

Well, he made it halfway there. Three years into his six-year deal, White is on his way out after the Senators placed him on waivers today for the purposes of a buyout. The move was a no-brainer for three reasons.

  • White is a decent player but just not worth $4.75 million a year
  • There’s just no room for him in Ottawa at centre. The Senators already have Josh Norris, Tim Stutzle and Shane Pinto. Plus, they have Dylan Gambrell or Mark Kastelic available for fourth line centre duties at one fifth of White’s salary.
  • White is 25 years old. The buyout rules indicate that teams may buy out any player who’s still under 26 for one-third of his remaining contract value. The buyout will save the Sens $10.5 million in actual dough.

White’s story brings back memories of Curtis Lazar who was chosen by Ottawa two years earlier. Both are outstanding, high character people – favourites in the room. They were elite for their countries at the World Junior Hockey championships. Initially, both were seen as draft steals for the Sens, who chose both players in the back half of the first round. But neither player ever found their footing with the Senators.

White’s rookie season seemed to indicate otherwise. But that was under a different coach in Guy Boucher, who gave him plenty of top six looks in 2018-19, much of it with Mark Stone and rookie Brady Tkachuk. For various reasons, White never got the same opportunity after that. Stone and Boucher both left that spring, and White soon had the pressure of a fat new contract to live up to. Finally, injuries seemed to finish off any lingering mojo. Since signing his deal three years ago, White has played just 130 of 209 games

The NHL’s first window for buyouts opened on Canada Day and will close on July 12th, the day before the unrestricted free-agent market opens. Will the Senators use the White savings to bring someone in via free agency or trade? Or will they just use it to help offset the high costs of their current and soon-to-be free agents?

For you trivia buffs, White officially becomes the final player to move on from the roster of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finalist (he played all of 2:39 in Game 6 vs Pittsburgh that year). And it’s certainly possible he won’t be moving far.

Montreal is expected to take a hard run at White. His former agent is Kent Hughes, who now calls the shots as GM of the Habs. As Hughes prepares to select an elite prospect first overall this week, he probably wouldn’t mind further supplementing his last place roster with a former client – a blue chipper from the past, who’s still young and now reasonably priced.

By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine

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