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With Thomas Chabot Back in Lineup, Senators Back in Salary Cap Trouble

ELMONT, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 26: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on October 26, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When Ottawa Senators defence-man Thomas Chabot was injured in October, it was bad news that came with a silver lining. It allowed the Senators to park his $8 million a year contract for a while on Long Term Injured Reserve. That gave the Senators the salary cap relief they needed
to keep the team together. But now that Chabot has returned, the club has returned to cap hell and has to get creative again.

So they’ve now placed both Ridly Greig and Mark Kastelic on LTIR. The two forwards have had high ankle sprains for a few weeks so neither is truly hurt long term. Both players are on minimum-wage deals (by NHL standards) so the cap relief is also nothing close to what an injured Chabot offered them. Even with the two forwards now on LTIR, the Sens have only $148K in cap space.

Greig and Kastelic were both placed on LTIR retroactive to November 3rd to manufacture the $1.55 million in cap space required to activate Chabot. Greig and Kastelic are both eligible to play Tuesday. Greig may actually be healthy by then.

Frankly, it’s weird to see the Senators in the unfamiliar position of being wild spenders while still being in the all too familiar position of being wildly out of the playoffs as December rolls around. That’s not exactly what new owner Michael Andlauer had in mind when he took over the
franchise.

As he gets back to work, Chabot hasn’t been the Norris Trophy level defence-man they thought he’d be when they signed him four years ago to an eight-year contract worth $64 million. So he’s not exactly coming to single handedly save the day, but he does improve the blue line.

And embattled head coach D.J. Smith is glad to have him back.

“He skates you out of trouble,” Smith told the media. “He can pass you out of trouble. He’s good on the power play. He’s dynamic. And one of our biggest issues has been zone time in the O-zone and our breakouts, not being able to clear, it’s on the wall too much. I think you’ll see that it improves drastically with Chabot playing.”

As for Chabot, he’s had more than enough press box popcorn, watching from the sidelines for the past ten games.

“Yeah, obviously very excited,” Chabot said. “There’s nothing worse than sitting upstairs and watching the guys go out there and all you want is to be out there with them. So I’m looking forward to Friday night (playing against Columbus).”

The nice thing about a hand injury is the ability to keep skating and stay in shape.

“Yeah, with the injury I’ve had, I’ve been skating for a while,” Chabot said. “So, really it’s just going back out there and trying to help the team win. Obviously, we’ve played some good hockey. We’ve had some tougher games, but I think this group is looking to take a step forward here in the upcoming games.”

Before we know it, Shane Pinto will be back as well. His NHL suspension for violating gambling rules will end as early as January 21st. The Senators don’t have enough cap room to re-sign him. They also don’t have money to bring a single player up from the minors in the event of an injury. And with the Sens’ luck, not to mention 15 games coming up this month, you know that injuries are coming.

So Senators’ GM Steve Staios is going to have to make a deal to correct this. And with the club in last place in the division and on pace for a seventh straight playoff absence, a shake-up right now wouldn’t hurt anyway.

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