The list of notable free-agent signings in Senators' history is neither long nor illustrious. Who would you give the nod to as the top FA acquisition of all time? Hasek? Gonchar? Kovalev? MacArthur? Not exactly a murderer’s row of impact players whose jerseys will be gracing the CTC rafters anytime soon.
Which was why it came as such a pleasant surprise to Sens fans when it was announced that the club had signed Evgenii Dadonov (the #9 rated Free Agent on TSN’s FA list when the offseason began) to an extremely reasonable 3yr $5M AAV deal. To be fair, Dorion had been adamant that he was the club’s number one target in free agency for some time now. I just don’t think many fans actually believed it would get done.
So what are the Senators actually getting in Dadonov (whose hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia may have gotten as much national press & television coverage as the Florida Panthers have the last few years)? Well, for starters, he fills an immediate void on Ottawa’s top line and powerplay unit. Over the last 3 seasons with the Panthers, he’s tallied 182pts (81G, 101A), with 47 of those points coming via the powerplay. He also brings an underrated two-way game to the table (posting a respectable -3 +/- total over the last 3yrs for a less than stellar defensive team), and won’t hurt you with dumb penalties either (his 26 COMBINED penalty minutes over that same span is quite “Lady Byng-esque”).
But the most important aspects of this signing aren’t likely to be found on the back of a hockey card. With this deal in place, the Senators are finally within shouting distance of the cap floor (being off by only a few hundred thousand as of today per capfriendly.com), and they managed to get there without needing to take on term or dead contracts (I wonder how many goals Marian Gaborik will score for the team this year?). Additionally, this lessens the blow of letting Anthony Duclair test the market, while not shutting the door completely on a possible reunion down the road.
The term and AAV are also extremely favourable to the Senators, as they managed to lock up one of the top free agents without needing to dish out the 6-7yr deals that other teams (i.e. Montreal & Vegas) have had to. Erik Karlsson is only in year 2 of an 8 year/$11.5M AAV contract with San Jose which is looking worse by the day, and Pietrangelo will be 37years old when his Vegas contract expires to the tune of $8.8M/yr. Ottawa on the other hand will have the luxury of either parting ways with a 34yr old Right Winger, re-signing him to another smaller term deal (1-2yrs), or flipping him at the trade deadline two years from now for assets (which is likely when the Senators title contention window begins to open anyways).
It also can’t be overstated that a higher-end free agent signing in Ottawa bodes well optically for the franchise moving forward. Some much needed good news for Sens fans who had become used to seeing their team in the headlines for the wrong reasons of late. It’s great to see some genuine enthusiasm for the upcoming season, and a move that has thus far been universally praised by most of the local media outlets as well (we’ve got the screenshots to prove it, if this deal goes sour 2 years from now we’re bringing you all down with us!).
So rejoice, Sens fans! This has been a moment long overdue. For too long you’ve been forced to watch free agency from the sidelines like a pimply-faced teenager at prom. All the other franchises got their turns to dance with the popular kids. Now it’s finally your turn. Enjoy.