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Senators Sign Tarasenko: Let the "Caprobatics" Begin

You can say what you want about Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion. He doesn’t mind swinging for the fences every now and then.

Previous attempts such as the Matt Duchene and Alex DeBrincat deals didn’t pan out. The Jakob Chychrun deal is a wait-and-see and now Dorion has acquired the very player the late Bryan Murray passed on in the 2010 draft in a deal with the Blues to acquire David Rundblad.

That deal was saved with the Kyle Turris acquisition from Arizona. Otherwise, it would have gone down as a dog.

On Thursday, Dorion signed winger Vladimir Tarasenko to a one-year deal worth $5 million, which has now all but plundered the shire, so to speak. With a mere $895,953.00 left to sign RFAs Shane Pinto and Egor Sokolov, the natural question that follows is:

“How in the name of CAPROBATICS are the Senators going to sign Pinto to an extension?”

The Senators signed Vladimir Tarasenko to a one year deal worth $5 million.

Sokolov’s signing doesn’t pose nearly the concern. If you look at what Jacob Bernard-Docker got at two-year one-way money at $805K AAV, Sokolov’s deal won’t be as rich. His will likely be a two-year deal with the first year being a two-way deal and the second a one-way deal.

Pinto is the only member of the core that is without a contract for the coming season. I considered him a priority for the offseason for Dorion to secure and buy up as many years of unrestricted free agency as he could get.

After the DeBrincat deal, the Senators were left with just under $6 million in cap space and I figured Pinto would get as much as 60-70% of the remainder.

For the record, I don’t mind the Tarasenko signing. I mind the timing of it. There didn’t seem to be a huge rush to sign him by any other teams and the one-year term suggests that no one else was interested in making a real commitment to the 31-year-old Russian winger.

I would have thought that clearing cap space to make such a signing would have been the priority. This would have allowed Dorion to deal from a position of strength and not a position of need.

Now, he has to get someone(s) off the books in order to get Pinto on them. This is, possibly, going to involve going to other GMs who will know what he has to get done which is akin to having your hat in your hand.

Here are some of the possible scenarios I see to help Dorion balance the books:

1) Move Existing Player(s)

I have been of the opinion that Erik Brannstrom was not a fit on the Senators’ roster after the Jakob Chychrun acquisition. That’s $2 million right there. However, he would need to be replaced by someone else within the organization such as Tyler Kleven or Lassi Thomson so the relative savings will be just over $1 million so that won’t get them there.

The obvious move would be to see if someone would eat the remaining three years of Mathieu Joseph’s contract at $2.95 million. Again, someone internally would need to replace him, and this would likely be Ridly Greig or Sokolov. The total savings on the deal would be in the $2 million range and those two deals would create enough space to get Pinto and Sokolov done.

There is no one else on the roster that I would want to see moved out and the thoughts on the cost to get anyone to eat three years of Joseph’s salary coming of a tough season are a bit scary to contemplate. There is draft capital. However, the Senators haven’t had a first-round pick since Tyler Boucher in 2021.

Say what you will about Joseph, but he is better than he was able to show last season with his injury and moving him out in favour of Greig or Sokolov would not make the Senators a better team.

Short-term, the same could be said for moving Brannstrom out in favour of Kleven or Thomson. Kleven, in particular, needs to do a tour in Belleville to gain experience before playing the role he would be expected to fill with the Senators.

2) LTIR Maneuvers

The Senators have Josh Norris and Anton Forsberg who are still on LTIR as of this moment. Both are slated to be ready for the start of the season. Forsberg is slated to be good to go for training camp.

However, at this moment, both are on LTIR, and as other teams have clearly illustrated in the past, the Senators are under no obligation whatsoever to take either of them off to start the season.

Last season, the Bruins started the year without Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand. They came off LTIR when it was good and convenient for their cap compliance. Thanks to their depth and some first-rate coaching, they made it work and parlayed themselves into a President’s Trophy.

Who is to say that the Senators won’t hold back Norris’ start to the season and let him practice with the team the way Nikita Kucherov did with Tampa Bay in 2021 or the way Vegas did with Mark Stone this past year?

I am not suggesting that Norris would sit the whole year or even most of it. Forsberg makes $2.75 million and his stay on LTIR could be extended to contribute to the cause while Mads Sogaard filled the void at 1/3 the cost.

Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.

4) Combination of 1 & 2

I could see the use of LTIR and a Brannstrom trade for a draft pick being a viable option. A Joseph trade would be expensive.

Extending a stay on LTIR for either Forsberg or Norris while practicing with the team and a Brannstrom trade would get the Senators where they needed to be and faster.

Norris, in particular, is a critical component to getting the Senators in the playoff picture. It’s hard to imagine the Senators could survive a lengthy term with him on the sidelines the way Boston survived last season without Bergeron, McAvoy and Marchand. Forsberg is important as well. However, Sogaard isn’t far behind him and could fill his shoes.

Tarasenko could occupy Norris’ spot on the half wall for the power play. Dominik Kubalik is great in that spot too. It’s not an ideal scenario, but it’s doable.

To me, Shane Pinto was more important to get signed before Vladimir Tarasenko. I would have preferred the order of operations be handled where Pinto got his extension, cap space would be cleared or LTIR invoked and then Tarasenko would be signed.

As long as Pinto gets the right extension and is secured long-term, I am on board for the Tarasenkshow.

The good part in all of this is that the Senators are now a team that needs to make these kinds of maneuvers. Bottom feeders don’t need to do this. It means that they are close.

By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey

1 Comment

Jul 31, 2023

Yet another excellently written article! Well done...

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