As the Ottawa Senators prepare to embark on their 2022-23 campaign on Thursday in Buffalo, there is a renewed sense of optimism that hasn’t been felt since the beginning of the 2017-18 season. Everyone in Sens Nation remembers how that turned out.
Amidst that debacle, one of the cornerstones of the franchise was delivered in the 2018 draft in the form of current captain, Brady Tkachuk. Thomas Chabot became a full-time member of the team during that disastrous season and the focus became about the future.
Since then, pieces have been added such as Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Tim Stutzle and, little by little, the beginnings of a Seven-Player Profile started to form.
Here are the pieces of the Seven-Player Profile as a refresher:
Elite Center #1; Elite Center #2; Elite Power Forward; Specialist Forward – two-way, shutdown, agitator; Elite Shutdown Defenseman; Elite Offensive or Puck Moving Defenseman; Elite Starting Goalie.
In Norris and Stutzle, the Senators appear to have the makings of an elite pair of centers. I will let time decide who the Alpha is.
Brady Tkachuk is the prototype power forward that most teams crave but few find.
Artem Zub has the elite shutdown defenseman criteria. An argument could be made for Jake Sanderson down the road. For now, it’s Zub.
Thomas Chabot is an elite puck moving offensive defenseman.
Goaltending is still TBD, though the organization seems to have high hopes for Mads Sogaard.
With all the focus on Jake Sanderson’s integration into the league and whether the Senators will be upgrading at the defense position to compete in the east, the one who seems to be flying slightly under the radar and who could prove to be an invaluable piece of the profile is center, Shane Pinto.
Pinto would fit the specialist forward mould to a T. He made a splash in last year’s training camp and suffered a season ending shoulder injury early on. At the time of the injury, there was talk about him being in the Calder conversation.
Here are the eligibility criteria for the Calder Trophy:
“To be eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league.”
Based on this, Pinto has played in 17 NHL games and only played in five games in 2021-22 thus keeping him eligible for the Calder again in 2022-23.
His pre-season performance has laid to rest any concerns about his recovery from shoulder surgery and it would appear he is back in Calder eligibility form.
I don’t like to put undue pressure on players who haven’t even reached their 22nd birthday, however, I can’t help but see a lot of Patrice Bergeron in Pinto.
Both somehow slipped into the 2nd rounds of their respective draft years.
Bergeron was part of the vaunted 2003 draft which boasted players such as Marc-Andre Fleury at #1, Jordan Staal at #2, Ryan Getzlaf at #19, and former Senator selection Patrick Eaves at #29. It also boasted a whole lot of players who never became what teams hoped before he was finally chosen at #45. Other than Jordan Staal, Ryan Suter at #7, Dustin Brown at #13 and Brent Burns at #20, no other players have played more regular season games than Bergeron from that draft year. None of them can touch his 167 playoff games played.
Both are right-handed shooting centers with almost identical frames. However, it’s not just the physical criteria that has me drawing the comparison.
Pinto’s game is a 200-foot game and he shows as much awareness in the defensive zone as in the offensive zone. Since he never played in Belleville under the watchful eye of Troy Mann, perhaps we have Brad Berry to thank for that.
Pinto finished his two seasons at the University of North Dakota having won 62% of his faceoffs. His sophomore season culminated in him winning both the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s defensive forward and forward of the year honours in the same season. This would be the equivalent of winning the Selke Trophy AND the Hart Trophy at the same time.
In terms of eerie coincidences, Bergeron’s face-off percentage last season was an identical 62%. His average in the last five seasons was 59%.
In 17 games, Pinto’s faceoff percentage has been a modest 36.8%. However, even Bergeron had a sub 50% winning percentage when he broke in during the 2003-04 season at 48.9%. My guess is that Pinto will get stronger and stronger as time goes on and he will give the Senators much more puck possession off the draw and benefit everyone’s analytics and not just his own.
Will he score as much as Stutzle and Norris? That remains to be seen. He is currently pegged in the three hole and might not enjoy as much power play time when everyone is healthy. That said, you can bet he will be the first option DJ Smith looks to when needing to backfill a top six role.
His release in the offensive zone is noticeably quick and he doesn’t rely on the big slap shot but rather he looks to catch the goaltender when adjusting himself to make the save with a quick wrist shot. That too, shows a level of maturity in his game as he seems to understand that no one cares how the puck crossed the line.
This all sounds great, doesn’t it? I think a lot of teams are going to wonder how they let this player slip by much the same way teams asked themselves how they overlooked Bergeron in 2003. Pinto is also not eligible to receive an offer sheet from anyone due to his signing contract age versus years of service in the league. It’s rule 10.2 (c) if you are interested.
A player becomes a free agent when their contract expires on July 1 after the last League Year of their contract. If the player does not meet the UFA requirements, they become a restricted free agent (RFA) if their club issues them a qualifying offer and they have met the following requirements:
If the player does not meet the required years of professional experience, they will instead become a 10.2(c) player.
What is a 10.2(c) player?
A player becomes a free agent when their contract expires on July 1 after the last League Year of their contract. A player who does not meet the UFA requirements or the Group 2 RFA requirements displayed in the table above, and has been issued a qualifying offer, is designated a 10.2(c) player. The player is only eligible to negotiate and sign a contract with the club that holds their signing rights. They are ineligible to negotiate a contract (offer sheet) with any other club. They are also ineligible for arbitration. If the player does not receive a qualifying offer by June 25th at 5:00pm ET, they immediately become a UFA.
Looking further into the crystal ball, Jake Sanderson will be a 10.2(c) player in 2024 as well. 😊Despite all the good news above, here are the dilemmas I see:
As we can see, both Tim Stutzle and Shane Pinto come out of Entry Level next season. The Senators have already committed an additional $7,425,000.00 in cap space to Stutzle starting next season.
Unlike Pinto, Alex DeBrincat is an RFA at season’s end WITH eligibility for an offer sheet and he will be looking for something in the $9-10 million AAV range if signed longer term.
Nikita Zaitsev is still on the books to the tune of $4.5 million next season.
Artem Zub has yet to be extended beyond this season nor has that top four defenseman been acquired.
The Senators have just under $5 million in unused cap space available now. Only $1 million is projected in cap increases for next season.
The Senators will have a little over $5 million in dead cap space and buyout for next season.
If Pinto delivers the kind of season that would warrant Calder consideration, much less taking home the prize, he is going to be looking for something longer term as well. If his agent is doing his job collecting comparables for the purposes of negotiation, I have to believe he is going to have Patrice Bergeron at the top of his list.
The team does have some UFAs that they don’t necessarily have to retain such a Travis Hamonic and Nick Holden. However, it doesn’t take a PhD in Math to see that Pierre Dorion is going to have to do some serious CAPROBATICS to make sure he has enough seats for the players they do want to keep when the music stops.
PROJECTED CAP SPACE 2023-24 = $83,500,000.00
Dead Cap (aka Matt Murray) = $1,562,500.00
Buyout (Ryan, White, Del Zotto) = $3,458,333.00
Forwards Cap Committed = $39,693,214.00
Defense Cap Committed = $13,425,000.00
Goalie Cap Committed = $2,750,000.00
TOTAL CAP COMMITTED 2023-24 = $60,889,047.00
POTENTIAL CAP SPACE 2023-24 = $22,610,953.00
Keeping in mind that this number includes Tim Stutzle’s contract, but does not include any defenseman except Thomas Chabot, Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Sanderson.
It also only includes Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Claude Giroux, Mathieu Joseph and Parker Kelly at forward.
It leaves Anton Forsberg alone in the crease as well.
$22.6 million seems like a lot of money until you have to sign or promote your third line center, top two shutdown defenseman, potential 40 goal scoring power play trigger man, a capable second goalie and fourth line center.
So, what is the solution aside from finding someone to take the Zaitsev albatross off the Senators’ hands? My solution would be to start negotiations with Pinto as soon as he starts to produce and see if Pierre Dorion can get him on a longer-term deal before he starts to show Calder Trophy potential. See if Pinto’s camp is looking for a little security. Given his injury last season, perhaps the Senators can get him on a deal that buys up a few years of free agency a la Drake Batherson’s contract?
This would certainly go a long way to helping the cap crunch the Senators are sure to find themselves in next season and would secure a pivotal piece of the Seven Player Profile thus putting the Senators in a position to compete for the remainder of this decade.
Every draft seems to have a Patrice Bergeron type of player who slips out of the first round yet seems to have a first-round draft pick career.
Shane Pinto is that player from the 2019 draft.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey