Yay and Nay - 2021 Restricted Free Agent Edition
The team is starting to take shape. Young players are seizing important roles on this squad with a strong vise grip and not letting go while pushing tons of vets out the door. The bright future of unparalleled success is near. But don’t kid yourself, the turnover is far from over. Just because we can pencil in Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson for long term roles for the foreseeable future, we’re going to see some new faces next season, and some current players are in the home stretch of their Ottawa Senators career.
In today’s edition of Yay and Nay, we’re going to take a look at the Sens’ impending free agents, and assign a “Yay” value for ones that should be resigned, and “Nay” value for those that should be given a one way ticket out of town, sorted in order of their current cap hit. We’re also throwing in a predicted contract for each.
Which players under team control have a future in the nation’s capital? Let’s take a look!
The Restricted Free Agents:
YAY - Brady Tkachuk (2020-21 cap hit: $925,000) – Yays don’t come much more enthusiastic than Ottawa’s future captain. You get this guy signed by any means necessary, hopefully long term. Brady holds all the leverage on this one, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a shorter term deal in order to really maximize the value on his next deal in non-Covid times. It all depends on what Brady wants, and considering that Thomas Chabot got his rich contract, the Senators should be willing to go at least that high on Tkachuk’s next deal. You’d think that the team would be smart enough to not play contract chicken with their most important player when they’re finally generating some excitement and goodwill towards the team for the first time in years.
PREDICTION: 3 Years x $6.5 million.
YAY* – Logan Brown (2020-21 cap hit: $863,333) – This yay comes with a big, gaping asterisk attached. The team still doesn’t really know what they have in Logan Brown, which is why they should resign him to one last “show me” deal and wipe the slate clean. He has no value in the trade market because he's barely played the last two years. But, strangely, he has too much value to simply not qualify him either. Both the player and the team should simply scrap this year and start fresh next year, despite the super crowded center ice position. By next trade deadline, we’ll know Brown’s future with this team. There are too many maybes about him to give up just now, but not enough certainty to get a decent return in a trade. He can help his negotiating position if he can get into the lineup in the last few games of the year with the big squad. His one assist in 6 AHL games is a wash since he was playing injured, and will likely be exposed in the expansion draft. PREDICTION: 2 way, 1 year x $1 million.
YAY – Artem Zub (2020-21 cap hit: $925,000) – He’s been the steadiest and nicest surprise for the Senators this season, and has quickly endeared himself to the fan base. He’s likely a bottom pair, penalty kill specialist on a good team, but a clear cut top 4 on the current roster. He’s got great defensive instincts, particularly on the penalty kill, and pretty decent puck moving abilities that can fill in for injuries on the power play. He’s a Swiss army knife, but should come in on a team-friendly contract to go well with his team-friendly game. His arbitration rights mean his return next season is something of a slam dunk, but the team would be wise to get him signed before that. PREDICTION: 3 years X $2.5 million.
NAY – Olle Alsing (2020-21 cap hit: $858,750) – He’s only played 7 games this season in the AHL, where he’s sporting an ugly -10 rating and only one assist. At 25 years old, his North American hockey career is likely coming to an end, and the Senators will likely move on to more promising prospects.
PREDICTION: No qualifying offer
YAY – Vitaly Abramov (2020-21 cap hit: $730,833) – He’s knocking on the door and lighting up the AHL. The question is whether there’s any room for him on the big club. Being that he’s only 23, I foresee another two way deal with the undersized, offensive dynamo who should be getting 30-40 games with the big club next season, at which time the team will either make room for him or trade him while his value is highest. He’s the kind of “on-the-cusp” prospect that can net you a key veteran at the trade deadline if the team is in the playoff mix, which of course the fanbase will whine about letting go for years to come. Brooks Laich for Peter Bondra anyone?
PREDICTION: 2 way, 1 year X $900,000
NAY – Jonathan Davidsson (2020-21 cap hit: $768,333) – Something of a throw in on the Matt Duchene trade, with zero points in 12 AHL games this year, if the 23 year old has a future in North American hockey, it won’t be with this franchise.
PREDICTION: No qualifying offer
YAY – Filip Gustavsson (2020-21 cap hit: $761,666) – One of five possible starting goalies of the future and possible expansion draft protectee, Gustavsson has made some really nice strides in net this year, including a rock solid pre-season stretch in Europe and a short spell where he was dominant in the NHL crease, filling in for multiple injuries. He still needs more seasoning at 22, but with Matt Murray, Joey Daccord, and possibly Anton Forsberg ahead of him on the depth chart for next season, there’s no hurry to get him signed long term. If everything falls right, he should be the go-to number 1 guy in Belleville for the next season or two, with a few injury fill in games here and there with the big squad. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him signed to the same 3 year deal that Joey Daccord got, with a one way deal kicking in in year three. Side note, if I’m Pierre Dorion, I’m throwing Seattle an asset or two to make sure they don’t take one of Daccord or Gustavsson in the expansion draft. PREDICTION: 3 x league minimum, first two years two-way, third year one-way.
YAY – Drake Batherson (2020-21 cap hit: $736,666) – Everyone loves the Drake, except for opposition goaltenders. While he needs to find some consistency in his game (long cold streaks followed by 6 game scoring streaks for example), he’s done everything you would expect from a 23 year old mid-round pick and beyond. He should be a fixture on the top power play and top two lines for years to come in an Ottawa uniform. He’s here to stay, and I see a bridge-ish deal in the same ballpark as Mark Stone’s last Ottawa contract in his immediate future. His 28 points in 45 games should keep his annual value from climbing too high. Prime candidate for a team friendly deal ala Connor Brown whose value goes beyond the cap hit.
PREDICTION: 4 X $4.5 million.
YAY – Victor Mete (2020-21 cap hit: $735,000) – 22 year old puck moving defencemen with nearly 200 games of NHL experience don’t grow on trees, and they especially don’t hit the waiver wire. This was a shrewd acquisition by Pierre Dorion, and he’s a fine fit with Chabot and Brannstrom on the left side. He plays pretty sound positional defense, a must for an undersized defender like him. However the rest of this season goes will be too small a sample size to commit long term. He seems like a fine fit on the bottom pairing with 2nd unit power play duty. Also has arbitration rights, which should get him a one way deal on a shorter term, similar to the recently traded Mike Reilly’s expiring deal.
PREDICTION: 2 X $1.5 million.
NAY – Michael Amadio (2020-21 cap hit: $700,000) – The very definition of a replaceable, spare part kind of player. If he resigns, it will be for a league minimum and the expectation of being a healthy scratch more often than not. 3 assists in 24 games is pretty indicative of his overall value to the team (and also shows how far Christian Wolanin’s stock had dropped as he was the return in that deal). The team will probably keep him around as a tweener energy guy, but his tenure and value to this team will be limited at best. One of the few RFAs on the team with arbitration rights, but he’d be wise to avoid a hearing in his case.
PREDICTION: 1 X league minimum on a two way deal.
NAY - JC Beaudin (2020-21 cap hit: $700,000) – Likely AHL lifer’s greatest asset will be leadership and veteran presence in the minors. His arbitration rights will likely make him a bottom six Belleville Senator for a few more seasons, despite a disappointing 6 points in 23 AHL games. PREDICTION: 2 x league minimum on a two way deal.
NAY – Marcus Hogberg (2020-21 cap hit: $700,000) – I’d be shocked if Hogberg plays another game for this franchise, and just as shocked if another team takes a flyer on him next season. When he’s not hurt, he’s sporting an ugly .866 save percentage and 4.19 GAA. At 26, he likely is what he is, which is simply blocking the path for more promising prospects. It’s sadly fairly clear that he’s not quite an NHL caliber goaltender at this point. 7 wins in 39 career games (33 starts) to go with a 3.48 GAA and .893 save percentage. The most damning statistic? He only has 16 losses, which means that he has been out of the net for the game winning goal in at least ten games against his 33 starts, suggesting he’s pulled in nearly a third of his games. Yikes. PREDICTION: No qualifying offer.
YAY – Clark Bishop (2020-21 cap hit: $700,000) – He’s brought some nice speed and chutzpah to the fourth line, and his fit in better than expected on this team. Is there room for him next season? As a 13th forward, there should be. At his age of 26 and production level (3 assists in 13 games), he should be happy with that.
PREDICTION: 1 X league minimum on a one way deal.
What do you think should be done with our RFAs? Who would you keep and resign, and for what?
By Andrew Sztein | Sens Nation Hockey