Thursday, July 18, 2024

Has Staios done enough to right the Senators? Time will tell

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The Senators knew they couldn’t roll back into training camp with the same crew that underachieved last spring so Staios has made big changes.

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Steve Staios is trying to right the ship to set a course for post-season.

After missing the playoffs for seven straight years, the Ottawa Senators’ president and general manager has made a lot of moves with senior VP Dave Poulin, associate GM Ryan Bowness and senior executive Rob DiMaio to get this club headed in the right direction.

The Senators wrapped up a tidy piece of business Tuesday when they sent winger Mathieu Joseph packing to the St. Louis Blues with a third-round pick to get his salary off the books and then signed restricted free agent centre Shane Pinto to a two-year extension worth $3.75 million per season.

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This team is built around captain Brady Tkachuk and centre Tim Stutzle, along with the rest of the core players, which include Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson, Pinto, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Ridly Greig.

The idea heading into the off-season was to surround them with better players and give veteran alternate captain Claude Giroux more support to help out in the leadership department.

Yes, it matters that the Senators will have a new voice behind the bench with head coach Travis Green and his staff, but when he leaves the room it’s also important the club has players who aren’t afraid to speak what’s on their minds to help the approach to get success.

The Senators knew they couldn’t roll back into training camp with the same crew that underachieved last spring so Staios has made big changes that he hopes will pay dividends when the season gets underway against the defending Stanley Cup champion Florida Panthers.

We won’t find out until next April if all the moves were the right ones, but as Staios heads into his first full season at the head of the club’s hockey operations, he’s put some pieces in place that should be able to help the core of this team have a chance at success.

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Goaltender Linus Ullmark, who won the Vezina Trophy two years ago, was acquired from the Boston Bruins to help solidify the net. He’ll form a tandem with Anton Forsberg and there’s good reason to be optimistic that Ullmark’s presence will help everybody feel like they have a chance to win.

The changes came with a price, and meant Ottawa had to part with an asset in defenceman Jakob Chychrun for less than the club wanted, but time was of the essence and the organization didn’t have anyone willing to pay the asking price of a first- and a second-round pick.

That resulted in the 26-year-old Chychrun being traded to the Washington Capitals before free agency got underway, but the Senators badly needed a right-shot blueliner like Nick Jensen because they were rebuffed by virtually every unrestricted free agent that was available.

The Senators spoke with the likes of right-shot defencemen Matt Roy, Brandon Montour and Brett Pesce before they signed elsewhere, but the reality is they had the right to sign wherever they wanted, and coming to Ottawa wasn’t something they wanted to do.

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Instead, the Senators got a 33-year-old veteran in Jensen who doesn’t have a no-move clause and has only two years left on his contract at $4.05 million, so he can play a key role.

What Staios has learned is you can’t win every trade. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. That’s what happened with Chychrun and having to pay to give away Joseph and his contract.

Picking up veteran winger David Perron from the Detroit Red Wings on a two-year deal was just a solid acquisition. He can still play at 36 years old and comes with an edge to his game that the Senators badly require. This team needs someone who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.

Forward Michael Amadio, signed to a three-year deal worth $2.6 million per season, is a bit of an unknown. He found his way with the Vegas Golden Knights and won a Stanley Cup. He can play all three forward positions and has been used on the point on the power play.

The club also picked up former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Noah Gregor to replace Parker Kelly, who wasn’t given a qualifying offer.

The work is never done for a hockey team, but with the exception of maybe another depth player, the Senators could head into training camp with the roster they have right now.

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Belleville defenceman Tyler Kleven, along with forwards Angus Crookshank and Zack Ostapchuk, are expected to push for spots in camp, so they could round out the group that Green has to work with.

The Senators still have $3.6 million in cap space after getting Joseph off the books, re-signing Pinto and bringing in free agents. Under the ideal scenario, they’d like to keep that flexibility heading into next season, giving them wiggle room if they have injuries or want to add at the deadline.

Staios and the Senators had their work cut out for them to re-shape this roster. They’ve made a lot of moves in the last month and now they can only hope they see the fruits of their labour pay off.

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