The NHL won’t have its usual fireworks display on Canada Day, but it could be the start of changes in the Ottawa Senators roster.
While the league has postponed its usual free-agent frenzy until July 13 at noon due to its late season close, Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion and his staff are about to enter three busy weeks for the organization. .
Not only is the NHL draft scheduled for July 7-8 at the Bell Center in Montreal, the first player buyout window will begin Friday and will be open through July 12 at 5 p.m. EDT.
It is believed that the senators are weighing their options and there is a possibility that the club may choose to go that route. The top contender is center Colin White, while goalkeeper Matt Murray has been named, but that doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen.
Defender Michael Del Zotto is another contender with $2 million left in the year.
White has three years left on his $4.75 million cap-hit deal. According to the collective labor agreement, the 25-year-old can be bought out for a third of his contract because of his age.
According to the buyout calculator on capfriendly.com, it would cost the organization $5.25 million in real dollars to walk away from White. That’s a $10.5 million cost savings, so it wouldn’t be shocking if it happened.
Before making that decision, it may make sense for the senators to at least explore the trade route. It is believed they were close to a deal with the Montreal Canadiens by the March deadline, but in the end the Habs failed to pull the trigger.
Montreal GM Kent Hughes is White’s former agent and so there was interest in closing the deal. That could be revised before the draft, as the senators do have time before making a decision.
As for Murray, it is not known if he has fully recovered from the concussion he sustained in Arizona in early March. He should be ready to return to training camp in September, but if he’s not 100% now, buying him out isn’t an option.
In the grand scheme of things, the $5 million savings on the $15 million in real cash left on his contract is minimal. The club may be able to trade Murray if he is healthy, as the goalkeepers’ market is thin and a few teams may be willing to take a chance.
Those aren’t the only issues the senators are dealing with.
Dorion completes his job interviews for the assistant GM’s job to replace Peter MacTavish, and a decision about which route the club will take can be made before the Senators arrive in Montreal.
The club has both internal and external candidates, but that should be announced soon.
As for other selection decisions, there’s plenty on Dorion’s board:
ELIGIBLE OFFERS: The club must make offers to restricted free players by July 11 to keep their rights.
The Senators must make qualifier offers to Josh Norris, Alex Formenton and Mathieu Joseph along with defender Erik Brannstrom.
Dorion publicly stated that defender Victor Mete will not be offered a deal and is convinced that winger Adam Gaudette, picked up on waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks, will not be brought back either.
A decision must also be made about the future of winger Connor Brown. He is a year away from unrestricted free choice and teams have indicated that the senators are listening to offers.
LISTENING ON FIRST ROUND CHOICE: As the final buzzer sounded in the NHL season, trade talks ramped up dramatically.
The senators listen to the selection of No. 7 in the draft. It may be too close to home for the club, but we’ve been told the Habs are looking for a first-round second pick in the top 10 and we’ve approached each team to see what it takes to to fetch.
Ideally, Hughes would make a big splash and the club already have the No. 1 roster.
There has been talk of wrapping up Murray’s contract along with the pick, but that doesn’t make sense unless it’s part of something that will give the Senators a strong return.
Dorion has said he wants a top-four defender and a high-end winger.
Kevin Fiala of Minnesota had been linked with the Senators but was assigned the Los Angeles Kings for a first-round pick and prospect on Friday. After that, he signed a long-term renewal for $7.9 million per season, which would not have interested Ottawa.
The senators will have no shortage of options. Several teams study deals and Fiala is just the first domino to fall, while Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat remains on the table.
NIKITA ZAITSEV’S FUTURE: He will receive a $2 million signing bonus on Friday and has two seasons left with a $4.5 million cap hit.
He’s a useful defender who can help, but he just doesn’t fit in here anymore. He will be a lot more attractive to move once the bonus has been paid out.
The talk is that the coyotes, sharks and hawks are willing to contract a draft crop to sweeten the deal. It wouldn’t be a surprise if we see something like this with Zaitsev.