The Ottawa Senators aren’t exactly the team one thinks of when one hears the phrase “active in free agency”. In the past three years, Clarke MacArthur remains the biggest name free agent that Ottawa has signed away from another team. And, as long as Ottawa’s financial situation remains the same (a.k.a. while Eugene Melnyk owns the team), that isn’t going to change.
But, that’s not to say that Ottawa can’t exploit the free agency system to acquire some truly talented depth. There are a lot more NHL calibre players than there are NHL jobs right now (I’d argue that’s the reason for expansion, but we all know that’s just about the $500 million) and lots of players who will sign for less than $1 million and likely accept two-way contracts.
One way to exploit the market is to go after Group VI unrestricted free agents. This is the group of players who are 25 or older, have been under an NHL contract for at least three years, and have played fewer than 80 NHL games (or 28 for goaltenders). Every year, some quality players slip through this particular crack and Ottawa is a team that should look to capitalize.
Here are some of the players available as unrestricted free agents that could be of interest to Ottawa under this rule:
As we see from three years of combined analytics, any one of these defenders would provide a decent puck-moving option, including Trotman who has the best Corsi/Fenwick in the largest sample size of the group.
The forwards available don’t have the same bona fides at the NHL level as the defenders available, but they are all scorers at the AHL level and, in the small NHL sample sizes available, their analytics look good. Cormier seems to provide the best scoring potential at the NHL level, while Grant offers the best shot analytics at by far the biggest sample size of the three.
Obviously, these aren’t players who are going to be huge difference makers, but they are all solid AHL scorers and have NHL experience. They can provide some experienced depth and can fill out the AHL roster in Binghamton. Personally, I’d like to see Ottawa grab Ruhwedel (for his upside), Cormier, and Grant and sign them to NHL minimum salaries with a two-way clause. Dumont would be an interesting grab, as well, if only so as to steal away the Canadiens AHL captain.
In another post later this week, I’ll offer some suggestions on Group III UFAs (the more traditional group of free agents) that Ottawa could target. I’d also offer a list of RFAs to whom the team could extend an offer sheet, but who are we kidding, really.