There was a time when the Ottawa Senators hated the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now they’re trying to be the Toronto Maple Leafs. Or at least the Senators want to kill penalties like the Maple Leafs did. That much was clear when the Senators pulled a minor surprise by signing defenseman Ron Hainsey on a one-year deal worth $3.5 million, where he’ll join fellow Maple Leaf penalty killers Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Brown and head coach D.J. Smith, who handled penalty killing for the Leafs as an assistant coach. (They also signed Tyler Ennis to a one-year deal.)
Just one quick question: Did Senators GM Pierre Dorion actually watch the Maple Leafs’ first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins? If he didn’t, we’d like to remind him that the Bruins went 7-for-16 on the power play in that series. That aside, Hainsey remains a stalwart on the penalty kill and will provide a veteran presence to a young blueline corps in Ottawa. His relationship with Smith was likely a factor, with Smith wanting Hainsey around to mentor and lead Ottawa’s youthful defense corps. More importantly, by bringing in Hainsey and Zaitsev, it will likely allow the Senators to keep prized prospect Erik Brannstrom in the minors for another year, where he belongs, rather than rush him onto an NHL roster that is still a long way from competing and contending.
After not playing a single playoff game in his first 12 seasons in the NHL, Hainsey has appeared in the post-season each of the past three, including winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017. Hainsey likely won’t have to worry about extending his season in 2019-20 in Ottawa, but he may ultimately help sow the seeds that will one day germinate into the Senators returning to playoff contention.
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