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NHL Off-Season Outlook: Ottawa Senators

There is legitimate hope the Senators can emerge as one of the most improved groups in the entire league. How far can the new-look Sens go in 2022-23?
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This is the newest file in THN.com’s ongoing breakdowns of the off-seasons of the NHL's 32 teams. Today, we're looking at the Ottawa Senators.

2021-22 Record: 33-42-7
Finish In The Atlantic Division: 7th
Salary Cap Space Available (As Per CapFriendly.com): $11.6 million
Restricted Free Agents: Alex Formenton, F; Mathieu Joseph, F; Erik Brannstrom, D

What The Senators Have: Two of the best acquisitions of this off-season in forwards Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat; a motivated, veteran new goalie in Cam Talbot; enough salary cap space to make a significant addition during the regular season; a star blueliner in Thomas Chabot, and a promising young defenseman in Jake Sanderson; elite young forwards in Tim Stutzle, Drake Batherson, Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Shane Pinto.

What The Senators Need: More offense from throughout the lineup; a vastly-improved home record (they were 15-22-4 last season); a better power play; depth for their defense corps; better luck on the health front

What’s Realistic For The Senators Next Season: The Senators finished the 2021-22 regular season on a 7-2-1 run, but still were a whopping 34 points out of a playoff spot. That should illustrate how bad they were for much of the season – and although some of that can be chalked up to the injury bug taking a sizeable bite out of them, the truth is they didn’t have enough experience and overall depth of talent at all positions to run with the top four teams in the Atlantic Division.

However, Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion addressed that issue in a big way this off-season by being one of the biggest players on the trade and free agency fronts, landing a pair of high-octane forwards in former Flyers and Panthers star Claude Giroux and ex-Blackhawks sniper Alex DeBrincat. Giroux had long been rumored to be interested in playing for his hometown Sens, while Chicago did not want to pay big dollars to the 24-year-old DeBrincat when he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2023. Still, acquiring either star was easier said than done, and Dorion deserves credit for moving aggressively to improve an offense that needed a lot of help (they generated only 227 goals-for last season, the third-lowest total in the Eastern Conference, and the seventh-worst total in the league).

Following those moves, Dorion addressed his goaltending by first moving veteran Matt Murray to Toronto, then adding former Minnesota Wild netminder Cam Talbot to form a credible tandem with returning veteran Anton Forsberg. Ottawa’s goalies will still be playing behind a defense corps with obvious depth and skill issues, but now that they can produce above-average amounts of offense, wins should be easier to come by.

That said, just about every team in the Atlantic intends on being a playoff team in 2022-23, and the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres will push the aging Boston Bruins’ core to the limit for the final post-season berth in the division. Late Senators owner Eugene Melnyk’s daughters are still in financial control of the franchise, but thus far, they’ve proven willing and able to spend more money on salary to give long-suffering Ottawa fans a winning product. For that reason, anything less than a playoff appearance – which would be the Sens’ first since the 2016-17 campaign – will be a massive disappointment to the organization.

For the moment, though, there is legitimate hope the Senators can emerge as one of the most improved groups in the entire league. There will be pressure on head coach D.J. Smith, but it’s a positive type of pressure, and now it’s on Ottawa’s young core of talent to prove Dorion was right to be patient with it and reap the rewards this year.

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