Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion can take pride in his club's performance this season. A year after missing the playoffs, the underdog Sens marched to within an overtime goal of reaching the Stanley Cup final.
Dorion won't have long to savour it, as he faces a short, busy off-season. Topping his list is determining which players to protect in the upcoming NHL expansion draft. Protecting starting goaltender Craig Anderson is a no-brainer, but Dorion could lose a good defenseman or forward to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Senators carry over $66 million invested in 20 players for 2017-18. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf ($7-million annual average salary through 2020-21) is the only Senator carrying a full no-movement clause to be exempt from the expansion draft. Right winger Bobby Ryan ($7.25-million cap hit through 2021-22) also carries an NMC, but its wording means he could be left unprotected.
Should Dorion protect three defensemen and seven forwards, he risks leaving a blueliner such as Marc Methot or Cody Ceci exposed. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch believes asking Phaneuf to waive his movement clause to protect Methot in the draft makes the most sense.
Garrioch said the Senators don't want to lose Phaneuf and guesses they'll seek reassurance from the Golden Knights that they'll bypass him. If so, Vegas could instead opt to select Fredrik Claesson or Chris Wideman.
Exposing Ryan would allow Dorion to protect another forward, such as Jean-Gabriel Pageau or Ryan Dzingel. Given the 30-year-old's strong postseason performance, Garrioch's colleague Don Brennan feels the Senators shouldn't leave Pageau unprotected.
Ryan's annual cap hit, however, could prove too expensive for the expansion Golden Knights to swallow. When asked if he was worried about the draft, Ryan laughed off the question. “For me? Are they going to take $7 million? No, I'm good,” he replied.
Fortunately for Dorion, all his core players are under contract through 2017-18. Pageau and Dzingel are his notable restricted free agents and both should be affordable re-signings. So could backup goalie Mike Condon. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency in July but Garrioch reports he'd prefer to stay with the Senators.
HURRICANES ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Expect the Carolina Hurricanes to be among this summer's busiest teams. The Raleigh News & Observer's Luke DeCock reports GM Ron Francis said his club is open for business.
Francis wasted little time making a significant off-season move, acquiring goaltender Scott Darling earlier this month from the Chicago Blackhawks and re-signing him to a long-term contract. With the expansion draft less than a month away, he could pull off another move or two.
The Hurricanes carry three second-round picks in this year's draft, along with two selections in the third round. DeCock speculates Francis could draw upon that depth to swing a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure they select the right player. In other words, he could offer them a pick to clear up Carolina's crowded crease by selecting goalie Eddie Lack.
DeCock also suggests those picks could prove attractive to clubs at risk of losing a good forward for nothing in the expansion draft. Those teams include the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators and New York Rangers. One of them might be willing to make a trade with Francis in order to get an asset in return.
Bolstering the Hurricanes' offense is Francis' biggest issue this summer. Their 2.59 goals for per game ranked 20th this season and was a crucial reason why they missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year.
The Hurricanes need a true first-line center, but even their depth in picks and prospects won't be enough to address that need. However, Francis also has considerable depth in good young defensemen. He could package one of them (perhaps Justin Faulk?) as trade bait to address his scoring issues.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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