Where Should the Senators’ Priorities Be With Their RFA Class?

With the Ottawa Senators 2020-21 shortened 56 game season coming to end, I figured this would be a good time to look at what the Senators’ off-season playbook will look like. Part one of the series will look at the restricted free-agency class.

Ottawa Senators celebrate , The Canadian Press

Sitting at $31,851,667 in projected cap space, Pierre Dorion should have the flexibility of how to work contracts for this off-season RFA class. I have broken it up into three different tiers.

Tier one is an everyday core member of this team, tier two is Complimentary pieces, and tier three have developed in the AHL but isn’t a high-priority signing.

Tier One

Left-winger Brady Tkachuk (21), right-winger Drake Batherson (23), and right-handed defenceman Artem Zub (25) are the three players who have earned a significant pay raise.

Since being drafted fourth overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Brady Tkachuk has been nothing but a monster on the ice, he is the leader of this team and many fans believe he is the next captain of the Ottawa Senators. With two 40+ point seasons and a projected 50+ point season in an 82 game season, Tkachuk is primed for massive pay raise as he enters his age 22 season.

Drafted in the third round, 121st overall in 2017 after his 19-year-old season in the QMJHL playing for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Drake Batherson has been nothing but spectacular. After finishing the 2017-18 season with 77 points (29G, 48A) in only 51 games and a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Juniors, Batherson has continued to grow, earning All-Star nods in both his AHL seasons and hitting 30 points in his first full NHL season. Entering his age 23 season, locking up Batherson may require a short-term overpayment but by the end of it, it will be worth the money.

Rounding out tier one, Artem Zub entered the NHL as a 25-year-old rookie right-handed defenceman who has spent the last 7 seasons playing in the KHL. He also has a gold medal to his name as part of the Olympic Athletes of Russia Men’s Hockey Team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea. Since being put into the lineup after spending the first 10 games in the pressbox, Zub has been the Senators’ best overall defenceman, creating a dynamic duo with former defensive partner Mike Reilly and now helping Erik Brännström get comfortable in the NHL.

Tier Two

Left-handed defenceman Victor Mete (22), centre Michael Amadio (24), goalie Marcus Högberg (26) and goalie Filip Gustavsson (22) could all see time in a Senators uniform in the 2021-22 season.

Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

After being claimed on waivers from the Montréal Canadiens on April 12th, Mete has played very well in a third-pairing left-handed defenceman role beside Josh Brown. Heading into the 2021-22 season as a 23-year-old, signing Mete to a one-year prove-it deal that will land him back as an RFA at the end of next season could be beneficial to both the club and the player. Having a mobile left side featuring Thomas Chabot, Brännström and Mete should allow a full team offensive strike ability.

Acquired from Los Angeles Kings in a trade for Christian Wolanin on March 29, Amadio has played well in the limited games he has seen with the club and depending on how the expansion draft goes, Amadio would a solid depth player who can give the club solid efforts in the Bottom six and on the penalty kill.

Bringing back Swedish goaltender Marcus Högberg is heavily dependent on the Seattle Expansion Draft and if the NHL decides to keep the taxi squad or mandatory three goalies on the roster. We all know Högberg has played horribly this season but if Daccord or Murray end up in Seattle, he could make his return to Ottawa as a number two or three.

The 22-year-old Filip Gustavsson has struggled in the AHL but he did not look out of place in the NHL. Gustavsson looked like the future goalie we all were told he would be when Ottawa traded Derek Brassard to Pittsburgh in return for him and a first-round pick (Jacob Bernard-Docker). There is no question he will be brought back by the organization this off-season to be Belleville’s number one goalie for the 2021-22 season but could also be looked at as next year back up depending on how the NHL Expansion Draft goes.

Tier Three

Centre Logan Brown (23), left-winger Vitaly Abramov (22), left-handed defenceman Brandon Fortunato (24), and centre Zachary Magwood (23).

Logan Brown with the Belleville Senators

The majority of the Senators AHL players who are RFAs will be back next season but these four players should either fight for a roster spot out of camp or could end up being one of the first guys called up in case of an injury.

Both Logan Brown and Vitaly Abramov will be entering their age 23 seasons in 2021-22 and should be able to compete for a roster spot in camp come September. They have both had success in the AHL over the last two seasons and need to translate it to the NHL. I know people have talked about using one of them to keep our goalies protected in the Expansion Draft but I highly doubt that happens.

Zachary Magwood and Brandon Fortunato should both be back as insurance pieces in Ottawa while getting consistent playing time in Belleville. With the uncertainty around the AHL season in 2021, Pierre Dorion seemed to forget about creating a competitive Belleville squad and I don’t expect that to happen again heading into the 2021-22 season.

Between May 12 through July 28th, Pierre Dorion has a handful of contracts that should all be rather easy to get done and set Ottawa for a successful 2021-22 Season.

Thank you for reading, follow me @Rambo Sports on Twitter for all your sports updates. If you like the article let us know and check back here at the end of the season as I break down each tier into a more detailed analysis.

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