Senators Get Scoring Touch, but Big Risks, With DeBrincat Trade

The Ottawa Senators have long been rumoured to be willing to part with the seventh overall pick of the 2022 NHL Draft. The rumours are now put to rest as it’s now confirmed that the pick is part of a package traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Alex DeBrincat. Along with the seventh pick, they’ve sent the 39th pick and a 2024 third-round pick. DeBrincat, now 24 years old, is signed for one more year.

Adding DeBrincat Without Losing a Roster Player Is Significant

The Senators have been seriously looking at upgrading their forward group since before the regular season ended. There were multiple names thrown about, including Claude Giroux of the Florida Panthers and Kevin Fiala of the Minnesota Wild. While Giroux has not moved, Fiala was sent to the Los Angeles Kings, seemingly closing the door on one of the best forwards on the block. In a rare move for the team, the Senators managed to get an elite player without a drastic overpayment. Acquiring DeBrincat without losing a core player is a huge win for management. For a team with a goal differential of minus-40 at the end of last season, signing a player who has two 40-goal seasons under their belt is a massive boost.

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As Tim Stützle continues to develop at center, the pressure to provide offense is off his shoulders. He should be a near-perfect match as a linemate for DeBrincat. Being able to work on rounding out his game without the need to force plays should help as Stützle continues to come into his own. His crafty and quick play will likely continue to set up plays where DeBrincat can showcase his high-level finishing ability. For a team that struggles to score, there is no bigger pressure relief valve than this trade. Although the sample size may seem small, he is a proven goal scorer and will receive ample opportunity to do so in Ottawa.

What Can Go Wrong With DeBrincat?

This move can really shake up the roster. DeBrincat is under contract for just one more year, with a $6.4 million cap hit. At the end of the contract, he will be a restricted free agent. He’s certainly going to be due more money, which will put immense pressure on management to get their contracts in order. Josh Norris is just one player who needs to be re-signed this offseason and will likely command a minimum of $5.5 million per year. The Senators are approaching a situation where multiple players are going to be due significant raises at the same time. For a team that previously has refused to spend to the cap, they are rapidly approaching a time where they simply won’t have a choice.

Ottawa Senators Pierre Dorion
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

DeBrincat has to be the priority right now. General manager Pierre Dorion has to get an extension in place as soon as possible so that he can navigate the pricing of the team’s remaining contracts. With this trade almost certainly setting them up with a better player than whomever they would have selected in the draft, the Senators are on their way to finding success. If DeBrincat refuses to sign an extension, he could instead take a one-year qualifying offer and then walk to free agency. If that happens, this trade is absolutely a loss for the team.

Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide

There are still many offseason questions to answer, as the front office still has work to do. With this move, there is but one certainty. The Senators are going to ice a better team this season than they did in 2021-22. If, and to be clear, it is an “if,” DeBrincat signs an extension, this may go down as the best trade Dorion has ever made.

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