The Florida Panthers will need to keep an eye on the other Tkachuk’s team, the Ottawa Senators, this season as they look to challenge the Panthers on their way to joining the Eastern Conference playoff field.
2022-23 Record: 39 W | 35 L | 8 OTL | 86 Points
2022-23 H2H Record: 2-1-0
- November 27 @ Ottawa Senators
- February 20 vs. Ottawa Senators
- April 4 @ Ottawa Senators
- April 9 vs. Ottawa Senators
The Senators’ offseason losses are highlighted by their trade of Alex DeBrincat to the Detroit Red Wings. A year after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks — coming off a 41-goal season — hopes were high that surrounding DeBrincat with more offensively talented forwards would further boost his production.
Those hopes would fade as DeBrincat only managed 27 goals over the course of the previous season. Having only signed a one-year contract with Ottawa, but remaining an RFA, the decision was made to recoup assets and give both parties a change of scenery.
Outside of DeBrincat, Ottawa’s forward and defense losses were mostly depth players that should not be hard for them to replace.
In net, Cam Talbot — the team’s winningest goaltender last season — signed with the Los Angeles King in free agency. However, goaltending as a whole was a weak point for the team, so this is not the greatest of losses for the Sens.
Tarasenko’s talent and ability to be a difference maker should not be questioned. When healthy, he can still deliver a point-per-game over the course of a season — as seen in the 2021-22 season. But on the other hand, his health will be worth keeping an eye on since he has only played near the full slate of games in a season once in the past four.
In net, Korpisalo joins in hope of being the Senators’ answer for having a reliable starter. After struggling in Columbus the past couple of seasons, after showing initial promise, Korpisalo reminded everyone of his potential in an 11-game stint with the Los Angeles Kings last season where he recorded a 2.13 GAA and 0.921 save percentage. Returning netminder Anton Forsberg figures to still challenge for the starting job, but just how big of a step the Senators take this season may rest on Korpisalo’s shoulders.
Outside of the offseason additions, the Senators will hope to have their young center Josh Norris back for the entire season after injury limited him to just 8 games last year. Norris had 55 points in 66 games during the 2021-22 season, so a step up in production from the 24-year-old could be in the cards.
Additionally, this will mark the first full season of having Jakob Chychrun on the team since acquiring him in March. Combined with Thomas Chabot, the Senators will have two true first-pairing talent defenders to utilize — usually an important requisite for teams looking to take the next step.
Line Projections (via Daily Faceoff)
Brady Tkachuk – Tim Stützle – Vladimir Tarasenko
Claude Giroux – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson
Ridly Greig – Shane Pinto – Dominik Kubalik
Mathieu Joseph – Mark Kastelic – Zack MacEwen
Thomas Chabot – Jakob Chychrun
Jake Sanderson – Artem Zub
Erik Brannstrom – Travis Harmonic
Verdict: They have the pieces (on paper)
Ottawa is ready to make noise in the Atlantic Division. They have their franchise face, star talent up front, and on defense.
Their top-six forward core, a mix youth, and experienced veterans, can challenge the best six on any other team in the Atlantic.
The defense has a balanced blend of offensive puck movers and defensive minded players. Chabot and Chychrun will steal the headlines, but Harmonic is quietly solid in addition to Zub being one of the better defensive defensemen most fans probably have not heard of.
Questions start to arise in the bottom-six as most of the current expected starters are young and still gaining needed experience. However, within the bottom-six is Mathieu Joseph, who has the experience of winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021. With that experience in hand, he will be needed to help mold his teammates into the type of reliable players needed for the Senators to join the playoff field.
And in net, we hit a stop sign. The Sens will only go as far as Forsberg and Korpisalo take them. Another year of the team’s goalies posting save percentages around .900 and they are likely wild card contenders at best. But if that number gets up to .915 or better, watch out.
With two of the four games against Ottawa coming in April this season, the Senators could pose as one of the more important opponents down the stretch for the Panthers in the leadup to the playoffs.
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