The National Hockey League offseason is a time for reflection, ample rest, and the ability to look back and wonder what could have been (or what was) for 31 teams. Heading into the 2020-21 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ottawa Senators are a club looking to upgrade in several areas. They would greatly benefit from an improvement in goal, added size and mobility on the blue line, and some speed and exuberance up front among their bottom-six forward group.
In this article, I will examine four prospective mid-tier free-agent targets that the Senators should pursue once the season concludes. Let’s read on and find out who they are and why they would be excellent fits in Canada’s capital city.
Thomas Greiss, Goaltender, 2019-20 Cap Hit: $3.3 Million
In an offseason marked with a plethora of free-agent goaltenders that includes the likes of Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, Corey Crawford, Anton Khudobin, Jimmy Howard, and Braden Holtby, Thomas Greiss is an interesting name. Slated to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA), Greiss has enjoyed his time in the NHL, and is one of those unique goaltenders who can serve as a stable backup, or even carry the load for 40-50 games when called upon.
This season with the New York Islanders Greiss posted a 16-9-0 record in 29 starts with a 2.74 goals against average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage (SV%). These playoffs have also been impressive for the German netminder. Fresh off a 16-save, 4-0 shutout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 that saw the Islanders advance to the Eastern Conference Final, he has been stellar when called upon, posting a 2-1 postseason record with a 1.08 GAA and .960 SV%.
Greiss, who will turn 35 in January, still has a few good years left in him, and can provide a stable presence in the Senators’ crease. He’s capable, respected amongst his teammates, and just a good all-around guy to have around the locker room. I’m a big fan of him, and think he’d be a real good fit in Canada’s capital city.
Joel Edmundson, Defenseman, 2019-20 Cap Hit: $3.1 Million
Brandon, Manitoba native, Joel Edmundson comes in as the lone defenseman on the list, and is one of those players who would be an excellent fit on any team’s blue line. At age 27, he put together a nice campaign this past season with the Carolina Hurricanes scoring 7 goals, 20 points, and a plus-7 rating, with 18:27 of ice time. During the playoffs, he averaged over 23 minutes of ice time adding one goal in four games as the Hurricanes were bounced in the first round by the Boston Bruins.
Edmundson, who won the 2019 Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues is steady, reliable, and the “real deal” on defense. Standing at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he is strong, physical, and moves around the ice better than most “big men” in the NHL. He is the ideal shut-down D-man, who would form a strong second-pairing tandem on the Senators’ blue line. I think he would be a wonderful addition to an Ottawa team looking for size, experience, and mobility on their back end after Thomas Chabot.
Matt Nieto, Left Wing/Right Wing, 2019-20 Cap Hit: $1.975 Million
Diminutive winger and Long Beach, California native Matt Nieto starts us off at forward. At 27 years of age, he would fit in like a new glove in Ottawa with his speed, grit, and leadership. A seven-year NHL veteran, I like Nieto’s game because he keeps it simple, can be relied on by his teammates and coaching staff, and is a solid penalty-killer.
Nieto scored 8 goals (including 3 game-winners) and 21 points in 70 games this season in Denver to go along with a plus-7 rating. He’ll likely receive a pay increase from his (team-friendly) $1.975 million cap hit that he earned this past season, along with some added ice time and responsibility should he sign with Ottawa. If I’m Pierre Dorion, I’m making Nieto an offer — he’d look great in a Senators’ uniform.
Mattias Janmark, Center, 2019-20 Cap Hit: $2.3 Million
Mattias Janmark rounds out our list as a potential target in free agency for the Senators. Born and raised in the hockey hot-bed of Stockholm, Sweden, he is an excellent two-way centerman who thinks the game at a high level.
Janmark is just two years removed from a 19-goal campaign and 34-point campaign that he accomplished back in 2017-18 with the Dallas Stars. He would bring an infusion of energy and speed to the Sens along with being a real good on-ice presence for a Senators team that’s young (and inexperienced) at center with the likes of Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, Colin White, and Nick Paul. Janmark would be a great off-season addition to the city of Ottawa.
Looking Ahead to 2020-21
Although I don’t envision the Senators being major contenders in this off season’s free-agent market, the names outlined in this article provide fans of the club with potential targets that would be real, good additions to the young Senators in the coming years.
Keep in mind that the Senators are slated to select third and fifth-overall at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft (among other selections), further signifying the team’s intent on building a contender through sound drafting and development along with astute trades and acquisitions. For a team that hasn’t had much to cheer about on the ice over the past few seasons, it’s certainly an exciting time to be a Senators fan as the club continues to retool, rebuild, and reshape their roster ahead of the 2020-21 season.