On being happy that he signed Jean-Gabriel Pageau and avoided the entire arbitration process…
“(I’m happy to avoid the entire arbitration process), because I think if we would have gone in the room, I would have sat on his side. I would have taken my chair and I would have told Randy (Lee) and our arbitration lawyers, ‘You guys can fight our case on the other side.’ No, there’s some players that you really want to avoid arbitration with and with Jean-Gabriel, especially with the way he raised his game in the playoffs and how he played for us all year, we just felt that this was a process that we had to avoid. As I mentioned on the conference call before, Craig Oster and I have known each other for a long time. We’ve (done) many contracts and we both felt that we could come to an agreement. Sometimes they give in and we give in and as he said to me I think in our last (conversation), ‘We both don’t like this, so it probably makes sense to do it.’”
When it comes to PR Dorion, you know that there are some players that when he sings their praises, it’s pure organizational tire pumping. When he talks about Jean-Gabriel Pageau however, Dorion’s praise is as genuine as it gets.
On whether Dorion was zoned in on this length of contract or whether they also looked at something with a longer term…
“Well, this takes him up to his UFA years and this was… we talked a bit about a longer term, but once we get into the UFA (years), we get into something that we maybe want to look to avoid because then the price starts really getting to a certain number where it probably doesn’t make sense to do. But from the get go, we always talked about two or three years and we feel comfortable getting him (under contract) for the next three years really solidifies our group of centremen.”
Three years is a risk-free term for the team’s third line centre and as I wrote about at the time of the signing, maybe there’s an opportunity for Pageau to demonstrate that he can produce in a top-six capacity when he plays away from the likes of a Tom Pyatt.
Between the unfulfilled promise of prospects like Logan Brown and Colin White and the uncertain future of impending UFA Kyle Turris and the possibility of Pageau proving that he can be more than a third line pivot, the landscape for the centre position could shift dramatically by the conclusion of Pageau’s deal. And this centre depth could afford management the flexibility to consider moving a centre to address another position of need.
On Pageau being a player that he doesn’t have to worry about cashing in and seeing his motivations tail off…
“No, I’m not really worried. I think Jean-Gabriel from the start has always been someone that’s really highly motivated and wants to prove to people that he’s a good NHL player. He wants to prove to people that he can take his game to the next level and we’re really happy that we’ve got him for the next three years.”
If he wants to take his game to the next level, the easiest thing he’ll have to do is beg Guy Boucher to shift Pyatt to the fourth line.
On where Pageau fits role-wise in terms of his ability to slot anywhere in the lineup…
“Surprisingly with this year when we talk about roles, the coach actually put him into a few games at right wing and he actually did fairly well when we had to move him up into our top two lines. And he’s someone when we had some injuries, he took on a second-line role. There’s nothing really set in stone because we know that he plays a lot of times against the other team’s best line. So when you play those minutes, those are the guys that especially a lot of times at home, the opposition’s better line will try to get as many minutes as they can. It’s not a question of being a first, second or third liner, it’s about maximizing your minutes to the best of your potential.”
The ancillary benefit of using Pageau as your shutdown guy is that it ideally creates easier matchups for Turris and Brassard to exploit. Having Pageau around and excel in this role insulates the rest of Ottawa’s centres.
On if everyone is healthy, Pageau is a third liner but in terms of how valuable he is, where does he fit in…
“I think we all know he’d be higher than that. He brings so many intangibles and character. We all know the importance of special teams and how he contributes to playing on the PK. I think he cheated a bit less than last year and it helped our PK even though he got less shorthanded goals because all our players like to score goals. But, I think he’s a very important player to our core of the team – whether he’s young or old or wherever he fits in at his age – I think he’s 24-years old now – I think he’s someone that fits in on the core of our team. (He’s) very highly respected amongst peers and very highly respected amongst the coaches and the management staff.”
I think the fans love him too.
Although it’s nice of Dorion to attribute Pageau’s regression in shorthanded goals from a league-leading seven in 2015-16 to none last season as a greater commitment to the team’s benefit, it feels a little forced.
The Senators did experience a greater penalty kill success rate – last season it finished with a 79.7-percent (22nd) kill rate up from 75.8-percent (29th) in 2015-16 – but it still wasn’t particularly good. If anything, it seems more fair to attribute the improvement to things like firing Jared Cowen into the sun. Or maybe we could attribute it to cutting Mark Borowiecki’s SH TOI/GP from 2:12 to 0:42 and bumping Erik Karlsson’s from 1:19 to 2:09 per game. Or hell, maybe it’d be prudent to simply giving the goalies their due for saving a greater percentage of shots on goal.
On Ryan Dzingel’s status and contract negotiations…
“Well, we talked this morning. Donnie (Meehan) and our group talked this morning and we’re still trying to get something done but we understand the process and we understand that there’s a chance that we will go to arbitration on Friday. We’ll prepare for it over the weekend and again this morning, I was talking to our arbitration lawyers about how if we decide to go down this road, how we can have our best-case possible. But, we’d like to get something done, but there are times when you’re so far apart that you know that you’ll most likely be going to arbitration. But, we have a good relationship with Newport and their group and hopefully we can come to some kind of understanding.”
According to an Elliotte Friedman tweet, Dzingel filed for $1.95-million with the Senators correspondingly filing for $1.0-million in arbitration. Both parties are going to file for their beneficial extremes, but it feels like there’s some middle ground for both parties to come to an agreement before this case has to be heard by an arbitrator. If I had to guess, I’m thinking it will be a one-year contract worth $1.3 to $1.4-million.
On whether Dorion is trying to strike any deals before camp…
“Oh, for sure. For sure. Even this morning, I was talking to another GM about a possible deal. I know the Twitter world will go crazy now, but we’re always looking to improve our team. Whatever the situation is, whatever we can do as long as it doesn’t cost us our future, if we feel that we can put a better product on the ice for next year we’ll always look at it. I wouldn’t say the shopping is completely done, but I would say we’re in the checkout line right now.”
It’s not surprising to hear that the Senators consider their offseason to be pretty much done. Although this summer and the postseason run probably offered the organization the greatest opportunity to sell high on a couple of superfluous pieces, it’s safe for management to sit back and return what’s essentially the same roster that took them to within one goal of a Stanley Cup final appearance and hope that young pieces like Thomas Chabot or Colin White can offer greater than replacement level value of the players that left.
On whether there’s an area that he would like to upgrade…
“I like our depth. I feel that I think we could sustain quite a few injuries. I think our depth is a bit young, so it’s a bit of an improvement at many positions. But, some of the depth signings we’ve made, we feel really comfortable with. We feel we’re going to have a good team in Belleville whomever plays there. There’s no real specific position (we need improvement). I think in nets we’re just going to stay status quo and see what happens there. But, up front and on defence, if we feel we can improve there… either one… there’s no real specific area (that we’d like to improve).”
“I feel that I think we could sustain quite a few injuries.”
I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but WTF?!?!
*knock on wood, knock on wood, knock on wood*
On what the Senators can expect from Andrew Hammond and where they see it going in the fall…
“Well, it provides us some security. That’s the one thing that I like about it. We’re not going to hide the fact that he’s number three on the depth chart right now. We’re very fortunate to have two really quality guys – 1A and 1B if you want to look at it that way – but at the same time, he provides us with some security. He’s shown that he can be a really good NHL backup and we’ll see how camp goes. He’s maybe one injury from being called up and you know, just go prove yourself and prove to the hockey world that you deserve to be in the NHL and maybe someone will phone on him.”
The Senators look at the Anderson/Condon tandem as a 1A/1B situation? That’s something.
In regards to Hammond however, I think everyone knew that despite Dorion’s best efforts to play up the presence of Hammond publicly when it came to discussing a contract extension for Mike Condon, it never really felt like Dorion’s comfort level regarding Hammond was tangible.
On the organization demonstrating last year that it had young depth and that some of this young depth could be moved for veteran pieces that could play higher in the lineup…
“That’s probably something that we’re looking at. If we were to make a deal, we maybe give up a younger asset for something that could help us immediately. But, it has to make sense. Like against Washington on October 5th, we always have to think about the big picture. We know we took a huge step in the right direction last year with how we performed and how we played. We feel that we’re going to continue on that path this year. The team’s almost the same. We did lose a big piece in Marc Methot, but at the same time, we feel that with the way Freddie (Claesson) can step up hopefully or whether it’s Dion (Phaneuf) playing with Erik (Karlsson) or whomever it might be, with Thomas Chabot getting in the lineup or Ben Harpur playing, we have enough depth that we feel we’ll be good enough. But at the same time, if we can improve at the top end of our lineup, it’s always something we’d look at.”
I wonder what kind of younger assets the Senators would be looking at moving for a more experienced option. Maybe a player like Nick Paul could be moved and the organization seems to have a few defencemen in Belleville who played some games last season, but I don’t anticipate these kind of pieces fetching much of a return.
Maybe it’d be more prudent for the organization to dip into free agency or offer some players PTOs.
On whether there have been any extension talks with Kyle Turris or Mark Stone…
“No, I’ve had preliminary talks with obviously Turris’ agent, (Craig) Anderson’s agent and Stone’s agent which is Craig Oster. They all know that for now, our focus is on getting our cases done and from there, we’ll see if we can have some talks over the course of the summer. But, you know what? I don’t feel any rush in those deals. Things can seem to work their way out pretty well in Ottawa and they’re all players that we’d like to keep in the long term and we’ll see when we get to negotiations with them.”
No one should envy the position that Pierre Dorion’s been put in.
Handcuffed by the internal budget and a few bad contracts that were acquired by his predecessor (mind you, he has admitted to complicity in said deals), the Senators have painted themselves into a corner where there window to compete (or even contend) is dictated by the fact that their best players are still on inexpensive contracts.
Those contracts belonging to Craig Anderson, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone will all expire over the next two years. Considering the Senators’ struggles to move beyond their playoff bubble status, the question facing management has to be: if this team faces this difficulty each and every season while it’s best players are cheap, how will the team reach the next positive development phase when the performance of their best players remains the same, but the money owed to each of these players jumps significantly and there’s less money to spend on the talent that surrounds them?
On Erik Karlsson coming up on UFA status in 2018 and whether the organization has discussed whether he’d like to stick around long-term…
“Well, no. We’re not going to hide the fact that when July 1st comes around next year, we’d like to start discussing (a new contract) with Erik. But, it’s a process and with that one, we can’t really talk to him until next year and we’re not going to. Everyone knows that I have a pretty close relationship with Erik and he’s one of the better players in the league. And it’s definitely something that will be a priority once that time comes about, but I don’t think we should panic if on July 2nd, we don’t have a contract. I think a lot of teams have done contracts. (Connor) McDavid was done the week after, so let’s wait and see when we get there and hopefully we can get something done for our organization, our fans and for Erik.”
To the organization’s credit, the Senators have shown in recent history that they have no problems retaining talent that comes up on free agency, but if Erik Karlsson walks, you may as well tear down the rest of the roster and start rebuilding.
On the departure of Daniel Alfredsson and whether there’s any anticipation to add to his staff…
“We would like to. I don’t know what roles. We’ve looked at different options. We’ve looked at who would be available. We also looked at the mix with obviously Randy (Lee), myself, Bryan (Murray) and the coaching staff and understanding everyone’s role. We might go the direction more of a pro scout than adding another management-type. As far as when it comes to contracts, Randy and I are almost experts at it. We do our own research. We have a good idea of how to do things. I know Tim Pattyson helps us along when it comes to those contracts, but we both have done them in the past. So we might be looking more just for a hockey guy – someone that wants to go out on the road and be a bit more our eyes out there.”
The smallest front office in the league gets smaller.