The Senators unexpectedly made a major free agent splash this afternoon announcing that they had signed Russian winger Evgeni Dadonov to a three-year deal worth an average annual value (AAV) of $5.0 million.
The 31-year old Russian has spent parts of six seasons with the Florida Panthers after being drafted in the third-round (71st overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft.
The first few years of Dadonov’s NHL career were relatively underwhelming and at the conclusion of his entry-level deal, the winger left North America to play in the KHL with Donbass Donetsk and SKA St. Petersburg.
After a few productive campaigns overseas, Dadonov returned to the Panthers as a 28-year old and posted three incredibly strong campaigns.
In each of the last three seasons, Dadonov has scored 25 or more goals. He registered 60-plus points in his first two campaigns back before falling back to 47 points in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 campaign.
The shot-based possession metrics have tended to favour Dadonov as well.
NaturalStatTrick.com‘s dataset shows that the Panthers generated the majority of the shots (CF%), shots on goal (SF%), scoring chances (SCF%), goals (GF%) and expected goals (xGF%) when Dadonov was on the ice.
Even though the 2018-19 season can be seen as somewhat of a blemish, but from an isolated impact standpoint, Hockeyviz.com‘s data shows that it was the worst of his career.
Fortunately, Dadonov was still a positive performer in 2018-19 and he returned to being a positive impact in both ends of the ice for the 2019-20 campaign.
As Dadonov enters his early 30’s, there could be some concern that he will be entering the age-related declining phase of his career, but if there is not too much of a precipitous drop in his on-ice play, the Senators will have acquired a player who can help them at both ends of the ice.
In that sense, this signing is sort of reminiscent of the Clarke MacArthur signing for me. Although they are two completely different players, they both reached Ottawa near the age of 30 as unheralded but very useful players.
The structure of Dadonov’s deal brings up some important talking points.
Dadonov will earn $3.5 million in 2020-21 before it escalates to $5.0 million and then $6.5 million over the last two years of his deal.
Due to its backloaded nature, like Matt Murray’s, Dadonov’s contract could potentially be problematic for the Senators down the road at a point when the team is more competitive.
Yes, a frontloaded deal would be preferable in the sense that the Senators are still in a rebuilding year and simply do not have a lot of salary expenditure on their books. By frontloading it, it would theoretically give the Senators more cash to spend at a later date when the team is more competitive and could be better augmented to maximize the team’s potential.
With that said, like many of the contracts affected by the pandemic, revenues and 20-percent escrow, Dadonov’s deal had to be a backloaded one.
Moreover, the organization has promised to spend to the upper reaches of the cap ceiling however, so it is possible that these contracts will not pose a problem at all. But, if the organization cannot be held to its word, it will be interesting to see how deals like Murray’s and Dadonov’s will impact the team’s decision-making in 2022-23 when they are making a combined $13.5 million in real dollars.
The money could be a problem or it may not be a problem at all and although the Senators could potentially be overpaying for past production, there simply aren’t too many players beating down the door to come to Ottawa.
Between Dadonov’s recent production, strong team-level metrics when he is on the ice, there is a lot to like about this signing.
Not only should he have no trouble replacing the kind of production that this team lost in Anthony Duclair, but he will actually be a boost to this team’s lineup at both ends of the ice. And considering how desperate this organization is to add good two-way talent to its lineup, I cannot understate the importance of this deal.
For an organization that simply doesn’t have a lot of decisive-wins in its recent transaction history, Senators fans will excitedly take one when they can.