The Watch of Shame: Game 1

I’m just gonna steal images from the official Senators Instagram accounts for these.

As a Sens fan currently residing an ocean away from the hallowed largest parking lot in Eastern Ontario, keeping up with the Sens has been a struggle for the last year. Last season, I watched a few periods of whatever games I could, and they were always terrible because the team sucked, so it didn’t feel like I was missing much by being in bed at the hours of 1 AM to 4 AM. However, since the Senators are *takes out permanent marker and circles this word several times* ALLEGEDLY supposed to be good this year, to quote the philosopher Steven Tyler, I don’t want to miss a thing. To prove my dedication to the cause of Watching The Games, I have dropped the legally mandated 99 euros on an international NHL dot TV subscription so I can Watch The Games the morning after they air. The only problem with this otherwise perfect system is that I don’t have somewhere to write my every stupid thought about the game I’m watching. Twitter would usually function as my Mind Toilet here, but the game is over, everyone else is in bed, and the last thing I want to do is ruin everyone’s morning timeline with a 20-tweet thread of shit like “Wow Kyle Okposo really is the Sabres captain, huh? Is this how people feel when they play us?”. That’s Simmer’s job.

Which is why I’m introducing a new post format I’m calling The Watch of Shame, which is just where I’m gonna write all the stuff I would have tweeted if I’d been watching the game live. It’s like a recap, but without anything resembling structure, insight, or effort. Remember, I’m doing this for me, not you, so if it sucks or you don’t like it, no refunds. Ok, that’s enough. Let’s think some thoughts about last night’s game!

1st Period

  • Ottawa’s 3rd line of Motte-Pinto-Joseph is the most frisky-looking five minutes in. Everyone else just putting in Preseason With Extra Steps shifts.
  • Giroux tried to hit DeBrinky with cross-ice pass during an early powerplay and the Sabres sniffed it out immediately. It’s possible they ran that play too well in the pre-season.
Photo used under fair use of showing people some cool shit for educational purposes.
  • Jake Sando just made a between the legs pass under pressure in his own zone, and guess what, it was the perfect play! 10 minutes into his NHL career and he’s already showing more sauce than Cody Ceci has in his entire life.
  • Tkachuk just scored on a beautiful tee-up from Batherson. I love that people think Tkachuk can’t shoot. Keep giving him all that space, boys!
  • DeBrinky could have easily made it 2-0, but Craig Anderson came way out of the net to rush him and cut down the angle. Gotta give it up to Craig for still getting it done in the Big Show at 41. This guy is still pretty good when he’s on 127 days rest.
  • DeBrinky and Giroux can’t quite connect on a 2-on-1 pass. That’s the second time this period these guys have had a chance denied by a well-timed stick.
  • “Tyler Motte has been as advertised!” says the TSN play-by-play guy whose voice I don’t recognize. How was Tyler Motte advertised? A 3rd-line forward who doesn’t suck ass? Connor Brown without the swag? Anyway, agreed, he’s been as advertised.
  • The Sabres have really been going at Chabot when they’re coming into the zone with the puck this period, and unfortunately it pays off at the very end of the period as they draw a tripping penalty.

2nd Period

  • The best chances of the first minute of this Sabres powerplay have come from Ottawa, but Motte couldn’t score on a breakaway, and Sanderson couldn’t get a shot off on a 2-on-1 after DeBrinky’s pass was broken up AGAIN. *extremely pretending he doesn’t know the final score voice* OH I WONDER IF WE’LL REGRET NOT SCORING ON ALL THESE CHANCES.
  • Shots are 17-11 for the Sens right now, and that does seem right in terms of who has been carrying the play. I do wonder about some of the Sens’ D-zone play, though. Sens go from 0 to 5-alarm fire as soon as the structure breaks down even a little bit. Hopefully that’s something that just gets better as the season goes on.
  • Peterka scores after he and Cozens work the give-and-go against Sanderson on a 3-on-2. First time all game Sanderson’s looked out of place. Also I really need Ridly Greig to become the Brendan Gallagher we all know he can become, because I still kinda wish we’d drafted Peterka with that pick. DEUTSCHE SPIELER ÜBER ALLES.
  • Speaking of Deutsche Spieler, Andy just shut the door on a Stützle breakaway chance. Good for Craig. Again I am extremely Not Mad about this!
  • Man, Holden and Brannstrom just had a R O U G H shift and the puck ended up in the net behind Forsberg. Holden looked bad on the zone entries and Brannstrom looked rough by his own net. Tough to blame Forsberg on either of these goals against
  • At least the PK has been looking good? Don’t love that I’ve had so many two opportunities to watch it this period, though.
I’m thinking maybe this should have ended up in a goal?
  • Ok Sens clearly should have scored on the powerplay here, except Stützle fed it across to Norris at approximately Mach 7 and Norris whiffed on it. Levels of Not Mad increasing!
  • Tkachuk just whiffed on a one-timer in the exact middle of the slot on the 2-man advantage. I’ve never been so Not Mad in my life.
  • Stützle can’t convert on yet another breakaway. IS IT JUST ME OR SHOULD IT BE LIKE 5-1 FOR THE SENS RIGHT NOW?
  • Chabot going off for tripping again at the end of the 2nd. This is something to keep an eye on going forward, because the Sabres simply cannot wait to skate at Chabot and it’s paying off for them.
  • Forsberg has made some good glove saves in this PK. Really been enjoying having a goalie who uses his glove this game.

3rd Period

  • Sens starting this one on the powerplay. No good chances.
  • The boards are showing adds for Blue Moon. Does that mean that Labatt’s legendary trademark on beers with the word “Blue” in the name has finally expired? Not sure if you knew this, but in the rest of the world, Belgian Moon is called “Blue Moon” and the reason for that is because Labatt wouldn’t let any other “Blue” beer get sold. If you’re buying Blue Moon in beer stores now, let me know.
  • Other than the moments he’s looked bad, Brannstrom has actually looked pretty good, which I guess is just AKA “the experience of watching Erik Brannstrom”.
  • Tkachuk is shooting from absolutely everywhere tonight. Wonder if he made a bet with Timmy that he’ll have more goals this season.
  • Ok, when Craig Anderson is even gloving down the pucks that get tipped in front of the net, you know it’s just not your night.
  • Sens kill off their 4th penalty of the game. Can’t say the PK has been a complete vault this game, but 6.5 xG/60 from this game is definitely respectable PK defense.
  • Stützle denied by Anderson for the 3rd time in the game, this time with a wild poke check. Anderson’s got me yelling, “He’s just spinning the ball on his finger!” like Krusty watching the Washington Generals at this point.
  • Hard to believe this is still a one goal game. The Sens have failed to convert so many chances that it feels like they’re down by like 4 goals right now.
  • DeBrincat and Giroux have been pretty quiet this game from the 2nd period on, I gotta say. Giroux was in all alone against Anderson at the end of a shift with 3 minutes left and just fired it into the blocker, as if to prove my point.
  • Chabot giveaway at his own blue line with the net empty puts an exclamation point on a bit of a shaky game from him.
  • Just noticed that Victor Olafsson’s goal song is Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!. Good thing I love that song because I just got to hear it twice in 15 seconds.

The Wisdom

That wasn’t the worst Sens game I’ve ever watched. Nothing but love and respect to Craig Anderson. Let’s try scoring some goddamn goals against the Leafs on Saturday.

Here It Is, Your Moment of Salieri

TFW ur extremely Not Mad.

WTYKY Podcast: Episode 30 – Brad Allen….again!!

Yep, we’re still using this image.

Rain or shine, Brad Allen always delivers, and we’re happy to bring him one more time to you, the listener, even if we can’t bring you anything else. In this 2022 NHL Entry Draft Special a skeleton crew of Luke and Brad talk:

  • Slafkovsky vs. Wright
  • Marco Kasper
  • Lekkerimaki vs. Kemell
  • Matthew Savoie
  • Are Jake Sanderson and Ridly Grieg ready?
  • Who might be good value with the 39th overall pick?
  • And more!

Enjoy your long weekend!

You Can’t Go Home Again

In many ways, the existence of this blog is tied to Eugene Melnyk’s ownership of the Ottawa Senators.

We started WTYKY (first titled the Cory Clouston Fashion Review) in the humble years following the 2007 Cup Run, when the Senators, having established themselves as a regular season juggernaut, first flirted with the idea that they should probably rebuild, struggled to accept that harsh truth, and ultimately chose to wander into the desert of “get into the playoffs and anything can happen,” where they arguably still wander today.

This was the ego of Eugene Melnyk or his financial situation or both, and so became the paradigm within which the team had to exist…and so became the paradigm within which our fandom had to exist. This blog embarked on our own journey around that time, one that combined armchair analysis, a piss-poor understanding of analytics, and leaning into the curiosities that inevitably emerge from a team that spent a bare minimum on marketing, research, or understanding how to be considered cool. Left with something as painfully uncool as the 2010-2020 Ottawa Senators, all we could do was try to own it. We don’t have a picture of Stanley Cup banners in our blog’s banner. We have Julia Robillard.

We don’t write many posts on this blog anymore. The idea of writing on a blog has been replaced by something else, something more integrated, sophisticated, easier, louder, scarier, funnier, more immediate. Sometimes I look at the analytics of something dumb I tweeted from my dumb little account with fewer than 1000 followers and see that it received more impressions than the most read post from this blog, which we’ve kept going for over a decade. And so, in some ways, it feels right to mark the death of Eugene Melnyk by resurrecting this blog, for a moment, to write a post, if only because, in a perverse way, I identify with the obsolescence he came to represent.

To be a fan of the Ottawa Senators, and to write about and dissect and argue over beers with friends about the Ottawa Senators, was, inextricably, to do those things about Eugene Melnyk, because everything about the way the team did things was tied to the way Eugene Melnyk did things. He was brash, a braggart, overconfident, and not nearly as rich as he needed to be to pull those things off. In some ways, this complemented the complexes of a bilingual city nestled between Toronto, the cultural capital of anglophones in Canada who have an original six team, and Montreal, the cultural capital of francophones in Canada who have an original six team.

Perhaps Melnyk didn’t complement so much as exacerbate those complexes. Maybe he did both. He shared our insecurities. He justified our insecurities. He was powerful, relatively speaking. Nobody cared. This is all very…Ottawa.

The model of sports franchise ownership exemplified by Eugene Melnyk – what I have referred to as the Wacky Billionaire Model – is in full-on decline. Where once we might have relied on the temperamental interests of an individual who made his fortunes in a particular market, like real estate, or pharmaceuticals, or media, today’s hockey team is usually owned by diversified conglomerates of interests and is stacked in a vertical of integrated investments including content, real estate, merchandise, media, and data. Today’s hockey team is a tiny percentage contribution to a mutual fund.

In that way, the Senators have become increasingly an island unto themselves – hopscotching from loan to loan as Melnyk tried to outrun his debt, trapped in an aging arena on an undeveloped plot of farmland in the city’s suburbs, reminded by that emptiness of Kanata’s promise that it might one day be the Silicon Valley of the North, locked out of lucrative downtown deals by the federal government and Melnyk’s tendency to sabotage his own negotiations. Eugene Melnyk was no more corrupt or brash than any other billionaire privateer, but he existed in a market that tended not to make it easy for billionaire privateers to get away with their privateering, to obscure their privateering with inspiring stories – or at least that indulged privateering in exchange for championships. Melnyk tried to bend the market to his will, which only works if you’re charming or you win, and so the market and Melnyk simply tried to outwait one another.

We’re naturally led to ask, then, what the death of Eugene Melnyk means for the ownership of the Ottawa Senators. There’s the short-term – the team is placed into a family trust, and Melnyk’s daughters decide whether they would like to become franchise owners – with all the prestige and disproportionate attention and thanklessness and abuse that entails – or whether they might like to sell at a time when expansion teams are going for almost a billion dollars. (Forbes tends to value the Sens around a half-billion, but they tend not to build in speculation about what a market will pay for something of which there are only 32.)

We ask the question of ownership not because we are ghouls who bicker while Melnyk’s body is still warm, though we are that, but because this team, around which so many of us have constructed at least parts of our identity by writing blogs and recording podcasts and arguing on Twitter, were and acted like a Melnyk Team, and we don’t really know what it will be and act like in his absence. This fanbase made ‘Sens Sickos,’ a campaign fundamentally about how there has to be something wrong with you to like this team, not only A Thing on Twitter, but something the team itself embraced and promoted. That doesn’t happen without the sick fact of Melnyk’s ownership, and all of the toxicity that led to a revolving door of senior staffers and traded veterans and years of futility. We leaned into the perversity required to love this team because, well, what else did we have? So long as Melnyk was in charge, it would be a series of sure-to-fail Hail Marys and a brass ring that topped out at sneaking into the playoffs. I’ve been writing sporadically on this blog about how that feels for over a decade. I don’t really know how to do anything else.

Whether Ottawa becomes the latest bauble for another, different Wacky Billionaire, or a carefully selected procurement by AI-assisted killbots who hope to turn it into a Lean Scrum Agile meeting, or – dare to dream – a Green Bay Packers-style publicly held nonprofit, what comes next will fundamentally change the way we think about the team, and so it will change the way we think about our city, and so it will change the way we think about ourselves. It won’t all be good, but it will be interesting, and, as always I remain here for the content.

As for this blog, this would seem like a convenient place to put a bookend. We started WTYKY when the team’s window seemingly slammed shut. We renamed it when they drafted a generational defenseman who dragged them within a goal of the Finals. We despaired as core pieces were sold off at a discount. And finally we stagnated as we waited for change. Now that change might finally be here.

But it’s hard to imagine a world in which I don’t simply hit the ‘Purchase’ button on the annual domain renewal prompt, if only to keep intact the record of this weird period in our lives when we took something aspirational – a hockey team as an expression of pride in our community – and tried to make that aspiration work even as it was tied to someone as problematic at Eugene Melnyk. If nothing else, we can take pride in that. Wacky Billionaires come and go. Now we know that, no matter what comes next, we can work miracles if we have to.

WTYKY Podcast: Episode 29 – 2021 NHL Entry Draft Chat with Brad Allen


James and Luke welcome back returning champion Brad Allen to answer questions about the upcoming NHL entry draft. Questions like:

  • How are last year’s draftees going?
  • Is it completely ridiculous to take Jesper Wallstedt at 10th overall when Sebastian Cossa is right there?
  • Who has the edge between Cole Sillinger, Chaz Lucius, and Kent Johnson?
  • Who are some potential RD options at 10?
  • Who are this year’s darkhorses that could still be available in the 2nd and 3rd rounds?

The Case for Signing Nick Bjugstad

Yesterday, on Twitter, I spontaneously tweeted out some line combinations for next year’s Ottawa Senators that featured Matthew Tkachuk in the top six, Dougie Hamilton alongside Thomas Chabot, and Nick Bjugstad as a 2C. I mostly received the kind of gentle pushback you would expect – it’s not realistic that Ottawa can trade for Tkachuk without subtracting another young star, Dougie Hamilton isn’t coming to Ottawa, that sort of thing – all of which I basically agree with. Getting bona fide stars is hard, and Ottawa is unlikely to do it.

But the reaction to the idea of a Bjugstad signing was far and away the most voluminous and critical, which surprised me. Signing a free agent middle-six center with mostly positive underlying numbers if not a great stat line to a mostly affordable deal seemed, to me, to be the least contentious of the proposals. It’s basically bringing in veteran depth the way Ottawa did this past offseason with Stepan, except without having to give up a pick and featuring a younger and better player. Indifference, I expected. Allergic opposition, I didn’t.

Whenever you get a disproportionate response, it suggests to me an opportunity for a discussion. Is Bjugstad an example of where preconceptions don’t line up with the numbers, AKA, just the kind of Moneypuckery that underpins most of our online exchanges? Or am I fundamentally assigning too much value to underlying numbers and ignoring obvious red flags with this player?

In a good-faith attempt to better understand the distance between these positions, let’s take a closer look at Bjugstad, and the arguments against signing him.

All of the following heatmaps, except where otherwise credited, are courtesy of HockeyViz (which is paywalled, and well worth the few bucks a month).

“Bjugstad isn’t good

As mentioned above, his stat line isn’t impressive. His career high is 41 points, and the last time he hit that number was 2017-2018. Last season he was limited to 13 games after spinal surgery on a herniated disc. This past year with the Wild, he returned to play pretty much the full season in a 3rd line role, where he’s put up good underlying numbers:

He’s a net play driver, taking into account linemates, competition, zone starts, game states, etc., helping to increase his team’s shots for while suppressing shots against. He’s good on the powerplay, he draws more penalties than he takes (though he doesn’t draw many), and he takes very few penalties at all.

Compare this to another, higher-priced pending UFA, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:

Nugent-Hopkins has the better shot and a worse penalty differential, but in most other regards, they’re remarkably similar players in terms of their effects on driving play. RNH is coming off of a 7-year, $42 million contract, however, while Bjugstad is coming off of a 6-year, $24.6 million contract.

In other words, Bjugstad is a good defensive player on the right side of 30 who drives play but can’t score. If he drives play by suppressing shots-against at a greater rate than he produces shots-for, then even better: teams overpay for goals and points, and underpay for avoiding goals and points against. In that regard, Bjugstad may even represent value.

Ottawa has the worst GA/GP in the league this season, which you can chalk up a bit to goaltending, but they also have the fourth-worst SA/GP in the league. They could use a defensively sound depth player who can play up and down the lineup.

Looking back, he’s been a net positive in five out of nine seasons. 2016-2017 was horrible, as was his rookie year.

So, to the argument that Bjugstad isn’t good, I guess I would say that it depends on how we’re defining good. There’s certainly better out there, if you’re willing to spend more than $5 million per year. But if you’re looking for a middle six center, he’s usually a net positive player whose characteristics you don’t tend to overpay for, and that’s what I mean when I say he’s good.

“There are better options out there.”

It’s true that Dorion could do as he did with Stepan and target a center to bring in via trade. I will grant you that if he can pull that off, and the player’s numbers are better than Bjugstad’s, then maybe that’s preferable, but you have to factor in the asset it would cost you to bring in a good player. Hence my decision to concentrate on free agents.

Here are the top 15 pending UFA centers by salary, filtered to show no players older than 30 or making more than $5M at the time of this writing (courtesy of Cap Friendly):

Of these, there are four others who are also net-positive drivers, according to HockeyViz: Tomas Nosek, Casey Cizikas, Philip Danault and Mikael Granlund. (Jordan Weal has good numbers, but hasn’t played any games this year.)

Nosek can drive play, is an average defensive player who is bad on the penalty kill and takes penalties (though also draws them). He can’t really shoot.

Cizikas is an excellent net positive player putting up comparable numbers to Bjugstad, is even better than Bjugstad defensively, is good on the penalty kill, and for some reason takes a ton of penalties. This is probably the closest pending UFA centerman I’d want Ottawa to go after alongside Bjugstad, though it should be noted that he’s already 30.

Danault is an excellent defensive forward, but doesn’t do anything on offense, and takes a lot of penalties with a negative penalty differential.

Granlund is interesting, because he can actually score, but he’s weak defensively and takes more penalties than he draws, and is average on the powerplay.

Against his comparable in this UFA class, Bjugstad is definitely a competitive choice.

I’m fine with them signing him, but why did you suggest $5M X 5?

Bjugstad’s last deal was $24.6 million over six years, and I figured with him being a UFA and Ottawa not being a big free agent destination, that that’s what it would take to bring him in. He’s better than Colin White, but older, so I figured White’s 6-year, $28.5 million deal was a good ballpark.

I was somewhat surprised to see how much pushback this received. It’s true that the team will need to re-sign Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson this offseason, and Josh Norris, and Tim Stutzle in the next few years, during which time they probably don’t want expensive depth on the books. But they also have a plethora of expiring deals – Anisimov and Dzingel as UFAs and Tierney likely to Seattle in the expansion draft is $11.425 million right there. And, in a flat cap world, most of our expensive RFAs will likely opt for shorter, cheaper bridge deals rather than give away UFA years for less.

Having said all of that, if it’s term that fans are worried about, I completely understand. My argument was that five years was what I thought it would take to sign Bjugstad, not that I desperately want Bjugstad’s 30-33 years. Obviously, if Bjugstad is willing to sign for fewer years – say, to Dadanov’s three-year deal – or if fans can stomach a higher payday in exchange for a shorter deal, that’s preferable.

The Sens should just roll with Norris / Pinto / White / Stutzle and/or keep Tierney”

Norris has looked pretty good playing as a top six forward, and Pinto has been impressive in all of his two NHL games. But assuming that that’s your top two for next year might be asking a lot. Both will have ups and downs, so it would be helpful to have a veteran center who can play up and down the lineup.

If Pinto plays very well and bumps Bjugstad down to the third or fourth line, that’s a good problem to have; the Senators will be able to roll four lines and have more options when it comes to team matchups. This is basically the same ethos the team is using with White, who has played in mostly a third-line role this year. But going into next year with the assumption that Norris, Pinto, White, and Stutzle give you 82 high-quality games seems awfully risky to me.

As for Stutzle, I think we’re all hoping he can play center at some point, but he’s like 12 years old and is getting caved in defensively this year, even with sheltered minutes and favorable zone starts. He’s not ready for prime time, nor should we expect him to be.

“The Sens should be focusing their money on defence.”

I tend to agree that of all of the things that need fixing, defence probably comes first. I did this same exercise for defensemen and identified three players who were net positive, 30 or under, and relatively affordable – Ryan Murray, Jamie Oleksiak, and Jake McCabe. (I also wanted them to re-sign Mike Reilly, but he was traded to Boston for a pick shortly after.) However, I received similar pushback from people on twitter.

I don’t know how Ottawa fixes the defence if these kinds of net positive, affordable UFAs are off the table. Obviously, if they throw everything in the world at Dougie Hamilton, he bites, and that takes Bjugstad off the table, I would be okay with that.

The main thing I want to emphasize here is that it’s really hard to state just how little money Ottawa is spending next year, even with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson on big extensions. Even if Ottawa signs Tkachuk and Batherson to matching $7M per year extensions, extends Zub and Mete at a raise, and signs Bjugstad to a $5M per year deal, they’d BARELY be over the $60M salary floor.

If we take their spending this season as a guide, at their peak spending they had a cap hit of about $73.6M. Even with many of those cap hits including lower salaries, there should still be plenty of room to sign or trade for a defenceman.

In other words, bringing in a veteran middle six center doesn’t preclude you from spending elsewhere, even after re-signing your big RFAs.

Conclusion: There are worse things than overspending to improve your team

Is Nick Bjugstad the difference between the Sens making the playoffs next year or not? No, probably not. They’re in tough in a division with Tampa, Toronto, Boston, a suddenly resurgent Florida and big-spending Montreal. But a defensively leaky team who is especially green down the middle who can add a relatively young player on an affordable deal should look closely at doing so.

Is $5M per year for five years too much? Maybe a little. But if a person can’t enjoy the team improving itself at $25 million because they think we should have improved themselves for $20 million, then we could just be watching hockey for different and equally valid reasons.

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My Dream 2021 Ottawa Senators Offseason

Credit to u/BigShoots over on Reddit – this image is fuckin’ amazing.

As as far I’m concerned, the rest of the Senators’ season is a wash. I hope we get to see young Jimmy Stu hit some dingers, take in the summer sunshine on the soccer baseball field, and leave working on our abs until next year. Wins and losses don’t matter when it’s all good.

It’s in the spirit of just having fun and not worrying about the small things that I wanted to write about what my dream offseason looks like – not to worry about or debate asset management, necessarily, but to get excited about the possibilities for a team with plenty of cheap young talent and cap space. The Sens are about to go into the first season in a while where their team might reasonably compete for a playoff spot, and a market with teams looking to cut payroll. There’s a lot of opportunity to improve.

Let’s do some imagineering, everyone.


  • The transactions have to actually exist in the realm of possibility. We can debate whether what I describe here is likely to happen, but you have to be able to at least see it happening. There’s no “Trade a 3rd round pick for Connor McDavid” here.
  • The Sens’ financial situation hasn’t changed. This is somewhat related to the above. The Sens are likely to continue to spend near the bottom of the league next year, with their actual spending even lower than their cap hit. Also, they’re unlikely to trade for or sign anyone with massive signing bonuses.
  • The Kraken will fuck all of this up. Having an expansion draft in the middle of a pandemic season basically throws another incredibly complex set of contingencies into all of this decision-making. I try to make assumptions about that while admitting that there are aspects about which I’m probably completely unaware.
  • Jack Eichel doesn’t want to come to Ottawa. If he does, throw all of this out and start over. We could do a whole post just on what it would take and whether it would be worth it.

Okay? Okay. Here we go.


You knew this one was coming. Matthew Tkachuk is young, good, and related to our future captain. Presuming there’s a world in which Brady is okay with sharing his team with his brother and in which Calgary is willing to start their rebuild by trading Matthew, the Sens make this happen.

Remember: it has to exist in the REALM of the possible. That’s a big realm! But it’s totally possible. Calgary is on the verge of performing major surgery on their lineup, and once they start offering Gaudreau and Monahan’s big money contracts and term around the league in a flat-cap world, I think Flames fans will see just how little they can get in return.

Get ready for some late first rounders, depth NHL players, and B-list prospects, Flames fans – and welcome to the recent world of Sens fans!

Also, as elite as Matthew Tkachuk is, if Calgary does decide to rebuild, is Matthew Tkachuk really the kind of player you rebuild around? A power forward who plays on the wing? It would hurt to trade a 23 year old, but paying him big bucks for the next 4-5 years while you rebuild doesn’t make much sense.

The Senators have an ace in the hole – a top five pick they can stomach giving up. They selected twice in the top five last year, have tons of prospects in the pipeline, and it’s a relatively weak draft where nobody has been able to scout as much as they’d like to.

Given Tkachuk’s age – he’s only 23 after all – it might take more than just a pick – an additional, later pick, or a prospect like Logan Brown or Lassi Thomson. But no other team in the league has a top-five pick they can bear to part with, the prospect pool, the cap room, and the ability to have two Tkachuks in their lineup at the same time. Matthew might not be on the trade block, I grant you this. But if he is, there’s no other team that can compete with what Ottawa can offer.

You could certainly argue that Matthew Tkachuk isn’t worth a top five pick, especially given Ottawa will pay that pick league minimum for three years. But the Senators have to get to the cap floor, and the ticket sales bonanza that would result from having a Tkachuk on each of their top two lines – or, god help the league, both on the same line – would help to pad the economic blow. It’s tantalizing from a marketing perspective.

I can’t think of any other move that Ottawa can make that would generate more enthusiasm around the team coming out of the pandemic and after years of PR damage from the poorly messaged rebuild. This would change the entire dynamic of the Atlantic division.


Another protestation to trading for Matthew Tkachuk is that his deal expires after next season, though he is an RFA. Presuming the Tkachuk brothers want to play together, their respective deals can act as hooks to keep the other in the fold.

Brady is due a new deal, and the speculation is that in a flat cap world, teams and players alike prefer short term deals of three to four years. I think that’s plenty likely, with Brady’s deal likely to look like the 3 x $7M deal Matthew signed in 2019. But if there’s a possibility to offer Brady a deal that starts with Thomas Chabot’s – 8 x $8M – the team should take it.

It’s true that the players may like to gamble on themselves and a rising cap in the next few years to try to cash in big down the line. But when somebody puts a starting bid of $64 million in front of you, it tends to get the gears moving. Give him $70M and the C, and he’ll re-sign.

When Matthew’s deal is up at the end of the year following, the team can offer him the exact same deal as Brady to keep harmony in the lineup and in the family. Hard to think the Tkachuks won’t think long and hard about a team who’s willing to give at least $140 million to their family.


Presuming that the Senators let Artem Anisimov walk in the offseason (and they should) and Chris Tierney is select by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, the Senators will need some cheap, young, reliable center depth, even if Shane Pinto makes the team out of training camp.

There are four candidates I can see that are 1) cheap (no more than $4M per season), 2) young (under 30), 3) a net positive on shots generation/suppression (all courtesy of Hockey Viz) and 4) pending UFAs presumably available on the free agent market.

  • Nick Bjugstad (MIN)
  • Mikael Granlund (NSH)
  • Phillip Danault (MTL)
  • Jordon Weal (MTL)

If the Sens can lock up one of these players for fewer than four years and no more than $4M per, they should do it – especially if it means weakening the depth of a division rival, and appealing to those players’ desire to stay near Montreal where their kids go to school, etc.


Mike Reilly has been a bright spot on an otherwise defensively atrocious hockey team, driving play at a very affordable price point of $1.5M. If he can be re-signed at fewer than four years and only a slight raise, the Sens should seriously consider it. For the purposes of this simulation, let’s presume a nice raise to an annual salary of $2.5M.

I’m also assuming that the Sens find some way to jettison Joshua Brown’s $1.2M salary next season. He’s been an absolute boat anchor in terms of driving shots. Maybe Ottawa can find someone who will give up a late pick or future considerations. Unfortunately, his real salary goes up to $1.4M. He might find himself in Belleville.

Also, it goes without saying that Gudbranson and Coburn are fired into the sun at the first possible opportunity.

Of course, it would be incredible if the Sens went all in and tried to sign Dougie Hamilton, a legit elite defenseman who would be perfect for a team that wants to take the next step. Considering how few of those make it to free agency, I assume all kinds of richer teams will be in on him and he’ll earn maximum term on a $8M+ per year deal. The Sens should probably stay away. As I said above – the Sens financial situation probably hasn’t changed.

This basically adheres to the structure set above to seeking out depth centers: 1) cheap (no more than $4M per season), 2) young (under 30), 3) a net positive on shots generation/suppression (courtesy of Hockey Viz) and 4) pending UFAs presumably available on the free agent market. I also targeted left-handed D.

I see three defensemen Ottawa can target:

  • Jake McCabe (BUF)
  • Jamie Oleksiak (DAL)
  • Ryan Murray (NJ)

Of those three, Murray probably attracts the most attention on the free market, having been a former second overall pick. McCabe, on the other hand, is relatively unknown, has spent the season on the abysmal Sabres, and has had a solid 3-4 seasons of reliable, stay-at-home defensive hockey with a net positive shot suppression rate. He also draws way more penalties than he takes. He doesn’t do much offensively, but he could help to tighten up the leaky ship that is the Senators’ defence.


I don’t know, man. This is a tough one. On the one hand, that Matt Murray contract looks killer, but on the other, the Sens have shown they have a fairly deep pipeline of young goalies in Gustavsson and Daccord. I don’t see them being able to do much here. You’ve just gotta hope that Murray can get it together in the offseason with a new goalie coach.

I assume that Murray’s contract is unmoveable, that Hogberg gets another chance, and Forsberg walks in the offseason. (Hopefully finding some term somewhere – Godspeed, gentle warrior.)



B. Tkachuk ($925k) – Norris ($925k) – Batherson ($736k)

Stutzle ($925k) – Pinto ($925k) – M. Tkachuk ($7M)

Paul ($1.35M) – White ($4.75M) – Dadanov ($5M)

Formenton ($747k) – Bjugstad/Granlund/Danault/Weal ($4M) – Brown ($3.6M)

(Watson) ($1.5M)


Chabot ($8M) – Zaitsev ($4.5M)

McCabe/Oleksiak/Murray ($4M) – Bernard-Docker ($925k)

Reilly ($2.5M) – Zub/Brannstrom ($925k)


Murray ($6.25M)

Gustavsson/Hogberg ($760k)

Cap total: $60.243 million – just a hair over the $60.2 cap floor.

This is a lineup that improves its center depth and defensive depth, adds a bona fide star in their top six with a compelling story that will sell tickets, and maintains plenty of cap and financial room for Brady’s monster deal the season following and a bridge deal for Josh Norris. Even with Brady making $8M+ per year, the Sens would find themselves $10M+ under the cap as it exists today.

It also allows for the young players to continue to grow. It doesn’t necessarily resolve the issue of the goaltending, and I could still see this lineup finishing well outside of the playoffs. But with a series of boat anchor veteran contracts off the books, development of the youngins taken into account, improvement around the margins, and the special sauce of a Duel Tkachuk Attack, you could see this team giving fits to the Division and the Conference.

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WTYKY Podcast: Episode 27 – Talking Craigs: Stop Making Sens


James and Luke welcome back returning champion Brad Allen to answer questions about the upcoming NHL entry draft. Questions like:

  • How are last year’s draftees going?
  • Is it completely ridiculous to take Jesper Wallstedt at 10th overall when Sebastian Cossa is right there?
  • Who has the edge between Cole Sillinger, Chaz Lucius, and Kent Johnson?
  • Who are some potential RD options at 10?
  • Who are this year’s darkhorses that could still be available in the 2nd and 3rd rounds?