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Senators season preview: DeBrincat-Stutzle-Giroux line should add punch

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The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps underway, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Ottawa Senators.

Coach: D.J. Smith (fourth season)

Last season: 33-42-7, seventh in Atlantic Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs

3 KEYS1. Top-six chemistry

By bringing in Claude Giroux, 34, and Alex DeBrincat, 24, the Senators revamped one-third of their top-six forward group. General manager Pierre Dorion said the initial plan is to play the newcomers with third-year forward Tim Stutzle, 20. It looks promising especially given the different characteristics of each member. Giroux is the savvy veteran who will be as much teacher as linemate after being acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on March 19 and signing a three-year, $19.5 million contract on July 13; DeBrincat, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 7, is a finisher who has averaged 32 goals a season through his first five in the NHL; and Ottawa showed its confidence in Stutzle by signing him to an eight-year $66.8 million contract Sept. 7. The three will be given every opportunity to develop chemistry during training camp.

2. Help for Chabot

Thomas Chabot is entering the prime of his career; the 25-year-old has 188 points (42 goals, 146 assists) in 313 NHL games, all with the Senators, and has proven to be a franchise defenseman. But he needs help on the back end. Chabot led Ottawa defensemen in scoring with 38 points (seven goals, 31 assists) in 59 games last season; the next highest point producer on the blue line was Artem Zub, who had 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) despite playing 81 games. Whether it comes from Zub, veterans Travis Hamonic or Nikita Zaitsev or rookie Jake Sanderson, the Senators need more point production from defensemen not named Thomas Chabot.

3. Net gains

The Senators have allowed 691 goals over the past three seasons; only the Detroit Red Wings (743), New Jersey Devils (715), Montreal Canadiens (702) and Buffalo Sabres (698) have given up more in that span. In the past two seasons, Ottawa has used six goalies: Anton Forsberg (54 games played), Matt Murray (47), Filip Gustavsson (27), Marcus Hogberg (14), Joey Daccord (eight) and Mads Sogaard (two). By acquiring veteran Cam Talbot in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for Gustavsson on July 12, the Senators may finally have the stability in net they have been looking for; the 35-year-old was 32-12-4 with a 2.76 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and three shutouts in 49 games (48 starts) with the Wild last season. After Ottawa opened the 2020-21 season 1-8-1 and began last season 3-9-1, Talbot’s composure and leadership could help add up to a better start this time around.

Video: Ottawa Senators offseason

ROSTER RUNDOWNMaking the cut

The biggest roster battles in camp will come on defense. Though Chabot, Zub and Hamonic are slotted in, there will be plenty of opportunity for younger players to start the season in the NHL. Ottawa has a promising group of prospects ready to make the jump in rookies Sanderson, 20, Jacob Bernard-Docker, 22, and Lassi Thomson, 21. It will be interesting to see if any, if all three, earn spots on the roster as rookies.

Most intriguing addition

Giroux, who has 923 points (294 goals, 629 assists) in 1,018 NHL games, spends his offseasons in Ottawa, so he has always had a soft spot for the area. Still, he wanted to see the Senators improve in the offseason, and after they added DeBrincat and Talbot, he had his answer. Giroux’s value can extend off the ice as well; he can show other future free agents Ottawa could be a desirable destination.

Biggest potential surprise

A change of scenery could be just what forward Mathieu Joseph needed. The 25-year-old played his first 221 NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and had a limited role in their bottom-six forward group, with 70 points (37 goals, 33 assists). But after being traded to Ottawa along with a fourth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft for forward Nicholas Paul on March 20, Joseph had 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 11 games with the Senators. A sign of what’s to come?

Ready to break through

Shane Pinto missed the majority of the 2021-22 season after having shoulder surgery in November and was limited to five games (one assist) with Ottawa. But the 21-year-old center is healthy and is expected to get a regular shift among the Senators bottom-six and potential power-play time with the second unit. The raw skill is there: He was a finalist for the 2021 Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA Division I hockey after he had 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 28 games with North Dakota two seasons ago.

Fantasy sleeper

Joseph, LW/RW (undrafted on average in fantasy) — He averaged nearly a point a game and was plus-8 in 11 games for the Senators last season after being acquired in a trade with the Lightning. top six is crowded after the offseason additions of valuable forwards DeBrincat and Giroux, but Joseph, who signed a four-year, $11.8 million contract with the Senators on July 28, could be a fantasy deep sleeper with exposure to at least one high-upside young forward in Alex Formenton and/or rookie Pinto. — Pete Jensen

PROJECTED LINEUPBrady Tkachuk — Josh Norris — Drake Batherson

Alex DeBrincat — Tim Stutzle — Claude Giroux

Alex Formenton — Shane Pinto — Mathieu Joseph

Parker Kelly — Dylan Gambrell — Austin Watson

Thomas Chabot –Travis Hamonic

Erik Brannstrom — Artem Zub

Jake Sanderson — Nikita Zaitsev

Cam Talbot

Anton Forsberg

Source : NHL News

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