Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion met with reporters on Monday, and quickly made one thing clear heading into the summer: Craig Anderson will be protected from the expansion draft.
Beyond that, Dorion has a myriad of pending decisions on his plate over the next few weeks — as does every NHL general manager, with the expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights approaching.
While Anderson is going to be protected, Dorion admitted he and his staff are still figuring out who on their roster will gain protection. Those discussions, it appears, will include Dion Phaneuf, the 32 years old defenseman with four more years on his current contract and a hefty cap hit of $7 million.
Phaneuf scored nine goals and 30 points during this past regular season, and had one goal and five points during the postseason.
He also has a no-movement clause in his contract, which garners protection from the expansion draft. But there have been rumblings the Sens may ask him to waive that no-movement clause.
“That’s something we’re going to talk internally (about) in the next few weeks. We know we have quite a few good defensemen,” said Dorion.
“If we ever end up losing a defenseman, we know we have guys that can come in and replace him. I’m not sure. There’s a lot of discussions to be had. If ever we were to go that direction, I think I should let Dion know first.”
The Senators issues have been well-documented, especially on the back end. Asking veteran defenceman Dion Phaneuf to waive his ‘no-move’ clause to allow the club to protect Marc Methot makes the most sense. The Senators don’t want to lose Phaneuf and the guess is they’d get re-assurance from Vegas they won’t.
The Senators do have a solid young prospect defenseman in Thomas Chabot, the 18th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, who Dorion singled out as a player that could challenge for a roster spot when training camp opens in September.
Dorion said he didn’t expect “big radical changes” to this roster next season, but the club also has several players on expiring contracts, including six unrestricted free agents (Viktor Stalberg, Chris Neil, Chris Kelly, Tommy Wingels, Tom Pyatt and Mike Condon).
They also have some key pending restricted free agents to get under contract, as well. Ryan Dzingel emerged as an every-game player, while Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored eight times in 19 games during the playoffs, which is only four off from matching his entire goal production from 82 games in the regular season.
“I will meet personally with Chris Neil and Chris Kelly in the next few weeks to find out what their plans are and if they’re in relation with our plans,” said Dorion.
Both Kelly and Neil are 36 and 37 years old, respectively, and were used sparingly during the playoffs. Dorion will meet with his staff, including the coaches, to determine a plan for that entire group of unrestricted free agents.
“They can’t all be back. It’s just a numbers thing. So we have to look at who fits best — our needs, our mock roster, where we need to go,” said Dorion.
A key decision on that front is likely in net.
Dorion put the onus on pending UFA goalie Condon, saying he will make him an offer and it’s up to Condon to decide whether he wants to sign it and return to Ottawa next season.
In the event Condon rejects the offer, Dorion said Andrew Hammond could come back as the No. 2 goalie to Anderson.