There are a lot of reasons for optimism right now if you are an Ottawa Senators fan.
The team announced that it has signed forward Josh Norris to an eight-year, $63.6 million contract extension that will begin with the 2022-23 season. That averages out to a $7.95 million salary cap hit per season. Norris entered the offseason as a restricted free agent.
[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
Norris, 23, is coming off of a breakout season that saw him score 35 goals, 20 assists, and 55 total points in 66 games. Originally a first-round draft pick by the San Jose Sharks in 2017, the Senators acquired Norris in the 2018 trade that sent defenseman Erik Karlsson out west. That trade has turned out to be a potential franchise-changer for the Senators as it not only landed them Norris, but also the 2020 first-round pick that resulted in another of Ottawa’s key young players, Tim Stützle.
It is rare that a trade involving a superstar works out so well for the team giving up the best player, but this has gone about as well as the Senators could have hoped.
The big question on Norris is whether or not he can maintain this goal scoring pace. He has shot around 19 percent through the first two years in the league, which is a fairly high number and we only have 125 game sample size to go by here. Shooting percentages can fluctuate a bit, and if he does not maintain that current level it could cut into his production a bit. The encouraging thing is that his shot volume increased this season while his underlying possession numbers also took a step forward.
The Senators still have some holes to address on defense, and even with the addition of Talbot goaltending is a concern, but given their forward additions and overall forward depth the Senators are shaping up to be one of the most exciting teams in the league this season.
It might not result in a playoff spot, but for the first time in a few years there should be a real sense of hope for the team’s fans. If nothing else, there at least seems to be a clear direction.