The start of the Ottawa Senators regular season is finally underway tonight, with the Sens taking on the Carolina Hurricanes. A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece about whether or not the Senators would be a playoff team, and I still believe they are, though there are a couple more hurdles to overcome than expected: Josh Norris is still hurt, and Shane Pinto is still unsigned.
With the final cuts announced this past weekend, the Senators’ roster is made up of the following players:
Forwards: Tim Stützle, Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Claude Giroux, Vladimir Tarasenko, Drake Batherson, Mathieu Joseph, Dominik Kubalik, Ridly Greig, Mark Kastelic, Rourke Chartier, Zack MacEwen, Parker Kelly.
Defense: Thomas Chabot, Jakob Chychrun, Jake Sanderson, Artem Zub, Erik Brannstrom, Travis Hamonic.
Goaltenders: Joonas Korpisalo, Anton Forsberg.
When looking at this roster, something immediately stands out, even outside of the most obvious lack of Shane Pinto being on the roster as he remains unsigned. The Sens only have one extra skater. Two goalies, six defensemen, and 13 forwards leave only one player who will not be dressed every game. To put that in context, most teams tend to have a maximum roster of 23 players, typically made up of two goalies, seven defensemen, and 14 forwards. Though teams can only dress 20 players, making sure you have extra skaters available doesn’t matter too much; until it does.
Shane Pinto still not being signed, and the Senators running an undersized roster both result from the same core issue: they don’t have any cap space. As it stands right now, with this roster of 21 players, the Senators have $62,000 in cap space, about 8% of a league minimum contract. Their hands are tied.
This is already causing problems outside of being unable to sign Pinto. Some smaller problems, like Roby Jarventie not making the team after scoring four goals and five points in five games, while Rourke Chartier, who scored zero points in six games, made the final cut. The reason for this is simple, the team would be over the salary cap with Jarventie on the roster. The Senators’ cap situation is so dire the $120,000 difference between Jarventie and Chartier’s salaries is not only a problem, but they are nowhere close to being able to accommodate it. In a league with a salary cap of over $80 million, a number barely cracking six digits is somehow a problem.
The bigger problem is when injuries occur. Which, unfortunately for Ottawa, is already happening. Josh Norris has not been cleared to play yet and will be missing an unknown number of games. It’s safe to say that it will be fewer than ten games, as that is the minimum games missed when someone is placed on long term injured reserve (LTIR), which the Senators don’t seem to be planning on doing. On top of Norris, Zack MacEwen is listed day-to-day after suffering an upper-body injury in the final pre-season game on Saturday. Without those two, that leaves a grand total of 11 forwards for the first game of the season. Being without a skater to start the season is bad enough, but even worse when the opponent is a powerhouse like the Hurricanes.
Pierre Dorion has never been the General Manager of a team that has had to worry about coming anywhere close to the salary cap until this summer. But you’d think his years of experience barely crossing the cap floor would translate to being as detail-oriented the other way around. As it turns out, that isn’t the case.