The 2022 NHL Draft was interesting for the Ottawa Senators. In an attempt to put themselves back in the playoff conversation, the team moved the seventh selection in the draft, alongside that year’s second-round pick and a third-round pick in 2024 to acquire Alex DeBrincat, who was fresh off a 41-goal season for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The following season was once again disappointing for the team as they missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season. The newly acquired winger still did his job putting up a respectable 66 points in 82 games. However, the Sens could be in the same situation as last year – but in a reversed role.
Per Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, DeBrincat could be moved again at the draft due to contract negotiations not progressing well between both parties.
DeBrincat is set to become a restricted free agent (RFA) this summer, meaning that any team acquiring him can keep his rights. The catch is that he is due a $9 million qualifying offer on his contract. While this is a large sum of money to commit to a single player, the former second-round pick has the tools to be an offensive threat for any team.
With this in mind, which teams would benefit the most from adding a two-time 40-goal scorer if contract negotiations don’t pan out with the Senators?
Detroit Red Wings
The third-winningest franchise in NHL history has been looking to get back on top after missing the playoffs every year since the 2016-17 season, which marked the end of their 25-year playoff streak. Despite missing the playoffs again in 2022-23, the Detroit Red Wings are headed in a good direction after finishing the season with 80 points, their highest total in the past seven years.
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With interdivisional teams such as the Buffalo Sabres and even the Senators progressing this year, is it time for general manager Steve Yzerman to make a splash? Could he look to acquire DeBrincat, who was born in the nearby area of Farmington Hills?
Yzerman has all the ingredients to make a big move and put his team on a competitive footing. They are projected to have over $30 million in cap space available next year, with only Pius Suter and a few depth players needing contracts. Apart from an impressive crop of young players, the team also has five picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft.
Adding a two-time 40-goal scorer to a core of forwards that includes captain Dylan Larkin and sophomore Lucas Raymond will surely benefit the Red Wings, who finished 24th last season in the goals-per-game category.
St. Louis Blues
One year after finishing ninth in the league with a solid roster that included nine different 20-goal scorers, the St. Louis Blues placed 23rd in the league to miss the playoffs for only the second time in 12 seasons.
As a result, the Blues decided to retool midway through the season by trading away key players such as veterans Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, as well as acquiring picks and younger players. With a decent team on paper already, it is expected that they will make some more moves in the offseason to become competitive again.
Unlike the Red Wings, the Blues will have to be more creative if they want to acquire DeBrincat. The team has just under $7 million in cap space next season, with only a backup goalie and maybe a depth player or two needed to re-sign. That wouldn’t be enough to sign DeBrincat to his qualifying offer.
However, the Blues could be reevaluating their core, which was criticized by their own head coach midseason for their lack of effort. Maybe they could look to trade a roster player in a deal for the 25-year-old winger. The Blues also currently have a total of three first-round picks in this year’s draft. They certainly have the assets to make a move, but it depends on their needs and goals.
The Calgary Flames are a long shot as a landing spot for DeBrincat. But even though the chances are extremely slim, it’s exciting to imagine adding him to the lineup.
Similarly to the Blues, the Flames finished near the top of the league in 2021-22, but failed to repeat their success this season. Their summer took a turn for the worse when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk left via free agency and trade, respectively. The Flames still did the best with what they had by acquiring Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, in addition to clearing Sean Monahan’s contract to make room to sign Nazem Kadri.
This season, one of the main issues for the Flames came with them leading the league with 17 overtime losses (from ‘Mounting overtime losses dooming Flames’ playoff hopes’, Calgary Sun, 3/15/23). In other words, they weren’t able to capitalize on chances in moments that mattered the most. Losing extra points in that fashion makes it difficult for any team to qualify for the playoffs. It was in moments like these that the Flames could’ve used a young player to uplift an aging core. A player like DeBrincat.
If the Flames wanted to make a trade work, they would need to move roster players and/or clear cap space. Although they don’t need to sign any major players next season, they only have just over $1 million in cap space next season. The Milan Lucic contract comes off the books, but Huberdeau and Weegar’s contract extensions kick in.
In the end, it is improbable that DeBrincat joins the Flames. They would have to be creative and are surely reluctant to trade their two best prospects in Jakob Pelletier and Matthew Coronato. However, it could be interesting to see the approach that interim general manager Don Maloney takes during the draft and the offseason.
In the end, any team would be ecstatic to add a young talent such as DeBrincat to their roster. This includes the Senators, who still have the option to keep him. The salary cap and qualifying offer do act as hurdles for many potential suitors, but recent years have taught us that anything can happen at the draft.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.