One of the biggest names in the 2023 NHL Free Agent class is Ottawa Senators forward Alex DeBrincat. He was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in July 2022 as a way for the Blackhawks to get the seventh-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and for the Senators to add another scoring threat to take the team to new heights. He had a good first year in Ottawa. He was fourth-best on the team in scoring, with 27 goals and 66 points in 82 games. He also set a new career-best number in assists (39) and led the team in power-play goals (30).
The Senators made leaps and bounds from finishing seventh-worst in the NHL last season to being only six points out of the final Wild Card spot in a stacked Eastern Conference this year. The team has a bright future, but the question remains if DeBrincat will be a part of it.
Ever since DeBrincat was acquired, questions lingered if he really wanted to be in Ottawa. Because the team gave up so much to acquire him, the hope for them was that they could lock up the 25-year-old for years to come, but that never came to fruition. Reports swirled immediately that he was unwilling to negotiate a contract extension after being acquired and wanted to wait and see how the season played out. It was a sentiment he held all season long whenever he was asked about potentially signing a contract extension.
On April 10, Sens’ general manager Pierre Dorion told the media that they would qualify DeBrincat, even if they don’t agree to a long-term deal. According to CapFriendly, his qualifying offer is one-year, $9 million. DeBrincat mentioned during his exit interviews that he is open to staying in Ottawa long-term but wants time to talk things through with his agent and family, which is a perfectly reasonable stance. However, after the interview was released, a TSN report surfaced with comments from Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia, that everything he has heard indicates DeBrincat has no inclination of signing. He said the team could trade him at the NHL Draft in June if they cannot reach a long-term agreement.
These are very conflicting reports from a general manager stating he intends to re-sign the forward, regardless of a long-term agreement, to then hear that that is possibly not the case. However, vague statements, like DeBrincat made during his press conference, are common. For example, it was reported last summer that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin felt disrespected during contract extension talks, and it made it sound like he would ultimately sign elsewhere. However, he eventually agreed to a four-year, $24.4 million extension. Therefore, no one will know which way DeBrincat is truly leaning until a signing is made official.
Related: Sens GM: ‘No Chance’ Alex DeBrincat is Traded At NHL Deadline
DeBrincat can choose to decline his qualifying offer, and he would remain a restricted free agent (RFA). There is also the possibility that he could receive an offer sheet from another team, but the Sens could match it. The last time an offer sheet was made in NHL was back in 2021 (Jesperi Kotkaniemi), but it is possible for a player like DeBrincat.
Overall, it would hurt for the Senators to lose DeBrincat. He spent most of the season on the second line with Shane Pinto and Drake Batherson where they generated the second-most goals-for (15) and chances-for (468). Pinto is also an RFA this summer, so keeping that line together next season looks to be the priority. Garnering that with Brady Tkachuk, Claude Giroux, Tim Stützle, and newcomer Jakob Chychrun would continue to set the tone for the future. But unfortunately for Sens’ fans, there is little to go on with how this saga may end. Dorion knew it was risky to acquire a player that would not commit to signing, but they’re hoping the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Next: Canucks No Longer Considering Thatcher Demko Trade
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April 15, 2023 at 5:03 pm
DeBrincat loved Chicago and he’s from Michigan. I’d bet he tries for a competitive American team as close to home as possible.