Connor Brown and the Ottawa Senators had an arbitration hearing scheduled for yesterday. During the 2019-20 season – Brown’s first with the Senators – he had recorded 16 goals, 27 assists, for a personal best 43 points in 71 games. That point total ranked second on the team. And, this was with a Senators team that was clearly in rebuild mode.
Heading into the arbitration hearing, the Senators believed Brown should be awarded a one-year, $2.25 million salary. Brown and his agent countered by proposing a $4.8 million salary. Fortunately for both parties, the two parties agreed to a contract before the actual hearing. Brown and the Senators agreed to a three-year, $10.8 million contract for an AAV of $3.6 million per season.
Brown Was a Key Player this Season with the Senators
As noted, Brown scored a career-high of 43 points in 71 games. However, he also was one of the team’s key weapons all season and averaged over 20 minutes of TOI per game last season. That was a huge difference than he had been given by his old team the Toronto Maple Leafs.
During his time in Toronto, Brown was never part of the team’s core – only a member of the supporting cast. Still, he was good enough to be trusted to be on the ice and had a reputation as an honest player. He averaged almost 14 minutes TOI with the Maple Leafs during the 2018-19 season and scored eight goals and 29 points in a very limited role. (from “Ottawa Senators and Connor Brown avoid arbitration with three-year deal,” Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Citizen, 22/10/20).
Brown’s Has Regrets About His Time in Toronto
During his time with the Maple Leafs, Brown had carved out a role as a hard-working defensive forward who was great at killing penalties. Although the Maple Leafs probably hoped to keep him and valued him in that role, he was traded to the Senators last offseason as part of the team’s need to find salary-cap space to sign Mitch Marner. From my perspective, Brown was fortunate.
He moved from a minor role with one team to a major role with another team, and he flourished. His new salary points to his value with the Senators – something I don’t believe he would have ever achieved if he had stayed in Toronto. In fact, during an interview this spring, Brown agrees that moving to Ottawa was a great thing for him.
Now Brown admits he has regrets about his time with the Maple Leafs. His self-evaluation was that he desired to have a place in the lineup so much that, “looking back on it, I think I might have almost overdone it.”
In an interview on Connor Carrick’s podcast, Brown noted “I wish I would have found my confidence and found my skill that I found this year … to make plays and to be more than just be that role player. I think I had more to offer.”
His self-assessment was that he was simply “trying my hardest to play that role that I felt like that team needed me to do.”
Senators Head Coach D.J. Smith Knew What He Was Getting in Brown
Senators head coach D.J. Smith obviously knew Brown well because they both spent time together with the Maple Leafs. Smith believed Brown could play successfully in a top-six role, and that’s exactly what he did.
As soon as Brown landed in Ottawa, he received support from his head coach and the Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion. As a result, Brown’s confidence grew. Although Brown admits he didn’t want to leave his hometown team of Toronto, he also now admits it worked out well for his career.
Even before the Senators very successful offseason draft and deals, Brown noted that, “With the guys and the culture that we have worked towards in Ottawa, it’s definitely the best thing for me in my career and my happiness.”
Finally, Brown added: “I really felt like it was a good time to make the move to Ottawa. It was good for my relationship, my happiness on the ice on and off the ice. It was really all positive.”
That’s great news for a good young player. It’s also great news for the Senators, who seem to be on the cusp of something quite special in Ottawa.
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