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Will Senators Address Goaltending Woes at Trade Deadline?

Goaltending has been a problem for the Ottawa Senators this season. Will they address their goaltending woes at the NHL trade deadline?

As the March 8th NHL Trade Deadline rapidly approaches, the Ottawa Senators find themselves in an all-too-familiar position. They sit well outside the playoff race and are already looking towards the off-season. This was the year in which many people expected the Senators to finally take their collective next step as a group and reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season. It hasn’t happened, in large part because of the goaltending.

On and off the ice, it’s been a disastrous 2023-24 season. The Senators currently sit 15th in the Eastern Conference and 15 points out of the final Wild Card spot. Recently appointed GM Steve Staios has his hands full as he attempts to make the right changes to take his club to the next level, but his priority has to be correctly identifying the biggest issue with the team.

Goaltending Has Been a Problem Area for the Senators

To truly understand what has hindered the Senators the most this season, you have to look between the pipes. To put it bluntly, the Senators have received the worst goaltending in the entire NHL this season. Joonas Korpisalo was signed to a five-year, $20 million contract in the summer of 2023 by former Senators GM Pierre Dorion. He has been nothing short of a disaster in the Ottawa net.

On the surface, a 0.887% save percentage and 3.40 GAA should be enough to cause concern. Additionally, according to Moneypuck’s statistics, Korpisalo sports a goals saved above expected (GSAx) of -15.7 through 36 games, good for 92nd out of 92 goalies in the NHL this season. It’s also over four more goals worse than the 91st-ranked goalie, Jonas Johansson, who sits at -11.3.

Joonas Korpisalo Senators

The Senators’ starter is ultimately costing his teams a plethora of points in the standings with his poor performances. Ottawa has lost eight games this season by a single goal. If Korpisalo had saved even just a few more goals above expected, his club might likely have won a good amount of those one-goal games, putting them in more realistic contention for a playoff spot.

Other Ottawa Goalies Share the Blame

When Korpisalo struggles, the Senators don’t have any other viable options to look to in goal. Anton Forsberg‘s stats are barely more flattering, icing a 0.893% save percentage and 3.24 GAA. His -3.3 GSAx is considerably better than Korpisalo’s engulfed -16.1 GSAx. That said, it only places him 67th out of 92 goalies this season. Mads Sogaard, a 23-year-old from Aalborg, Denmark, has appeared in four games for the Senators. He allowed 14 goals in that span. Sogaard has been lauded as the Senators’ goalie of the future, but his recent performances haven’t indicated he’ll reach his potential soon. His -9.0 GSAx sees him at 85th among NHL goalies this year. There is at least some promise in Sogaard’s game at the AHL level. His 0.917% save percentage for the Belleville Senators ranks him 10th in the minor league.

This has been a problem in Ottawa for years. Only one Senators goalie with over 10 games played in a season has produced a save percentage over .915% since Craig Anderson in 2016-17. Anton Forsberg put up a very respectable 0.917% in 2021 after being claimed by the Senators off waivers, but there’s not much to write home about besides that. During his tenure as GM, Pierre Dorion was unable to find a solution to the issue between the pipes. A whopping 17 different goalies have started a game for the Senators since the beginning of the 2017-18 season. But, through Matt Murray, Cam Talbot, Joonas Korpisalo, and many others, there just hasn’t been a fit that’s worked.

Where Should the Senators Go at the NHL Trade Deadline?

The goaltending market is starting to heat up heading into the deadline. Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom and Nashville’s Juuse Saros are two names that have been mentioned by Elliotte Friedman in regards to possibly being moved. Saros should be of interest to the Senators if they look to improve in the crease. The Finnish goalie put up save percentages of 0.914% or better between 2018-19 and 2022-23. He’s having a down year this season, sporting only a 0.902% behind a middle-of-the-pack Predators squad. The 28-year-old is in the third year of a four-year deal worth $20,000,000. This makes him a more attractive option than Markstrom who makes $6,00,000 per year through 2025-26, at which point he will be 36 years old.

Juuse Saros trade rumors

On Saros, Friedman goes on to state that “the Predators are looking for a top offensive player” in return. So, what could the Senators hypothetically offer the Predators to try and make a deal for Saros? As far as offensive players go, star forward Tim Stutzle and captain Brady Tkachuk are likely untouchable. However, the Senators still have a few promising young forwards that could be of interest to Nashville including Josh Norris and Drake Batherson.

It would likely take quite a bit for the Senators to pry Saros away from the Predators. Pierre LeBrun reports that no team has stepped up with a package that Nashville has been impressed with. He states that “is fine because they’re happy to keep him.”

It’s certainly possible that the Senators’ dilemma between the pipes is not addressed until the summer. More goalies will hit the market as UFAs and some more names might become available in trade talks. But, if Staios is looking to make a splash and seek immediate help, maybe the Senators look to make a play for some long overdue stable goaltending.

Next: Flames Among Five Teams Interested In Senators’ Jakob Chychrun

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