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Off-Season Watch: Changes coming to Senators' blueline?


While the Stanley Cup Final continues, the NHL's off-season is rapidly approaching with the NHL Draft starting on June 28 and Free Agent Frenzy on July 1. keeps you up to date with all the latest rumours and speculation from around the NHL beat.

Capital Changes?

While the Ottawa Senators continue to be linked to a move at goaltender, changes appear to be in store for their blueline this summer (or perhaps this week) as well.

Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reports that defenceman Travis Hamonic, Erik Brannstrom and Jacob Bernard-Docker could all be seeing their time with the Senators coming to an end. 

Garrioch writes that the team is likely to buy out the last year of Hamonic's $1.1 million cap hit, leaving a cap charge of $366,000 on their books for each of the next two seasons. He adds the team is trying to find out if there's trade interest for Brannstrom and Bernard-Docker, noting the team is still weighing whether to qualify Brannstrom as a restricted free agent at $2 million or let him walk to the open market. Bernard-Docker remains signed through next season at a cap hit of $805,000.

Hamonic posted two goals and six points in 48 games with the Senators this season after finishing six goals and 21 points in 78 games the year prior. Selected by the New York Islanders in the second round of the 2008 draft, Hamonic 52 goals and 235 points in 841 career NHL games. 

Brannstrom was once a top prospect in the Senators system, acquired as part of their return for Mark Stone from the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019. He appeared in 76 games with the team this season, posting three goals and 20 points. He had two goals and 18 points in 74 games last season. The 24-year-old was selected 15th overall by the Golden Knights in the 2017 draft.

Bernard-Docker had four goals and 14 points in 72 games with the Senators this season after appearing in just 32 games over the previous three seasons. He was selected 26th overall by the Senators in the 2018 draft.

Garrioch believes the Senators are largely open for business as president and general manager Steve Staios looks to guide the franchise back into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.


NHL Buyout Window Nears

The NHL's first buyout window will open 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is handed out Monday night, with teams having only until June 30 to execute their moves before the window closes. 

Hamonic is the latest name to be added to the list of players potentially seeing their contracts terminated, with Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner, goaltender Cal Petersen and forward Cam Atkinson of the Philadelphia Flyers among the possibilities. 

Flyers general manager Daniel Briere previously confirmed he was considering buyouts for Petersen and Atkinson, while Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams was coy when asked about whether he would buyout Skinner when asked last week.

“There are rumblings on different scenarios,” Adams told reporters. “What I can tell you is from the day our season ended, after my conversations with Terry (Pegula) and kind of where we go from here, every single thing that we’re doing this offseason we ask the question, ‘Does this help our team get better? Does this put us in a position to improve?’

“And we’ve made a lot of decisions up to this point of where we sit today with that in mind and we’re gonna continue. So nothing’s off the table. We’re going to talk about everything. We’re gonna look at every scenario. But that’s probably as far as I’d go on specifics right now.”

Skinner, who is signed through the 2026-27 season at a cap hit of $9 million, had 24 goals and 46 points in 74 games this season after topping the 30-goal mark in each of the previous two campaigns. The 32-year-old crossed the 1,000 NHL game mark this season (now at 1,006) but has never appeared in a playoff game.

Buying out Skinner would free up $7.56 million in cap space for the Sabres this summer and save $4.56 million in 2025-26 and $2.56 million in 2026-27, compared to his $9 million currently on the books. It would, however, also leave the Sabres with a cap charge of $2.44 million in the three seasons from 2027-2030.

If a player is age 26 or older, as all the options listed above are, a buyout will spread two-thirds over the player's remaining salary over double the remaining term. 



ICYMI: McGroarty and Jets headed for split?

Just in case you were too busy to check, Sunday's off-season watch included an important update on the Winnipeg Jets and prospect Rutger McGroarty:

The Winnipeg Jets are likely to trade former first-round pick Rutger McGroarty, a league source told The Athletic’s Murat Ates.

According to Ates, the University of Michigan star’s relationship with the Jets has deteriorated since the end of the NCAA season and he no longer believes his future is with the Jets.

Ates reports the Jets wanted to sign McGroarty to a professional contract this past April but were unwilling to promise the 20-year-old winger a path to playing time at the NHL level either that spring or the following fall in training camp. This meant that McGroarty could have been sent to the AHL instead of returning to Michigan to try and lead his team to a national title.

The school announced in April he would return for his senior season.

“This isn’t a situation where the player wants out of Winnipeg because of his views on the city. Instead, there appears to be a disconnect between how Winnipeg’s player development viewed and communicated its plan with McGroarty and McGroarty’s view of his own future,” Ates wrote.

McGroarty was the No. 14 overall pick in 2022 and had 16 goals and 36 assists for 52 points in 36 NCAA games last season, his second at Michigan. The Wolverines went 23-15-3 on the season and were eliminated in the semifinals of the Frozen Four.

McGroarty registered 18 goals and 21 assists for 39 points in 39 games the season before.