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The Ottawa Senators are less than 1 week away from starting their 2023/2024 NHL regular season. With the clock ticking, the team is still working towards getting their entire roster back and playing pre-season games. Some recent Josh Norris and Shane Pinto news has given us some insight into how close we are to seeing the two returning to the lineup. Finally, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Egor Sokolov have successfully cleared waivers and will report to Belleville. What’s next for the two Sens prospects?
Shane Pinto News
With under a week until the start of the NHL regular season, the Senators have not been able to ink Shane Pinto to a contract. The negotiations have sounded like they have been stalemate over the last few weeks as the Senators look to move money out. During the introductory press conference for the new POHO Steve Staios, GM Pierre Dorion was asked about where things stand with Shane Pinto. Dorion responded with the following quote:
“We’ve discussed it amongst the three of us. We’re working very hard at it; we know he’s an important part of the team, and we hope he’s here in the near future.” – Pierre Dorion on Shane Pinto Contract Negotiations.
For a long time, the hold-up in the negotiations sounded apparent because of Dorion’s inability to find a fair trade to move out salary. But according to recent reports, this isn’t the case. Elliot Friedman recently reported that the Ottawa Senators offered Shane Pinto a 1 x $1M contract, which was ultimately rejected. Friedman also noted that the Sens have deals available that they could make to clear cap room. This means that the issue facing signing Shane Pinto is clearing cap space and finding common ground on a contract term/AAV.
The number being thrown around by insiders for what Shane Pinto is looking for on a contract is a short-term deal in the 2-2.5M range. By the sounds of everything, Ottawa is unwilling to negotiate in this range as of recently. That may sound strange, but a pair of floating theories may explain this. The first and most likely in my mind is that the team is trying to find a way to keep all of their current roster pieces in Ottawa. How could they do this?
By sending Sokolov and Bernard-Docker to the AHL, the Ottawa Senators have a projected $1.7M in cap space with 17 skaters and 2 goaltenders. So, I wonder if the team is trying to negotiate a 1 year $1.7M contract to avoid trading any key pieces. In my eyes, the second and less likely theory is that Ottawa is waiting to see if Josh Norris needs to spend time on LTIR to start the season.
There are a few reasons why I don’t expect this to be the case, which I will get into with the news on Norris’ injury. But what confuses me the most with this theory is that LTIR is a temporary solution. When Norris returns, the Sens still need to clear the cap to insert him into the lineup.
Some more positive Shane Pinto news is that he reportedly has not asked for a trade and that both parties want to find a way to make it work in Ottawa. These negotiations are strictly financially based rather than a team/player relationship taking a turn for the worse.
Josh Norris Injury Update
The most disappointing trend through the Ottawa Senators pre-season has been the setbacks faced by Josh Norris with his shoulder injury. After being listed as fully healthy coming into camp, Josh Norris is yet to suit up for a pre-season game with the Sens because of recurring minor shoulder tweaks. This has caused Sens fans to panic, but DJ Smith shared some information recently that raised my confidence levels with Josh Norris’ injury.
“We’re working with Josh, but he has to be 100% both physically and mentally” – VIA TSN1200.
You may be wondering why this makes me feel more confident in Josh Norris’ injury recovery. The key word here is that the team needs Norris to be 100% ready ‘Mentally.’ Athletes who have returned from severe injuries and/or surgeries have often had these issues.
Sometimes, regardless of taking the necessary rehabilitation steps and being cleared to play, athletes must overcome mental hurdles to convince themselves they’re ready. Unfortunately, practice and scrimmaging with your team can only simulate NHL action so much. So, if Norris is struggling with this mental hurdle, his best course of action is to try and play in some NHL-level games sooner rather than later.
There is still the chance that Josh Norris is physically recovering from the injuries, but I feel this is more of a mental issue. As someone who has undergone ACL reconstruction surgery, I understand the feelings Norris is facing entirely.
Even after being given the green light, I was unwilling to do what I had been doing previous to my injury for quite some time. Even physically, it can feel as though something isn’t right (tweaked) without facing any pain or loss of mobility. While I can’t understand what is going on in Josh Norris’ mind, it sounds similar to what I experienced after my rehabilitation.
The good news is that Josh Norris is still practicing in a regular jersey with the team. Hopefully, he can still get into a pre-season game to build his confidence in himself more than anything.
What’s Next For Jacob Bernard-Docker And Egor Sokolov
After being placed on waivers, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Egor Sokolov have cleared and will report to Belleville. It’s unfortunate to see both guys failing to crack the Ottawa Senators lineup after so much optimism. While both players will be very valuable to the Belleville Senators roster, it is beginning to feel like their time in Ottawa’s organization is coming to an end.
For Bernard-Docker, I don’t know where his career will take him after this season. As a player, his goal at this point in his career is to find an NHL role somewhere. His 1-way contract will undoubtedly make that difficult and is likely why he went unclaimed on waivers. I imagine the Senators are prepared to accept any trade with a team that better fits Bernard-Docker. For the players’ sake, he needs a fresh start with an organization with the space to provide him with a real opportunity.
As for Egor Sokolov, I expected that this would be the year he could crack the NHL roster. While he didn’t show enough in camp to earn a spot, I feel he outperformed some players still with Ottawa. The problem with Sokolov is that he doesn’t play a fourth-line style, which is the only spot he could crack on Ottawa. If he were shipped to another team, I think he could thrive in a more offensively focused position. He is a player that I expect will remain in the Senators organization for another year and will get his final shot in Ottawa during the 2024/2025 season.
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