The Ottawa Senators have signed Finish defender Nikolas Matinpalo to a one year $950k entry level deal. In this article I am going to be breaking down the game of Matinpalo and discussing both where he will likely play as well as what he brings to the game.
Who Is Matinpalo
Nikolas Matinpalo is a 24 year old right shot defenseman who currently plays for Assat Pori of the top league in Finland (lliga). This season, Matinpalo had 7 goals and 9 assists for 16 points in 51 regular season games as well as 4 assists in 8 playoff games. The points however are not where Matinpalo earns his money as he is known as more of a shutdown defender. The defender also brings solid physical abilities to the game, something the Sens absolutely love to target, which allows him to separate forwards from the puck in the defensive zone. All this to say he is likely a player who’s peak is a bottom pairing defender who plays a defensively responsible game.
Where Will Matinpalo Play
I am expecting to see Matinpalo start the year in Bellville with the AHL Senators. While he has played a solid game in Finland as well as at the recent World Championship, there still seems to be other defenders who are ahead of him on the depth chart. What this does do however is ignite some internal competition for the Senators which will hopefully motivate players like Jacob Bernard-Docker, Max Guenette, and Lassi Thomson to impress in camp this year.
What Does This Mean For Travis Hamonic
With this addition the future of Travis Hamonic with the Ottawa Senators looks bleak. The two parties were originally open to a reunion however, it now appears as though the Senators are filling in what would have been Hamonic’s spot this year. Hamonic if brought back was likely to be a depth defenseman for the team, probably a 7th d-man who would have been able to step in when needed. However with this addition, it feels like the Senators have found a cheaper option to fill this position. I expect the Senators and Hamonic to part ways if Hamonic is not willing to sign for close to a league minimum.
Overall Signing Opinion
For the Senators, this is a low risk signing which likely won’t affect the NHL squad all that much. However from an off ice perspective this could benefit some of the young fringe defenders looking to earn a spot with Ottawa. Hopefully one or all of the aforementioned righties in Belleville have a fire lit under them forcing Pierre Dorion and the Senators to make a tough roster decision. Also, it is never a bad problem to have too much depth, so for a guy who does not take up much cap and that you did not have to give up assets to acquire this signing is solid. Overall, this is a low risk move that could potentially play dividends under certain circumstances for the Sens.