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Shane Pinto Contractual Stalemate With The Ottawa Senators
As August rolls on, the Senators have two remaining question marks on their roster. With RFA’s Egor Sokolov and Shane Pinto still unsigned, the Senators need to make a roster move to clear space if they wish to retain both players.
With just under $900,000 left of the salary cap, the Senators will likely have to move a player in the $2-$3 million range to clear enough space. Fans have speculated over who this might be, with the consensus landing on winger Mathieu Joseph. But, if Dorion can’t find a trade he likes before camp, or if the two parties continue negotiating with difficulty, Shane Pinto could remain unsigned to start the season. In this article, I will look at potential options for the Senators to use if a Shane Pinto contract is not finished by October.
The first and most likely option in my eyes would be Ridly Greig. The Senators experimented with Ridly Greig as a top 6 centre in the NHL last season, and his results were quite impressive for a rookie. Greig appeared in 20 games with the Ottawa Senators scoring 9 points over that span. He played the majority of his time at centre with Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat on his wings. Even more impressive than his point production was his advanced analytics, which projected his game as being very effective.
Last season with Ottawa, Greig had a CF% of 53.79% (5th on team), an xGF% of 59.03% (1st on team), an actual GF% of 54.55% (3rd on team), and a HDCF% of 58.10% (1st on team). The line of Greig, DeBrincat, and Giroux was also very effective as they had a CF% of 55.28%, an xGF% of 60.67%, an actual GF% of 58.33%, and a HDCF% of 58.73%. Ridly Greig proved that he was capable of playing an NHL role and exceeded expectations by playing effective in the top 6.
Some may make the argument that Greig was only effective in the top 6 because he was playing with high-quality linemates (Giroux, DeBrincat). I don’t think this is the case however. While I wouldn’t expect Greig to be as productive in a third-line role, I still believe in his ability to play a solid 2-way game. If Pinto remains unsigned, you have to imagine Greig would likely be playing with players like Kubalik, Joseph, and/or Batherson. Playing with these players against lesser competition on the third line should be no problem for Ridly Greig if he ultimately has to replace Shane Pinto.
Unlike Ridly Greig, we don’t have the luxury of seeing Zack Ostapchuk play in the NHL. For his projection, we need to look at how his junior game could translate to the NHL level. While I prefer using Greig in this position, I could understand opting for Ostapchuk if the Senators want to form more of a shut-down style third-line until they get Shane Pinto back. Ostapchuk has filled this role to the highest level in his junior career, especially for team Canada at the World Junior tournaments.
This doesn’t mean he has no scoring to his game though, as he has put up some respectable numbers in the WHL over the last couple of seasons. Last season with both Winnipeg and Vancouver, Ostapchuk put up 67 points in 55 games, with 15 points in 18 playoff games. He did this while playing a sound 2-way game, often against the other team’s top players. The big question is whether or not he is ready for NHL competition, and whether or not he will still be able to play his style effectively.
The biggest knock on Ridly Greig’s game at the NHL level right now is his lack of size. He is listed at 6’0, 183lbs, and is still gaining the strength needed to compete in the NHL. This is not something Ostapchuk would need to worry about, as he already has the size to be an everyday NHL player. Ostapchuk is listed at 6’3, 205lbs, which would make him more than capable of taking on the physicality of the NHL. Depending on what style of play the Sens want on their 3rd line, Ostapchuk could be an effective filler.
My final and most controversial pick to play the 3rd line centre role is Tyler Boucher. Boucher is one of the most hotly debated prospects in the Senators system with many fans writing him off. But I still believe in the potential of Tyler Boucher to play at the NHL level. I am not making the argument that he was the correct pick at #10 for the Sens, but I still believe in his ability to play a future bottom 6 role on the team.
Tyler Boucher does two things very well, the first is shooting the puck, and the second is pissing people off. While the offensive production has been disappointing at the junior level, he has had some success on the international stage. This year at the World Junior Championship, Boucher had 3 goals and an assist in 6 games before suffering an injury that would cut his tournament short. This was the most effective Boucher had been since being drafted in 2021.
While I wouldn’t expect him to be a point producer in the NHL, he could play that agitating style of play to wear down opponents. He was also one of the three most notable prospects at the Senator’s development camp this season, so the organization may want to give him a shot with the big club. This is all under the assumption that he can remain healthy as well, which has been very difficult for him to do in his career so far.
Who Should Get The First Shot
Ultimately, I do believe Ridly Greig has to be the first option the Sens use at the 3rd line centre spot. What I like about the three guys mentioned however, is that they all bring a different aspect to the game. Greig is by far the most offensively-minded player of the bunch and has a respectable defensive game as well. Ostapchuk would be your shutdown centre who can pitch in some offence now and then. Boucher would be your ultimate agitator who goes hard to the net and runs his opponents through the boards.
Of course, the number one solution would just be to find a way to get the Shane Pinto contract signed. But if that isn’t an option at the start of the season, I would be comfortable with any three of these players getting a chance to prove themselves.