The summer of Pierre Dorion didn't end after Labour Day.
With his latest swing, the Ottawa Senators general manager has brokered an eight-season, $66.8 million extension with former third-overall selection Tim Stutzle. The contract will pay Stutzle a whopping $8.35 million salary on an average annual basis beginning next season, and will make him the highest-paid member of the Senators moving forward.
Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot each recently signed maximum-term extensions for $8.2 and $8 million, respectively. Expectations that the salary cap will soon rise considerably is likely the reason Stutzle was able to negotiate a more lucrative second contract compared to his teammates, who remain slightly more important to the organization at this moment.
Stutzle is just one move among many executed by the Ottawa front office in its efforts to lock up a core group for many seasons of future contention. Josh Norris also signed a maximum-term contract worth a shade under $8 million this offseason, while Claude Giroux agreed to a three-year deal worth $6.5 million.
Ottawa's biggest move, however, was trading its first-round draft pick for Alex DeBrincat, who will likely command a salary that exceeds Stutzle, Tkachuk and Chabot, among everyone else, ahead of the 2023-24 season.
There is plenty of reason to be bullish on Stutzle, who has been the most productive player from the 2020 NHL Draft. He scored 34 goals and 87 points in his first 132 games, and has 30 points more than the second-most productive player, Lucas Raymond. Still, it seems there is a lot of room for growth in Stutzle's game, which makes the contract an informed gamble on the part of the Senators.
Tim Stützle, signed to a 8x$8.4M extension by OTT, is a promising young forward who loves to carry the puck in transition and show off his hands. Still working out how to create offence in dangerous areas, produced well last season but mostly on the PP. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/MrjBrhQ4ij
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 7, 2022
Foregoing the bridge concept, Ottawa's spending will put a temporary squeeze on the front office over the next few seasons, which might hamper the team's ability to truly contend with Giroux in the mix. However, that could serve as only a minor drawback if the Senators have successfully locked up one of the NHL's top core groups before the salary cap restraints loosen considerably in two or three years.
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