Senators report organizational change with Stützle Extension

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Ottawa Senators signed former third overall pick Tim Stützle to an eight-year extension worth $8.35 million in average annual value (AAV).

The Senators’ aggressive offseason continues, as they previously added Alex Debrincat and Claude Giroux to strengthen his front core. These moves, along with the expansion, represent a shift in direction for the franchise.

Related: 3 senators who could be X-Factors in 2022-23

They have failed to qualify for the playoffs the past five seasons and are fresh off a rebuild. Six years later, general manager Pierre Dorion is making major additions and signings that would have boosted ticket sales significantly over last season. The excitement for Senators hockey is back, and the days of rebuilding are over. This team is gearing up for a playoff not just in 2022-23, but for many years to come.

Stützle will have to reach his full potential for the contract to be paid off

During his rookie season, Stützle had 28 points in 53 games and had many flashes of talent, but spent most of the season adjusting to the NHL game. He built on that production in Year 2, posting 58 points in 79 games, and seemed much more confident in his decisions with and without the puck.

This contract is quite a gamble for the player he has been so far, but it could turn into a bargain if he ends up reaching his full potential. He was expected to become a restricted free agent (RFA) in 2022-23, but he now becomes arguably the most polarizing piece the organization has to build around. If the 20-year-old center doesn’t make it, what’s the chance that the rest of the rebuild will? It’s a high-risk and highly rewarding move the Senators were willing to make and one that could potentially turn out to be the best move for the future of the franchise.

Tim Stützle, Ottawa Senators, NHL opener Jan. 15, 2021 (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The additions of Debrincat, who scored 41 goals and 78 points last season, as well as Giroux, who is a veteran point guard and a proven NHL playmaker, will benefit Stützle more than any other player in Ottawa. He should start on the second line alongside those two and be the centerpiece of what has the potential to be one of the best scoring lines in the NHL.

Plenty of aggressive moves make Ottawa a playoff contender in 2022-23

Debrincat, Giroux and Cam Talbot are all players Dorion has taken out and acquired, but the biggest story of the offseason around the Senators might be the extensions they handed out to their young core. Josh Norris signed a long-term eight-year contract with an AAV of $7.95 million after scoring 35 goals in 2021-21. With Stützle now signed for the same term, the Sens have the majority of their young core locked in for the foreseeable future.

Pierre Dorion Ottawa Senators 2015
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

The only problem they may encounter is the lack of veteran leadership. Yes, they were able to bring in veterans, but the main core of this team is still very young, which sets them up to have an extremely wide range of results. Apart from Giroux, every member of their group of top six forwards will be under 25 at the start of the 2022-23 season. The management group is banking on all of these players hitting the start of their prime at the same time, which could very well happen as early as next season.

Stützle’s results are expected to improve each year

The Senators are jumping on what he could become and plan to save money by signing him long-term before he has a breakout season. A great comparison is how Jack Hughes’ contract situation was handled last season. The New Jersey Devils signed him to an eight-year, $8 million AAV contract before his breakout year, and now that contract looks like a steal for his fourth campaign. Hughes broke out and played at a points-per-game level, recording 56 points in 49 games before suffering a knee injury that ended it.

The Senators are hoping for the same jump, especially when it comes to his even-strength play. As we can see from this beautifully displayed analysis card, Stützle’s strengths lie in the man advantage, in addition to being an above average finisher and playmaker. He’s playing his best offensively off the run, but he’ll need to maintain more offensive possessions to get that “EV Offense” number to the typical elite center level.

Tim Stützle
Tim Stützle wins on the replacement player card (WAR), 2020-22

Having two outstanding and proven star wingers in the NHL this season will hugely improve the “hockey card stats”, those being standard goals, assists and points. But those analyzes and categories can only be bettered by Stützle, as he strives to improve his defensive game and become more of a force when the rush falters.

That deal kicks in next year after his entry-level contract (ELC) expires, with the Senators now having signed Batherson, Norris, Stützle and Brady Tkachuk through 2026-27. CapFriendly projects that they will have $22.6 million in cap space in the upcoming offseason, which also provides them with the opportunity to sign Debrincat long-term.

There’s a buzz around this team that hasn’t been around for years. The management group wins over fans by being aggressive and signing fan-favorite players for the foreseeable future and doing so when they are still young. These moves give a new direction to the franchise that was lacking in the past, and they gave fans hope for a successful season.

Aubrey L. Morgan