GM Staios taking cautious approach to off-season after Sens miss playoffs again

OTTAWA — Another season out of the playoffs has left Ottawa Senators players frustrated and disappointed, but a complete overhaul doesn't appear to be in Steve Staios's plans.

In his media availability with media Friday morning, the Senators general manager acknowledged his players' feelings — captain Brady Tkachuk said Thursday as players cleaned out their lockers that he was “sick and tired of losing" — but was cautious in revealing plans for next season.

“I think the word frustration comes from not being able to meet expectations,” said Staios. “I think we need to take it back a little bit to be able to start to build towards those expectations.”

Staios is new to the job in Ottawa. He joined the team as president of hockey operations when new owner Michael Andlauer took over the team in September, and added general manager to his duties when longtime GM Pierre Dorion was fired Nov. 1.

He believes the challenges of the past season will make the team better in the long run.

“The players need to go through, as hard as it is, they need to go through these scenarios and situations and years where it’s utter disappointment,” Staios said. “Because it will only drive them to get better. They have to go through a year where there is conflict and there is turmoil. They need to learn how to deal with that.”

First on Staios’ to-do list this off-season is hiring a new head coach.

Jacques Martin, who filled in as interim after D.J. Smith was fired, will remain with the organization as a consultant.

Staios wouldn’t put a timeline on when an announcement might take place.

“We’re really digging in,” said Staios. “There’s a long list of coaches who are very good coaches that could come in and coach the Ottawa Senators. What we’re really trying to do is find the right person for the job at this time with our group. We’ve had time to evaluate our group on where we think they are and trying to find that personality and that style of coach.”

Staios added it would be a bonus if that person happened to be bilingual.

Decisions will also need to be made regarding supporting staff, but he did clarify that Daniel Alfredsson, who served as an assistant coach to Martin, wasn’t in consideration for head coach. Alfredsson will likely be given the opportunity to return if he chooses.

There’s no denying the Senators are on the edge of a precipice. After missing the playoffs for the past seven seasons this group will only be given so many chances to prove itself before significant changes are made.

That’s not to say there won’t be changes this off-season. The Senators could benefit from additional veteran leadership.

Aside from veteran Claude Giroux, only goalie Joonas Korpisalo (15) has played more than 10 playoff games.

A goaltending corps led by Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg finished last in the league with an .888 save percentage. Staios believes the goaltenders are better than the numbers they posted.

“The question is do you address that because they had off years,” he said. “You know, there’s a number of areas that we need to address."

While most of the team’s core group of players are already under contract there are some decisions to be made.

Dominik Kubalik is the lone unrestricted free agent. He was acquired in the trade for Alex DeBrincat but never really found his place in Ottawa, putting up four goals and 15 assists in 74 games.

Forwards Shane Pinto, Parker Kelly, Boris Katchouk and defenceman Erik Brannstrom, are all restricted free agents and will be looking for contract extensions.

Staios said he didn’t think exit interviews were the place to discuss contract negotiations, and so no player was told he wouldn’t be returning to the organization.

Defenceman Jakob Chychrun is entering the final year of his contract, but Staios said he wouldn’t discuss contract negotiations through the media.

Notes: Cenrtre Josh Norris is expected to be ready for the start of training camp following successful shoulder surgery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2024.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press