• By: Allen Brown

Top Five Ottawa Free Agent Signings of the Past Decade

Image credit: Matthew Fournier via Unsplash

Since 2013, the Ottawa Senators have struggled with relevancy in the National Hockey League. They reached the playoffs in 2014–15 and nearly reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016–17, falling to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Ottawa was close to winning the Stanley Cup Finals that season, taking Pittsburgh to double overtime of game seven. Since that game, however, the Senators have yet to reach the post-season again and have just one season with a winning record. During most of the past decade, Pierre Dorion was the general manager, and following his firing in November 2023, Steve Staios took over. While Ottawa has yet to be exceedingly active in free agency during the last decade, let’s consider some of that era’s underrated signings.

Clarke MacArthur

Ottawa has not been very active in free agency over the past decade, but MacArthur is arguably the only standout to sign with the Senators in recent memory. After spending time in Buffalo, Atlanta, and Toronto across his first seven seasons, the man known as “Grizz” signed a two-year deal with the Senators before the 2013 season. He scored 55 points in 79 games during his first season, an immediate hit for a competitive Senators squad. NHL odds favored Ottawa the next season, and they returned the favor by giving MacArthur a five-year extension when he was still just 29. 

Unfortunately for MacArthur, his concussion battles got the better of him during his second contract with the club. In February 2015, MacArthur collided with goalie Robin Lehner, giving them both concussions. He suffered another head injury in October that same year and then again during an infamous training camp incident in 2016. He returned in 2017 after an 18-month absence, scoring a series-clinching goal against Boston in their first-round NHL playoff matchup.

Image credit: Scott Gummerson via Unsplash

Andrew Hammond

Andrew Hammond’s career in Ottawa spanned just 55 games, but he is the best diamond in this era of Senators hockey. An undrafted free agent during the 2012–13 season, Ottawa signed him to an entry-level contract and sent him to Birmingham. He got invited to training camp in 2013–14 but was again sent back to Birmingham before replacing backup goaltender Craig Anderson, who was out for the birth of his child. He played the next night and stopped all 11 shots. 

The following season, he was again designated to Birmingham for the start of the season before finally making his first start in February of 2015, replacing the injured Robin Lehner. He responded by starting 22 more games, posting his first career shutout two games later, and finished the season with an unbelievable 20–1 record. He finished 15th in the Hart Memorial Trophy voting and 7th in the Vezina Trophy voting, an unprecedented season for the little-known Hammond. He returned to earth in 2015–16 and never started more than ten games afterward, but his first season was magical.

Claude Giroux

Not all free agent signings are flashy, but that doesn’t make them less valuable. Giroux spent the first 14 years of his career in Philadelphia, making an All-Star team. After being traded to Florida in 2022, Giroux subsequently signed with the Senators after the season, agreeing to a three-year, $19.5 million contract at 35 years old. While the 2022–23 squad wasn’t a playoff team, they did finish with a winning record for the first time since 2016–17, and Giroux was instrumental in that success. The center scored a career-high 35 goals and 79 points overall, getting a Selke Trophy vote. 

Artem Zub

Another diamond in the rough, Zub wasn’t on anybody’s radar as an amateur in Russia. He won the Kontinental Hockey League’s Rookie of the Month in October 2015 but didn’t stand out in Europe’s top league. However, he scored a career-high 13 goals in his final season with SKA Saint Petersberg, and a robust Olympic performance drew the eye of the Senators. In 2020, Ottawa signed the little-known defenseman as an undrafted free agent to an entry-level contract. 

Zub performed well, scoring three goals and 14 points overall in his first season, even getting three votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Calder is given to the most outstanding NHL rookie. As a result, Ottawa signed Zub to a two-year, $5 million extension and quickly became a fan favorite. In 2022, he signed a four-year, $18.4 million extension with the club.

Image credit: Seth Hoffman via Unsplash

Vladimir Tarasenko

While still a young deal, the Senators made a splash by signing Tarasenko to a one-year, $5 million contract. The former Blues All-Star is a strong goal scorer, and Ottawa took a relatively cheap flyer on the right wing. At 32 years old and only two seasons removed from an 82-point effort in St. Louis, Tarasenko could prove to be a long-term deal for both parties. Thus far, Tarasenko has performed well, scoring 25 points and +/- of 9, the second-best on the team. 

Will Ottawa Be More Active In Free Agency In The Future?

The Senators have simply not been the franchise that makes splashy free-agent signings. However, as the club attempts to recover from this long rebuild, they may need to open pocketbooks to support a young squad. Depending on how this season finishes, they could be active in free agency for the 2024–25 season.