The Offseason Isn't Over Yet: Senators Sign Tyler Motte
The Ottawa Senators’ offseason isn’t over just yet.
It is not the top-four defenceman that this team so desperately needs, but the Senators have inked free agent forward Tyler Motte to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million.
Motte spent most of last season playing for the Vancouver Canucks before being moved to the New York Rangers in a deadline deal.
The forward has played parts of six seasons in the NHL, but last year was the first that really solidified him as a quality depth option.
In 58 games, Motte contributed seven goals and 15 points while averaging 14:01 of ice time. All of that damage came during his time with the Canucks. In the nine games that he played with the Rangers following the deadline, Motte was held pointless.
Where Motte will be expected to play a large role will be on the penalty kill. Connor Brown and Nick Paul averaged more than two minutes of shorthanded ice time last season and they will need those minutes replaced. Motte averaged 1:50 of shorthanded ice time per game last season, which was tied for the 64th highest workload in the league amongst forwards.
Motte’s production may not have been strong following his trade, but his underlying metrics improved playing a smaller sample on a much better team. Across those nine games at five-on-five, the Rangers outshot the opposition (55.92 CF%), put more shots on goal (56.25 SF%) and created more expected goals (56.26 xGF%). This improvement was a contrast to the sub-50 percentages that he was posting in Vancouver.
Unlike many of his previous years, Motte’s isolated impacts took a marked step forward per HockeyViz.
Motte’s isolated defensive impact was strong and represented pretty sizable departure from his previous years.
Whether last season is a statistical outlier or not is the question, but at the very least, Motte demonstrated that he could provide strong defensive depth minutes while creating some modest offensive numbers.
Although Motte has some NHL experience playing down the middle, it has not happened regularly. In his career, he as only taken 151 faceoffs with a career success rate of 37.1 percent.
His addition affords the Senators more depth and flexibility. As someone who can take draws, perhaps he represents an upgrade on a player like Dylan Gambrell. And if the Senators are convinced that prospects like Ridly Greig, Parker Kelly or Mark Kastelic need a little more seasoning in Belleville before they become regulars in the lineup, Motte’s presence certainly should afford them that time.
Per the team’s official press release, general manager Pierre Dorion had the following to say about the signing.
"Tyler is a tenacious checker who plays the game with pace. He's a strong penalty killer and another competitive person who adds to the depth of our group."
The elephant in the room is that the World Junior scandal still lingers over the league. Until the investigation of the matter ends and its results are made public, the uncertainty facing Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton will continue to hang over this team.
Dorion has refused to address the scandal or the status of his players and today’s press release did not shed any light on any concerns the Senators had. The general manager has preferred to defer to the league on this subject. In saying that, the organization has absolutely talked to the players involved and investigated what they could on their own. The Senators should have an understanding of their players' involvement (if any) by now.
It's reckless to speculate publicly on either player's future, but this will only fuel it more because of the role and position Motte plays. In guaranteeing Motte a contract at a time when PTOs are being offered up around the league, it certainly isn’t going to help curb that line of thinking — even if Motte is viewed strictly as an inexpensive and short-term upgrade on what is already here.