The Ottawa Senators have two restricted free agents still unsigned after sending Alex DeBrincat to the Detroit Red Wings and the announcement on TSN1200 that Kevin Mandolese will sign a deal on July 11. Shane Pinto and Egor Sokolov have yet to ink their next deals, but just a few hours from Ottawa, the Montreal Canadiens got busy and signed Alex Newhook to a four-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $2.9 million.
This is a perfect guideline for the Senators to follow with Pinto.
Both Pinto and Newhook were 2019 draft picks and came to the NHL at the tail end of the 2020-21 season. Unfortunately, Pinto suffered a shoulder injury and missed all but five games in what would have been his rookie season. Last season, he was given a big role as the Senators lost their second-line center, Josh Norris, for much of the season. Pinto took turns jumping into that spot and did well, but he played his best hockey on the third line.
Similarly, Newhook was bounced up and down the lineup as the Colorado Avalanche dealt with injuries to key forwards, giving him a chance to prove himself in the top-six, which ultimately didn’t work out. However, he has the potential to be that top-six player.
Pinto recorded 20 goals and 35 points in 82 games last season, while Newhook registered 14 goals and 30 points in the same number of games. Newhook’s deal is a great starting point for Pinto, but given that Pinto has played 60 fewer games and is already producing at a higher rate, his AAV could be slightly higher.
Pinto’s Role With the Senators
Though he had second-line duties, playing with DeBrincat and Drake Batherson, Pinto played his best hockey on the third line, and unless he has an outstanding campaign and surprises everyone, or the Senators deal with major injuries again, this will be his place next season. Norris and Tim Stutzle are the organization’s top centers, and it will be tough to pass either one of them on the depth chart.
That being said, the third line centered by Pinto could have a new look come opening night. Ridly Greig will be fighting for a full-time gig and could line up on Pinto’s wing. Dominik Kubalik, a proven goal-scorer and upcoming free agent, could be another option. The Senators are also still being linked to Vladimir Tarasenko, which would either put him or Batherson on the right wing on the third line. Pinto could have a great chance here to build off his strong rookie campaign.
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Pinto plays a strong two-way game. He isn’t flashy but gets the job done. He is expected to be on the second power-play unit and will get a lot of opportunities to play with Kubalik, Batherson and Jakob Chychurn. He recorded 35 points while popping up and down the lineup, so there is a good chance he will take a big step forward offensively and challenge the 50-point mark from the third line.
Pinto deserves a higher AAV and, at four years, could earn around the $3.2 million mark, which is good value for such an effective center. General manager Pierre Dorion mentioned that he has been talking to Pinto’s agent about various term options, so it would make sense for a four-year, $12.8 million offer to be on the table. However, the opportunity for a breakout campaign is what could deter Pinto’s camp from signing a Newhook-like deal. It might be in Pinto’s best interest to take a two-year deal closer to $2.5 million and prove he is worth more in the coming years.
As of now, there’s no reason to think that a deal won’t get done. Pinto is the backbone of the bottom-six and will leave a giant hole if he isn’t there. Dorion can’t and won’t let it get to that point. The Newhook deal is a great starting place for a deal, but there will still be a lot of work to get the deal done.