Over the past several weeks, Alex DeBrinat’s camp has been steadily quiet as rumors swirl about his future in Ottawa.
But on Monday night, DeBrincat’s agent Jeff Jackson wanted to address a story that was gaining momentum.
after Postmedia headline Stating that “Alex DeBrincat’s contract demands a trade block from the Ottawa Senators,” Jackson called the report “completely false and unworthy” in a text message to the athlete.
Jackson wanted to clarify the circumstances surrounding his client, which he believes have been mischaracterized in recent media reports.
“As far as I have been advised, there has been no agreement of any kind on an actual trade in which Alex would be involved, and I would request this before entering into actual negotiations,” Jackson wrote. “We are patiently waiting for that to happen.”
And when it came to the idea of DeBrincat and his agent acting as a buffer to the sniper trade out of Ottawa, Jackson was very focused in his assessment of the situation.
“Agents and players don’t make deals… that’s the job of GM,” Jackson wrote.
DeBrincat doesn’t keep a no-trade clause in his contract, so technically the Senators have the right to send him to any club in the NHL — without seeking DeBrincat’s approval.
However, as he is entering his final season of being a restricted free agent, DeBrincat’s value is somewhat limited at this point. If the Senators can put a signing and trading option in place for DeBrincat, it will allow them to maximize their return. But if they trade him with only a year left on his contract, their return will be mitigated.
“Obviously the team will give you more if they know they’ve been holding it for over a year,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said last week. “So in our case, yeah, it would be perfect.”
The stalemate between Debrinkat and the senators crossed two major pressure points. The first was last week’s NHL Draft in Nashville, where Dorion seemed frustrated with some of the offers he received for the two-time 40-goal winger.
“We wouldn’t trade it for pennies on the dollar,” Dorion said on June 28. “We feel it’s a really good asset.”
Dorion hoped that a second pressure point would be created with the opening of the free agency period on July 1st. If teams decide to help score touchdowns via the free agent market, Dorion was optimistic some might come back to discuss DeBrincat.
Added Dorion on June 28: “By July 1st, I think we’ll have a good idea. Maybe teams that aren’t there can get in if they target players they haven’t acquired.”
But July 1 has come and gone, with no significant offerings on DeBrincat’s table.
“Nothing new about Alex DeBrinkat,” Dorion told reporters during his July 1 media briefing in Ottawa, though he said there were “varying degrees of interest” in the winger.
Now both parties are waiting for a third pressure point on the horizon in the form of an arbitration hearing that is likely to be scheduled for sometime in late July or early August. On Saturday, Dorion admitted, “When the arbitration period comes, we have to make a decision.”
One option proposed by Dorion was the idea that DeBrincat could return to play next season with the Senators. One thing Dorion made clear is that DeBrincat did not call out Ottawa during an exit meeting with management at the conclusion of the regular season. So it seems that we have not reached a point where there are irreconcilable differences between the two parties.
“He made it clear to us that he wouldn’t sign here long-term. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t sign short-term,” Dorion said on Saturday.
In this scenario, DeBrincat would return to Ottawa in the fall on a one-year contract. The terms of that one-year contract may be drafted through an arbitration process. If Ottawa wins its case, there is a possibility that an independent arbitrator could award him a contract for the 2023-24 season worth $7.65 million — down 15 percent from the $9 million he was set to offer.
And while that would be a win for the Senators, it would also effectively eliminate a sign-and-trade option for DeBrincat out of Ottawa. Once DeBrincat agrees to a one-year deal – whether in negotiations or arbitration – he cannot sign a contract extension for the 2024-25 season and beyond until after January 1, 2024.
The Senators will then have to push DeBrincat’s situation to a fourth—and much scarier—pressure point at next season’s trade deadline. If they’re in the midst of an Eastern Conference playoff race, they may have a hard time justifying trading a player of DeBrincat’s stature, especially if he’s enjoying his rebounding season. And if they trade it in, they might only get the pure rent value on the trade deadline.
Next season’s trade deadline will be March 1, 2024, which means DeBrincat will be able to see the finish line in unrestricted free agency just four months early. He may be more reticent about signing a long-term extension at that point, opting to wait until July 1, 2024, to choose his preferred destination.
With each passing day, the leverage is swinging more and more in DeBrincat’s camp as he veers toward unrestricted free agency. That power will really transfer to DeBrincat after the refereeing process.
Dorion and the Senators won’t want to go the uncertain route of watching their star winger potentially walk out the door with nothing to go back next summer. And it’s possible he doesn’t want a repeat of the process he went through with Mark Stone during the 2018-19 season, finally making a deal with Vegas just minutes before the trade deadline.
That makes an arbitration hearing in the coming weeks the most likely catalyst for a resolution in the DeBrincat saga in Ottawa. We saw a similar situation happen between Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames last summer before executing a massive deal with the Florida Panthers in late July.
For that to happen for Debrinkat and the senators, both sides will likely need to take a deep breath, pause, and find a suitable trading partner at some point in the next couple of weeks.
(Photo: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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