Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalik, Ottawa Senators

Senators Can Use Kubalik as DeBrincat Replacement in Top-Six

Despite an eventful offseason, the Ottawa Senators are still hoping to fill their need for a top-six scoring forward to complement an already offensively gifted core consisting of captain Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Claude Giroux, and Drake Batherson. While they still have around $5.5 million in cap space with only Shane Pinto to extend, the team could look for a trade or sign someone from the free-agent market, which still sees Vladimir Tarasenko’s name on it. But if it doesn’t work out, general manager (GM) Pierre Dorion should look at Dominik Kubalik, one of the pieces they acquired in the Alex DeBrincat trade, to fill that top-six role.

Closing the Chapter on DeBrincat 

Two weeks ago, the Senators finally put an end to the DeBrincat fiasco by dealing him to the Detroit Red Wings, who then signed him to a four-year, $31.5 million contract. The situation of needing to trade DeBrincat comes as a blow for the team given the hefty price tag to acquire him from the Chicago Blackhawks, which included the seventh-overall pick in 2022. But while it was expected that Dorion would receive less than what they gave up to acquire DeBrincat, he still handled himself pretty well. 

Alex DeBrincat Ottawa Senators
Alex DeBrincat, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With DeBrincat making it clear that he didn’t want to remain in Ottawa, Dorion’s leverage was limited. However, he still managed to get something for him. In the trade, the Senators received a conditional 2024 first-round pick, a 2024 fourth-round pick, prospect Donovan Sebrango and finally, Kubalik. Although this isn’t the return many fans wanted, a wild card in this trade could definitely be Kubalik, who’s had an interesting journey and career thus far.

Kubalik’s Journey

Kubalik was drafted in the seventh round in 2013 by the Los Angeles Kings. In his draft year, he was playing for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), but in the following seasons, he failed to produce consistently which pushed him to leave to play in Czechia for his hometown team of Plzen HC. For a few more years, he continued to improve his game in Europe before finally playing for the Blackhawks, who acquired his rights from the Kings in 2019 for a fifth-round pick.

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Kubalik’s first full NHL season in 2019-20 was memorable. The left winger put up 30 goals and 46 points in only 68 games, earning him a Calder Trophy nomination for Rookie of the Year. While he lost the award to none other than Cale Makar, it still marked a great start to his career. In the following two seasons, the 6-foot-2 forward didn’t put up as many points but was still contributing offensively to a declining Blackhawks organization. Last offseason, the Red Wings signed him to a two-year, $5 million contract in what was seen as a low-risk move. He finished last season with 20 goals and 45 points in 81 games for a team that also wasn’t in contention for the playoffs and was dealt to Ottawa just two weeks ago.

Although he had the chance to play with greats such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, he can continue to contribute on the scoreboard with possibly the most well-rounded offensive group he’s had in his career so far. 

Where Kubalik Fits

This season, expectations are high for the Senators to make it to the postseason given the growth of their young players and prospects as well as their recent offseason acquisitions. Although losing DeBrincat is difficult, Kubalik could be a decent consolation prize for the Senators alongside the other assets received in the trade.

While DeBrincat is largely considered to be the better player, both he and Kubalik have something in common: they love to put the puck in the net and they’re good at doing it. Kubalik could be a great addition to the team’s power play unit and a good player to move up and down on the team’s top three lines. Even though it’s unfortunate that the Sens’ gamble on DeBrincat didn’t go as planned, fans should still be excited to see what Kubalik has to offer.

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