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Evgenii Dadonov sees better days ahead for the Ottawa Senators.
And, that’s why he decided to accept the club’s offer to sign a three-year, $15 million deal with the Senators as a unrestricted free agent last Thursday.
The 31-year-old Dadonov was on a conference call with the Ottawa media from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Monday and he noted before he decided to leave the Panthers to join the Senators he did plenty of homework to make sure this was the right destination to try to have success.
“I’m really excited to play for this team,” said Dadonov. “It wasn’t a decision that was made just because of the contract or anything, I think it’s a perfect location. I think this team is going to have some success and I think we’re going to race for the (Stanley) Cup in the next few years.”
Being able to acquire a three-time 25-plus goal scorer was difficult. Owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Pierre Dorion were thrilled Dadonov chose to come here. He had 25 goals and 47 points last season with the Panthers plus he’s coming off back-to-back 28-goal seasons.
In 202 NHL games in his career, Dadanov has 91 goals and 202 points. Eighty-one of those goals have come in his last three seasons in the league and those are pretty strong numbers.
He had options. Initially, there were 10 teams in the mix for Dadanov when he first hit the free agent market on Oct. 9. From there, he and his agent pared the options down to three teams after six or seven made serious pitches. In the end, he decided to accept Ottawa’s offer to help the club take its rebuild to another level.
He was impressed with what he heard from Dorion and coach D.J. Smith about the direction this club is taking.
“We’ve been talking a lot,” said Dadonov. “We spoke with a lot of teams. I spoke with a lot with Ottawa and we just made a decision it was going to be a good opportunity for me. Pierre and D.J. told me the plan and strategy of the team and I thought it was going to be good for me.
“A lot of the guys I spoke with about the team told me they’ve got a lot of young guns and very good prospects and we made the decision it was going to be good for me.”
Dadanov spoke with the likes of Artem Anisimov and Nikita Zaitsev before agreeing to accept the deal with the Senators. Dadonov knows he’ll be one of the older players in the room whenever the season gets under way and, as a result, his role will come responsibilities.
“I asked a lot of questions about the team stuff and the city,” he said. “They said only good words about Ottawa.”
He’ll have a chance to live up to the nickname “Daddy” that former Florida coach Bob Boughner gave him during his first season back in the league.
“They told me I’m going to have a good role on the team because there’s not a lot of veterans,” Dadonov said. “It’s kind of a step up for me as well to be one of the experienced guys.
“There’s not a lot of veterans on the team. I’m ready for that (role). I want to help the team win. I’m going to do the best I can. I’ll try to help the young guys and I hope I can play a lot of minutes on the power play. The plan of this team is to be a playoff team.”
Of course, he knows newly-acquired defenceman Josh Brown, who played with him in Florida the last couple of years, and has also skated with winger Vitaly Abramov in his hometown in Russia.
The native of Chelyabinsk, Russia was drafted by the Panthers No. 71 overall in 2007. He spent parts of three seasons with Florida before heading back to Russia to suit up in the KHL for five seasons. He returned to Florida for the 2017-18 campaign and has had no shortage of success.
The Senators believe Dadanov can play a big role on a team that had the worst power play in the league last season at only 14.2%. In 69 games with the Panthers last season, he had 11 goals and 17 points with 40 shots. As noted, he’ll be the key along with top defenceman Thomas Chabot.
He thinks highly of Chabot and Brady Tkachuk.
“Those guys have a chance to be superstars in the league,” said Dadonov.
He wouldn’t mind the opportunity to playing with Tkachuk but Dadonov, a right winger, noted that he can’t be choosy.
“I think (Tkachuk’s) a good player, a powerful forward, but I also know there’s a lot of young guys,” Dadonov said. “I spoke with the coach and the GM and I know (Josh) Norris played well in the minors last year, he’s very skilled and he’s a very good player. I know they they got (Tim) Stuetzle third overall and he’s supposed to be skilled.
“This team has got talent. I can play with anybody. I don’t want to say I just want to play with this guy or that guy. It’s going to be the coaches decision.”
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