OTTAWA — Pierre Dorion added the veteran leadership he was looking for on the opening day of free agency.
The Ottawa Senators general manager signed veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey to a one-year deal worth US$3.5 million, as well as forward Tyler Ennis to a one-year, $800,000 contract on Monday.
Both players spent last season with Toronto, allowing for a reunion with new Ottawa head coach and former Leafs assistant D.J. Smith.
"When you have a guy who's had them in the room for the past two years, I think it's just a bonus," Dorion said.
"He knows their character. He knows he doesn't want bad apples in the room and if you talk to D.J. and I'm sure you will at some point in time in the summer he’s going to vouch for the character of these four players and for us that’s just a bonus in the culture that we're trying to achieve here.”
Hainsey and Ennis aren't the only players switching sides in the Battle of Ontario.
Earlier Monday, the Senators acquired defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and forwards Connor Brown and Michael Carcone from the Leafs in exchange for defencemen Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur, forward Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 third-round draft pick. ."
With his 1,068 career NHL games under his belt, Hainsey has, by far, the most experience on the Senators' young blue line. He is expected to help with the development of young defenceman such as Thomas Chabot, Christian Wolanin and Christian Jaros.
"We were looking for someone as a mentor," said Dorion. "Someone that could stabilize our young defence. I think Ron will help in the day-to-day. He's been around it all, he's been a (Stanley) Cup winner, he's done it all.
"He's a veteran presence and he'll bring a calming effect and I think you’ll see us less running around because of the presence Ron Hainsey brings."
Last season, Hainsey, 38, had five goals and 18 assists in 81 games. He added one assist in seven playoff games.
Despite the addition of Hainsey and Zaitsev, Dorion says young defencemen will still be given an opportunity to fight for a roster spot as the Senators might consider carrying seven or eight blue-liners.
Ennis, 29, scored 12 goals and added six assists for 18 points in 51 games with the Leafs last season. Ennis previously played for the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres.
"Ennis is a really versatile kind of guy," Dorion said. "He plays the game the way we want to play it with high energy, gets on the puck, can play on the power play and most importantly anyone who knows him (knows) he's a great culture guy. He's a great locker-room guy who knows how to bring people together and that was one of the things we were looking to do."
The Senators also signed forward Jordan Szwarz to a one-year, two-way contract.
Dorion doesn't anticipate making many more moves, other than talking to player agents regarding contract extensions. The most important of those discussions will be with Chabot's agent as the 22-year-old is eligible to sign a new deal.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press