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Report: DeBrincat was unhappy being behind Tkachuk in Sens' lineup

Rich Graessle / National Hockey League / Getty

Alex DeBrincat's exit from the Ottawa Senators appears to have stemmed from his desire to be higher on the team's depth chart than the cornerstone of the franchise.

DeBrincat didn't like his role as a second-line winger behind Brady Tkachuk, sources told Postmedia's Bruce Garrioch.

On Friday, Senators star Tim Stutzle strongly hinted at DeBrincat's apparent disgruntlement when asked about convincing players to stay during an appearance on Sportsnet's "32 Thoughts" podcast.

"If he doesn't want to be there, I don't want to make him have to be there," Stutzle said. "That's fine to us. I think the whole group, we've been saying it, we want him to stay. We want him to be part of this group and he's a great guy, great player.

"If you don't want to be there, then good luck on your way."

Tkachuk, the team's captain, posted 35 goals and 48 assists while playing all 82 games last season. He also ranked among the league leaders with 242 hits. DeBrincat collected eight fewer tallies and nine fewer helpers while also suiting up for every regular-season contest.

The Senators traded DeBrincat to the Detroit Red Wings in July, and he instantly signed a four-year contract with his hometown squad.

Ottawa acquired the previously productive forward from the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2022 draft with one year remaining on his contract. He was a restricted free agent this summer but reportedly wasn't interested in inking an extension with the Senators.

DeBrincat racked up 41 goals and 37 assists with Chicago in 2021-22, tying the career high in tallies he established with the Blackhawks in 2018-19, his second NHL season. His 78 points were a personal-best at the highest level, and the 39 helpers he registered last season represented his best total since he entered the league.

The 25-year-old poured in 32 markers over 52 contests during the abbreviated 2021 campaign. He's been durable as well, playing every regular-season game in four of his six seasons and all but four contests in that same campaign that was shortened due to COVID-19.

Tkachuk is a two-time 30-goal scorer, setting career highs in all three primary scoring categories last season. The Senators signed him to a seven-year, $57.5-million contract in October 2021 after he led the team in points and ranked second in the NHL in hits during the previous campaign.

Ottawa named Tkachuk captain not long after the two sides agreed on the extension, handing him the "C" in November of that year. He's now the club's second-highest-paid player behind Stutzle, who signed an eight-year, $66.8-million pact with the Sens in September 2022.

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