Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion just completed his third, and possibly best, trade deadline. The key message from the organization is clear, they are all in for the rebuild and will do what it takes to get there. Even if that means sending your top three scoring forwards away.
Dorion made a number of moves this season, and while that’s nothing new, the returns are arguably his best yet. Sure, the players are better quality than the Senators sent away, but looking at the return for other players in the league, he came out looking great. Here’s an overview of the transactions from the trade deadline deals, with the immediate reactions. For the sake of calling it a trade deadline transaction, this list looks at moves made within one month of the deadline.
Feb. 22: Duchene Heads to Columbus
To OTT: Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson, a 2019 first-round pick and a conditional 2020 first-round pick
To CBJ: Matt Duchene and Julius Bergman
The first domino to fall for the Senators was Duchene, and in doing so, they set the market for themselves. The Senators sent away two players to the Columbus Blue Jackets who were not going to stay in the organization and got two prospects, one who should be an NHL contributor in Abramov, and Davidsson who the team is taking a chance on, and added a first-round pick in 2019.
It won’t be as high as their own pick would have been since the Colorado Avalanche has that from the original Duchene deal, but it’s a good start. There’s potential here to add another first-round pick in 2020 if Duchene signs an extension with the Blue Jackets.
Feb. 23: Blue Jackets Not Done, Land Dzingel
To OTT: Anthony Duclair, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick
To CBJ: Ryan Dzingel and a 2019 seventh-round pick
One day later, the team continued talks with the Blue Jackets, sending Dzingel to follow Duchene to Ohio. The Senators hope that Duclair can find his game in Ottawa, as he joins his fifth team in as many seasons in the NHL. He had a ton of potential coming into the league, perhaps he can live up to it with the Senators. The two picks are a great addition to the trade, giving the team additional assets in the coming seasons.
Feb. 25: Stone Sent to the Golden Knights
To OTT: Erik Brannstrom, Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round pick
To VGK: Mark Stone and Tobias Lindberg
The biggest name leaving the Senators is Stone. Stone was likely next in line to be the captain of the team, but instead will be leading the Vegas Golden Knights on what they hope will be another deep playoff run. The lack of a first-round pick in the trade raises questions on whether or not the Senators got robbed, but the acquisition of Brannstrom helps ease the concerns. He’s a top prospect in the NHL and has top-two blue line potential. The second-round pick doesn’t hurt either. Lindberg is likely just a placeholder for now until a younger player can take the spot.
Two More Minor Deals
Feb. 6: Senators send Max McCormick to the Avalanche for J.C. Beaudin.
Feb. 25: Senators receive Brian Gibbons from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Patrick Sieloff.
These moves are just AHL depth moves as the Belleville Senators make a push for the playoffs, and shouldn’t impact the NHL roster. Here are some initial thoughts on the impact of the Senators’ 2019 Trade Deadline moves.
Senators Betting High on Future
Right off the bat, seeing Stone, Duchene and Dzingel all as players who were sent away is pretty discouraging. But the Senators actually did pretty well here. Brannstrom stands out for sure, arguably the best defense prospect in the league right now. Abramov has the potential to develop into a solid top-six or top-nine player and Duclair could turn his career around and be a star. Even Davidsson has some potential to be a contributing NHLer, but he’s a bit more of a gamble. Beaudin, Lindberg and Gibbons are more place-holders and AHL depth players at this point in their careers.
The team also got four, potentially five, draft picks in the first two rounds over the next three years. The Senators now have 15, and potentially 17, draft picks if Erik Karlsson re-signs with the San Jose Sharks and Duchene re-signs in Columbus, in the first three rounds over the next three years. With numerous veterans still on the team, this number could go up more after the season ends. In the first year of the rebuild, that’s a good start for Dorion and company.
The three big names getting sent out weren’t going to re-sign for what was offered, so the best thing for the organization to do was to trade them.
After the 3 p.m. deadline had come and gone, Dorion spoke to the media about how happy he was with the moves his club made.
“What’s encouraging is all of these players are going to be in the prime of their careers and we have no intentions of moving any of them. They are going to be here. I don’t know what else to tell you: We have to tell our fans to be patient, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is pretty good and pretty big. What we’ve been able to do in the last 12 months, as far as our rebuild, we’ve acquired some quality pieces.
“I can’t express to you how, as a hockey group, we’re so happy to get Erik Brannstrom. We all saw him personally. We saw him as an all-star at the world juniors and, a player of his calibre as a 19-year-old in the American league, not many have done. And, we are excited about it. Me, as a hockey guy, I’m elated about it. I know today when I brush my teeth tonight when I go to bed, and I’ll look at myself in the mirror, I’ll say, ‘That was a long day, but we did something good for the Ottawa Senators today.’ And, I’m convinced about that as much as I’m convinced about anything else.” (From: “GM Pierre Dorion confident the Ottawa Senators are rebuilding the right way” – Ottawa Sun – 2/25/19).
While Dorion says the fans need to be patient, he also believes there is a great deal of hope looking to the future. The club got some good prospects and have stocked up on draft picks, but it will remain to be seen years from now if that can translate into a Stanley Cup.
Biggest Misses for Senators from Trade Deadline
No First-Round Pick for Stone
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie, the price for Stone just a few days before the deadline was rumoured to be two first-round picks and two prospects or players. Instead, the Senators got a second-round puck, one prospect and a player. Brannstrom is a high-end prospect with a ton of potential, so that may have lowered one of the potential first-rounders to a second. He is a former 15th-overall pick after all.
But what about the other pick that was rumoured? It seems strange that Duchene pulled in a first-round pick and a conditional first-round pick and Stone didn’t. On top of that, Stone was signed to an eight-year extension worth $9.5 million. When looking at the Duchene trade, and even the Karlsson trade, there’s a conditional first-round pick if the player re-signs. Yet Stone didn’t get a first-rounder?
Speculation leading up to the deadline was that the price was too high for Stone and that teams didn’t want to play that much for the rental. Perhaps the market dipped on Stone, in which case no first-round pick is directly on Dorion for taking this right down to the wire. As the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators all dropped out, he had no choice but to take the best offer available.
Stone Not Re-Signed
Dorion and the Senators seemed to hold some hope right up until the trade deadline that they might be able to get Stone under contract so they wouldn’t need to move him. They reportedly offered him a “creative” contract, rumoured to be around $10.5 million per year over five or six years. The bonus structure was rumoured to be an issue, with the changing structure to contracts over the past few seasons.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos explains the bonus structure issue, “As far as Stone is concerned, structure and signing bonus continues to be an issue. We saw a guy like [Auston] Matthews get up to 94 percent all in signing bonus. I don’t think Eugene Melnyk needs to go all-in there, but certainly, he has to be in the ballpark of what is acceptable for these superstars in today’s market.”
What makes the Golden Knights extending Stone worse, is Stone’s comments following the deal. His comments may shed light on the number one reason that he didn’t re-sign with the Senators, “The ownership’s commitment to winning.” (From: “Sens trade Mark Stone to Golden Knights” – Ottawa Sun – 2/25/19).
Ceci, Others Are Still Senators
There were many rumours over the last month or so that Cody Ceci, Bobby Ryan, Mikkel Boedker, Craig Anderson and Zach Smith were available through a trade. What happened? The Senators managed to send out their top three goal scorers, but no depth players. It seems strange on a rebuilding team to not trade some of these other players.
It’s possible that Dorion was so busy with Duchene, Dzingel and Stone that time ran out to really focus on the others. Stone’s transaction did come within the last hour, after all. It’s also possible that the Senators wanted to keep these players in the lineup for the season as the Belleville Senators make a run at the playoffs, which makes sense. The team could still move some of these pieces ahead of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, but not pulling off any other NHL-level moves can definitely be viewed as a miss if there truly was interest.
What’s Next for Senators?
The Senators have stocked the cupboard for the coming seasons. They have a solid prospect pool and a great deal of draft picks over the next few seasons that could even rise after more deals in the offseason. The biggest thing for the club now is to look to the draft. If the rebuild is successful, the draft is going to be key. The organization will need to get some wins through here to be a true contender in the following seasons.
On top of this, there are players to re-sign. Colin White and Christian Wolanin are both restricted free agents this offseason and both should be signed to bridge deals. White’s numbers were surely impacted by Stone, and Wolanin has yet to be a constant NHL player, although that is likely going to happen now. Duclair is also a restricted free agent, so depending on how he plays in Ottawa, he may be up for a re-sign, too. In the AHL, goaltender Marcus Hogberg, in the middle of a breakout season, is also in need of a new contract.
Dorion’s work in this rebuild is not done yet, although the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline will be remembered as a make or break point in it in the seasons to follow.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.