Contrary to popular belief, the Ottawa Senators do have a lot of trade chips to help turn around the downtrodden franchise. Chief among those trade chips is Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Pageau Leads the Charge
The Sens’ leading scorer, Pageau has vaulted to the top of the trade-chip list following a stretch during which he scored eight goals in just six games. That gave him 11 goals in 18 games. Considering he’s never scored 20 in a single season, this is most definitely a case of incredible luck on his part, buoyed by an unsustainable 23.9% shooting percentage.
After all, his previous high-water mark during his 19-goal 2015-16 season was just 14.3%. That fact reveals two very important notes for Senators fans and general manager Pierre Dorion. Firstly, Pageau, who is a career 10.3% shooter, is unlikely to keep up the pace. Secondly, he may look young, but the versatile forward has been in the league a while. In fact, he’s 27 and on the verge of unrestricted free agency.
So, with the Senators languishing at the bottom of the standings, they must move now and trade him. His value will never be higher. That isn’t to say Pageau isn’t valuable. He is, as a middle-of-the-lineup guy, who can play in any situation. The newfound scoring prowess is just gravy for teams looking for added depth, gravy for the Senators in terms of a return too.
No Shortage of Potential Pageau Suitors
For example, the Edmonton Oilers are reportedly looking for a third-line center. They’ve shown interest in Pageau specifically, as they are likely desperate to make the playoffs after a single appearance since 2006 and unlikely to break up centers Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid from the same line.
Also of note, the New York Islanders have the cap space to take on Pageau’s deal, which has an average annual value of $3.1 million. Seeing as ex-Senator Derick Brassard is better suited to play wing in a top-six capacity instead of at center in a defensive role, it makes sense for the Islanders to pursue some additional, secondary scoring depth. Pageau has it in spades.
The Islanders had signed Brassard to play third-line center, but he started off the season with just a single assist in eight games in that role. Moved to the wing, Brassard delivered in a big way with goals in five consecutive games and seven points in eight total before being moved back to center. His first game back at the position, it didn’t take long for him to be put back on the wing.
Brassard responded with five more points in the last two games and is playing at a 60-point pace, which is his career high. He may not keep it up, but it’s fair to say you want to put Brassard in as much of a position to succeed as possible. Trading for Pageau allows head coach Barry Trotz to do just that and keep arguably the best fourth line in hockey together, assuming they would prefer to, anyway. The issue of whether or not to bump the deserving Casey Cizikas up in the lineup is another can of worms altogether.
Pageau More Valuable If He’s Dealt
During a season in which the Islanders have emerged as legitimate contenders, the Senators are exactly where everyone expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as rebuilding teams need to go through a great deal of suffering to eventually bounce back to the top of the league. By getting as much for Pageau as he can, Dorion can help minimize that turnaround time, and make no mistake: Time is of the essence.
There is an argument that the Senators should only try to trade Pageau if an extension seems unlikely. That means likely waiting until the trade deadline until all other avenues are exhausted. However, in spite of the numerous trade chips at their disposal, time is not one of the luxuries the Senators have. Pageau’s recent hot streak won’t last. Trade him now.
Pageau is actually an Ottawa native and may want to stay, believe it or not. All that means is he understands where his true value lies for this organization. He grew up in the area and played major junior hockey here (Gatineau), before being drafted by his hometown team. He’s been through the ups of an Eastern Conference Final berth in 2017 and the downs since then. He’s a Senator through and through. If he legitimately plans on staying, he can just as easily re-sign on July 1 after having been traded away before then… like way before then… as soon as humanly possible.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.