Senators Rebuild and the Duchene Trade

Believe it or not, the Ottawa Senators sending Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets is a good thing for the organization. The team has made the decision to rebuild and Duchene didn’t want to be a part of it after going through the process with the Colorado Avalanche. For the players in the locker room, it holds back the team when one person doesn’t want to be there and everyone knows it. Now, they can move on.

Related: Duchene Traded to Blue Jackets

When the Senators acquired Duchene from the Avalanche in November of 2018, they sent a conditional first-round pick (which turned into a 2019 pick with the Senators drafting Brady Tkachuk in 2018), a 2019 third-round pick, prospect Shane Bowers and Andrew Hammond to the Avalanche and Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators.

Just 15 months after acquiring him, here’s the trade that sent Duchene to the Blue Jackets:

To CBJ: Matt Duchene and Julius Bergman

To OTT: Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson, a 2019 first-round pick and a conditional 2020 first-round pick

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion released a statement about the deal shortly after it was announced: “Our desire was to have Matt be part of this and as such we approached him with a fair and comprehensive contract offer to remain a Senator for the long term. As soon as it was determined that he did not want to be part of our rebuild, we shifted our focus to see what assets we could acquire in exchange for Matt that would help grow our pipeline of potential.”

Matt Duchene #95, Ottawa Senators
Matt Duchene was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It seems the Bergman also didn’t want to be a part of the future, as news from the past week stated that Bergman was going to head overseas next season to play with his former team, Frolunda HC in Sweden.

In one move, the team sent away two expiring contracts and gained four potential assets to help the rebuild as the organization looks to reset. They didn’t completely replace what they sent away in the original trade, but it came close. A Turris replacement is really the only piece lacking, and with the prospects coming up at centre, that’s acceptable.

With that, let’s take a look at the pieces that the Senators got back.

Vitaly Abramov

Some may already know Vitaly Abramov. The 20-year-old player spent two seasons and part of a third just over the provincial border with the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. His time there is what makes him stand out as a prospect, collecting 223 points in 145 games.

Right from his rookie season, he showed what he could do, scoring 38 goals, 55 assists for 93 points. Those totals were the most among QMJHL rookies and he won Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year, was named to the All-Rookie Team and participated in the CHL Top Prospects game.

His second season was even better, scoring 46 goals and 104 points, winning the Jean Beliveau Trophy for the most points and the Michel Brière Trophy as league MVP. He was named to the First All-Star Team and in his final season, he was named to the Second All-Star Team. He has a U17 World Hockey Championship gold medal to his name and also played in the 2017-18 U20 World Junior Hockey Championship for Team Russia.

Vitaly Abramov, NHL, Columbus Blue Jackets, QMJHL, Gatineau Olympiques
Vitaly Abramov has the potential to be a star for the Senators. (Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

Taken 65th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, he projects to be a top-six forward in the NHL. While some worry about his size, he’s 5-foot-9, 172 pounds, and his play without the puck, he’s still very young and he will improve. Finishing the season in the AHL, his first in the league, should help his defensive game. As for his size, there a number of star NHLers who were also criticized for their size.

Abramov could get a look at the NHL as early as next season, but if the Senators are able to keep him in the AHL, there’s no rush for this young player and further development would help his game.

Jonathan Davidsson

While Abramov is known by many, Jonathan Davidsson is less so. He is currently playing in the Swedish Hockey League with Djurgårdens IF. The 170th-overall pick from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has scored double-digit goals in each of the last two seasons there, where he plays against men rather than players his own age.

Dobber Prospects’ Frank Pellegrini provided some thoughts on Davidsson back in November:

“He is a strong skater with a quick first step, very good acceleration and above average top end speed even while playmaking. He needs to get stronger, improve his balance, and his defensive game and positioning if he wants to play in the NHL… Expect a year of improvement in the SHL before coming to North America in 2019-2020 where he will compete for a middle-six role.”

The right-winger could be a solid player moving forward in the team’s rebuild, and the Senators are gambling that he will be the case. As Pellegrini says, he needs to fine-tune a number of things, but there are things to like about the young prospect.

The Picks

The picks are a big add for the Senators. One of them is a guaranteed first-rounder, although it is top-three protected. In the case that the Blue Jackets miss the playoffs and end up with a top-three pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, they will get the pick back and the Senators will receive their 2020 first round pick instead. The Blue Jackets are third in the Metropolitan Division, but a number of teams are right behind them. The Senators will be watching this closely as the season progresses.

Pierre Dorion Ottawa Senators 2015
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion will be looking for as many picks as he can get ahead of Monday’s deadline. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

The second pick, a conditional 2020 first-round pick, depends on Duchene. If Duchene signs an extension with the Blue Jackets, the Senators get their first-round pick for 2020. In the case that the 2019 pick goes back to the Senators and Duchene re-signs, Ottawa will get the Blue Jackets’ 2020 and 2021 first-round picks.

The Senators finally have their first-round pick for 2019 it seems and could have three in 2020 because of the Duchene and Erik Karlsson trades. Both 2020 picks are conditional though. As the team dives into their rebuild, they’ll need as many picks as they get moving forward.

Senators Now Turn to Stone & Dzingel

With Duchene moved, Dorion and the Senators will now turn their attention to Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel. With the NHL Trade Deadline only days away, it looks like both will be moved. Just like in the Duchene deal, the team will be looking for prospects and picks in return for the two forwards. The ask for Stone is rumoured to be four assets, two picks and two prospects, where Dzingel would fetch a first-rounder or high-end prospect. It will be a very busy weekend for the Senators.

Related: Senators’ Stone: Top 4 Trade Destinations