Welcome to Senators Weekly where you can catch up on the past week of the Ottawa Senators throughout the 2018-19 season. From trending topics to surging prospects to news and notes, this is your weekly roundup on all things Sens. This week looks at the past two weeks, stretching over the holidays.
The Senators are on a downward spiral recently, losing their last eight games. The club is now at the bottom of the league with a record of 15-23-5. They have the most goals against (172) and the biggest goal differential (minus-36). In the first year of the rebuild, the organization would normally be looking forward to the first-round pick, likely a first overall. But from the Matt Duchene trade last season, the Colorado Avalanche have that pick. Despite the turn of the calendar, it looks like the dark days are far from over for the Senators.
Here are the notable headlines and stories from the past two weeks.
Stone & Duchene Negotiations Headed Different Ways
It was only six months ago that Senators fans were on the edge of their seats waiting for Mark Stone to re-sign with the club. Now, the organization has to go through it all again. As of Jan. 1, the Senators and Stone’s camp can begin the next round of negotiations. Currently, the star forward is on a one-year, $7.35 million deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Stone is having another great season for the Senators, collecting 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points through 40 games to lead the club. Speaking to reporters, Stone touched on where the negotiations are at and his desires moving forward.
“I’m expecting (negotiations) to start in the next couple weeks. My agent and (Senators general manager Pierre Dorion) are going to sit down and see where it goes. This is the only place I’ve ever played, I’ve loved living in the city of Ottawa, I love playing for this team. I’ve loved my time here and hopefully, it can continue.”
The negotiations with Matt Duchene however, seem to be trending in the opposite direction. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson reports that an extension for the star centreman isn’t looking likely at this point.
“It’s quite interesting that the talks between the Ottawa Senators and Matt Duchene – their pending unrestricted free agent – have appeared to have cooled off. Pierre Dorion, the general manager, doesn’t want to place any sort of deadline on when he needs an answer on Matt Duchene’s intentions – whether will he sign an extension – but clearly, as this slides along here, we are looking at him as a potential target in that trade deadline period and someone that the Senators are going to have to make a decision on because I don’t get the sense from Duchene’s side that there’s any rush for them to make that kind of decision.”
As the Feb. 25 trade deadline looms, the negotiations with these two stars will be the focus of Ottawa media. While losing either would be a huge loss for the team, Duchene was acquired just last season for a haul, including their 2019 first-round pick. If he leaves for anything less than what he was acquired for, it would be a huge disappointment for the organization. Especially if he walks in free agency.
Senators Trade McKenna, Pyatt for Nilsson, Archibald
The Senators improved their goaltending by sending Mike McKenna, Tom Pyatt and a sixth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Anders Nilsson and Darren Archibald. Prior to the trade, the 35-year-old McKenna had a 1-4-1 record with a 3.96 goals-against average (GAA) while Nilsson, 28 years old, had a 3.03 GAA to go along with a 3-8-1 record. The move gives the Senators a solid number two goalie behind Craig Anderson, who is still out with a concussion.
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) January 2, 2019
The trade also rids the club of Pyatt, who had drawn the criticism of fans for a very long time, despite being a favourite of head coach Guy Boucher. Pyatt has two assists through 37 games this season. He reported to the Utica Comets in the AHL. Archibald went to the Belleville Senators, bringing his 16 points in 23 games along with him.
In Nilsson’s first two games with the Senators, he’s 0-2-0. He started one of those games and has a 3.91 GAA along with six goals against.
While the trade does help the team this season, it’s hard to understand this trade when looking at the rebuild. Nilsson, while definitely an upgrade over McKenna and Marcus Hogberg, is a pending UFA and adds to the long list that the club may need to worry about. Archibald is 28 years old and will likely remain in the AHL.
Finally, the Senators sent a sixth-round pick to Vancouver, making two rounds for the 2019 NHL Draft where the Senators don’t have a pick. Dorion will likely be looking to stockpile picks as the Senators will be sellers ahead of the trade deadline.
Pageau Makes His Debut Earlier Than Expected
In September, before the NHL season had started, Jean-Gabriel Pageau ruptured his Achilles’ tendon and required surgery. It was expected then that he would not return until March 2019. Coming back two months early, the centreman provides a much-needed boost in the Senators lineup. And he wasted no time either, scoring in his first game of the season in the 5-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Even more impressive for the goal was that it came just eight seconds after a goal by Rudolfs Balcers, the first of his NHL career in his second game. The eight-second mark ties the franchise record for fastest goals scored back-to-back.
He’s a smart player,” Boucher said after the Senators’ 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, ahead of Pageau’s debut. “You can throw him out there and you’re probably not going to get an odd-man rush because he’s out there and not some other guys who have more trouble reading the game.
“You’re able to get more of a tight game and somebody who can play against the top players. But, having said that, let’s not put pressure on (Pageau). It’s been a while since he played and the league started a while ago and everybody’s on a certain pace.” (From: “The Return of Jean-Gabriel Pageau Can Only Help the Senators” – Ottawa Sun – 01/05/19).
Pageau was placed on the third line with Zach Smith and Magnus Paajarvi, where he likely won’t stick as he adjusts back to the speed of the NHL.
Senators News and Notes
- These past two weeks have seen a number of debuts for the Senators. Nilsson played his first two games, Pageau returned from injury and Hogberg, Balcers and Christian Wolanin have made their debuts with the club. Wolanin may be the most impressive so far, with a goal and two assists in his first six games. Those three points are the same as Mark Borowiecki (26 games, three assists) and more than Ben Harpur (23 games, one goal and one assist).
- Anderson remains on the sideline. After leaving the game versus the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 21, he has been held out, and based on the move for Nilsson, it doesn’t look like Anderson’s close to returning as he still hasn’t been back on the ice. What’s worse is that beginning with that game, the Senators have not won a game.
- Thomas Chabot has been chosen as the Senators’ All-Star representative. In just his second season, this is his first nod as an All-Star. While this is a great moment for the organization and Chabot, it’s been overshadowed by him being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
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.