With the Ottawa Senators scratching Mark Stone just before Thursday’s matchup against the New Jersey Devils, it looks like he will be one of the pieces on his way out of Ottawa ahead on the Feb. 25 trade deadline. The team also benched Matt Duchene, who was already placed on the trade block, and Ryan Dzingel. It’s safe to say the fire sale in Ottawa is open.
Just narrowly beating arbitration in the summer, the Senators and Stone agreed to a one year, $7.35 million deal. It seems that Stone wanted to see how things were going to play out as the team began its rebuild, and since he hasn’t signed an extension, it looks like he doesn’t want to stick around for the rest of it. After the direction this team has taken over the past two seasons, who can blame him?
Stone has played in 366 games for the Senators, collecting 123 goals and 188 assists for 311 points. He’s also put up 60 or more points in four of his last five seasons, including 2018-19. He’s currently just two points away from his career high of 64 points in 2014-15 and has already set a new high for goals (28).
The Senators star forward won’t be cheap if he’s moved, though. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie, the price for Stone could be two first round picks and two prospects or players. A potential sign-and-trade would impact the return as well. With that in mind, here are the top four current contenders to land the winger.
4. St Louis Blues
After not getting off to the best start the season, the St. Louis Blues are soaring, setting a new franchise record after winning their 11th straight game. They seem to have settled in and are currently third in the Central Division. For a number of seasons, they’ve been contenders – perhaps the addition of Stone could finally push them over the hump.
Stone would be a solid boost to a top-six that already includes Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, and Alex Steen. He would also be a welcome addition to their 18th-place power play and penalty kill. If the team can continue to click as they have been and acquire Stone, that would make them an even bigger threat in the West.
The Blues do have a number of intriguing prospects that the Senators would look to get in a return. Forward Robert Thomas stands out, having led the Hamilton Bulldogs to an OHL championship and Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. He’s been compared to Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron and would be a long-term replacement for Stone. Jordan Kyrou is another prospect that they’d look at, winning the OHL’s Red Tillson Trophy as league MVP in 2017-18, collecting 109 points. He was also on Team Canada with Thomas.
Draft picks would be an important part of a Stone trade. The Blues might have a tough time completing a potential trade due to their first-round pick in the hands of the Buffalo Sabres from the O’Reilly trade. They could offer up their 2020 and/or 2021 first round picks, but considering the Senators need one this year, that seems unlikely.
3. Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames have been one of the best teams in the league this season, currently holding the second spot in the entire league. They are also second on the league for goals per game with 3.68. They could be looking to take over first in both of those by adding Stone.
Imagine Stone on a line with Johnny Gaudreau? That would be a terrifying combination for any opponent. Stone would be an immediate upgrade, and make the Flames one of the best offensive teams in the league – if they weren’t already.
In return for Stone, Juuso Valimaki should be at the top of the Senators’ wish list. The defender had 138 points through his 159 WHL games, was a two-time All-Star and captained Team Finland at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Dillon Dube would also be intriguing. Selected in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Dube is currently playing at a point-per-game pace with the AHL’s Stockton Heat. The defender was even the captain of Team Canada in the same tournament as Valimaki.
Of course, the Senators would want picks in the deal as well. The Flames have their 2019 and 2020 first-round picks, a great deal of talent on the roster, and in the system. They might be able to pull the trigger on a Stone transaction if they are willing to pay the price.
2. Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights and the Senators have been surrounded by rumours ever since Erik Karlsson was looking like he was going to get traded. Sitting third in the Pacific Division, the 2018 Stanley Cup Finalists could make a hard push for Stone as they look to get another chance at the Cup.
With the Senators, there’s no question that Stone carries his lines. Just look at the stats of Colin White and Brady Tkachuk this season. While good players, Stone lifts them to another level. Could Stone do the same for Pacioretty? Or perhaps he’d play up with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault. Even playing with Paul Statsny, Stone could make all of these players better and would help their 20th-place power play as they look to make a playoff run.
As for the prospects that could be involved in the return, Erik Brannstrom is a name to watch. The defender was the 15th overall pick in 2017, won a silver medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, and in his first taste of North American hockey, he has 27 points in 39 games with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Cody Glass is an obvious target as well if the Golden Knights would let him go. The sixth-overall pick in 2017, Glass is one of the top prospects in the league. Playing with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks over four seasons (plus three games in a fifth season), Glass has 291 points through 237 games.
The Golden Knights also hold all of their first-round picks in the coming years. With their solid lineup and stocked cupboard when it comes to prospects, the Golden Knights are a very possible contender to land Stone.
1. Winnipeg Jets
There has been a lot of talk between the Winnipeg Jets and the Senators. The speculation between the two teams has been extremely high, with Senators general manager Pierre Dorion and Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff seen speaking ahead of the last Senators’ game versus the Jets. Dorion was in Winnipeg, along with his assistants Jim Clark and Peter MacTavish, to scout both the Jets and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. It is extremely likely that something happens between these two teams and if the Jets have their way, it will include Stone.
They would potentially be the best fit for Stone, especially since Winnipeg is his hometown. On top of that, he’d be playing in a top-six that includes Patrick Laine, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Conner. Offence isn’t an issue for the team now, as they are sixth in the league for goals-per-game (3.35), but it would be even better with Stone in the lineup. Just like with the other possible trade destinations, Stone is an immediate improvement to their lineup.
Jack Roslovic should be at or near the top of the ask list for the Senators. The 2015 25th-overall pick has really started to show what he can do, scoring 17 points in 58 games so far for the Jets. At just 22, there’s lots of potential for Roslovic. He’s even rumoured to be on the block for the Jets, so this is a strong possibility. Sami Niku is another, seen as a potential cornerstone defenceman. He’s gone from a seventh-round pick to a top prospect and even won top defender in the AHL for the 2017-18 season.
It also goes without saying at this point that the Jets first round picks would be in the conversation. They have both over the next two years and one or both of those could be part of the package. It seems like Stone is at the top of the Jets priority list, but if they don’t land him, they could turn their attention to Duchene and Dzingel.
Senators’ Scratching Stone Means a Trade is Likely
Up until Thursday’s game versus the Devils, it was very unclear if Stone was going to re-sign or the team was going to trade him. With the healthy scratch announcement, it looks like the team is leaning towards trading him. This comes after the news earlier in the week that the team offered him a “creative” contract, rumoured to be around $10.5 million over five or six years. With Stone not signing that deal and only days until the trade deadline, it looks as though the team will have to try to move Stone, or risk losing him for nothing to free agency in the summer.
Related: Senators 2019 Trade Deadline Preview