The Ottawa Senators will be sellers by the trade deadline on March 21. Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Thomas Chabot, and Colin White are signed for the next several seasons with the organization. But several players on Ottawa are due to be restricted free agents (RFA) or unrestricted free agents (UFA) either this upcoming offseason or within the next few years. Here are three New York Rangers’ trade targets on the Ottawa Senators.
Artem Zub has become one of the top shutdown defensemen for the Sens. The 26-year-old has an average annual value (AAV) of $2.5 million in 2021-22 and 2022-23 before he is due to become a UFA. Ottawa has improved defensively since Dec. 1, when they were ranked as one of the worst defensive franchises in the NHL, and he’s been part of that.
Zub represents the kind of shutdown defenseman the Rangers could use on their roster by the trade deadline. If general manager Pierre Dorion decides to take offers for some players by March 21, Rangers president/GM Chris Drury should inquire about the availability of the 6-foot-2 third-year blueliner. The Khabarovsk, Russia-native is one of four players on Ottawa to have played in all 43 of the Senators’ games in 2021-22. According to Natural Stat Trick, he has played the second-most minutes on the team’s penalty kill (PK) with 96:19.
The defenseman would be paired on the Blueshirts’ third pairing and on one of the penalty-killing units. He has emerged since his rookie season in 2020-21 to become one of the top defensemen on the Senators. It is unlikely that Dorion would trade Zub, but Drury should ask nonetheless if the GMs are interested in discussing a trade.
The St. Albert, Alberta-native is another player who has been vital to the improvement of the Senators’ defensive play since December. Nick Holden was on the Rangers during the 2016-17 season and for over half of 2017-18 — the blueliner was traded to the Boston Bruins in February 2018.
The 34-year-old has a $1.7 million AAV in 2021-22, but he would have been a UFA after the season before Dorion awarded him with a contract extension at the end of January 2022. According to the Sens GM, “Nick has seamlessly integrated himself into our lineup and into our dressing room. His veteran presence and leadership qualities have been instrumental in helping our young group this season, while his strong defensive play and accountability on the ice has really helped with the maturity of our young defensive core” (from ‘Senators sign veteran defenceman Nick Holden to one-year extension,’ Coast Reporter, 1/27/22).
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Holden leads the Senators with a time on ice of 115:52 on the PK in 37 games played. The total amount of minutes he has played in is 601:48, which is sixth on the team and ranks third among defensemen. He is a 6-foot-4 shutdown defenseman who could also be placed on the Rangers’ third defensive pairing and on one of the PK units.
Holden is a veteran player who would benefit the Rangers, as they have a young defensive core besides Jacob Trouba and Patrik Nemeth. While the former Ranger would be a depth piece, he may not take as much for Drury to acquire compared to Zub. The 11-year player has made a difference for the Senators during the first half of 2021-22, especially during the last two months.
Given the difference he has made for Ottawa, it appears unlikely the team would move him by the deadline. If Drury is seeking to acquire a shutdown defender who would provide depth to the Blueshirts’ blue line, Holden’s availability would be worth asking about, given his play for the Senators.
The 26-year-old forward has a $1.35 million AAV this year before he becomes a UFA. Nick Paul leads Senators forwards with a time on ice of 95:36 on the PK in 42 games played. In regards to remaining an Ottawa Senator beyond 2021-22, Paul mentioned on TSN Radio at the end of January, “I love Ottawa. My agent works on the business side, but we want to be here. My fiancé is from here. She works at CHEO. We live here year-round. We want to be here and be a part of the community.”
Apparently, the Senators offered Paul a three-year contract with a $2 million AAV recently and he rejected it. Ottawa has several young players due for extensions on the roster so it could be difficult for Dorion to come to an extension with the Senators forward by the time of the trading deadline. The Senators GM needs to also consider the players due to be RFAs either after 2021-22 or within the next few seasons.
Paul enjoys being a member of the Senators, but it remains to be seen if he and Dorion can come to an agreement on an extension. Drury may inquire about his availability if he speaks with the Senators GM by the deadline, as Paul would be a good addition for the Rangers due to his defensive abilities as a forward.
The Senators do not have many offensive players who are due to be free agents. They have multiple forwards due for free agency who could improve a team’s defensive play and penalty killing. Drury should consider contacting Dorion to see who is available if the Rangers GM is looking to improve New York’s defense on the blue line or at the forward position.