The Ottawa Senators are in the middle of the first season of their rebuild and the standings show it. They are at the bottom of the league and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Based on the rumours surrounding the team, it could be a busy month for general manager Pierre Dorion leading up to the Feb. 25 trade deadline. They have numerous pending free agents on the roster and in the system. A big decision needs to be made for each player: will they help the team moving forward?
Related: 5 Senators That Should Be Traded
When a team enters rebuild mode, there are virtually no untouchables if the return helps the team in the long run. In preparation for a month where the speculation will only continue to rise in Canada’s capital, here’s a look at who is on the trade block, including where they might end up, what the team could get for those players and what the Senators should be looking for in return.
Senators on the Trade Block
It’s crazy to think that only 15 months after acquiring Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche, there are already rumours of him being traded away. In November 2017, the Senators were coming off an Eastern Conference Final loss and Duchene was looking for playoff hockey. Instead of coming to a playoff team, the Senators took a nose dive and have yet to recover. The Avalanche, on the other hand, have one of the best lines in hockey and will be looking to make a playoff push.
Duchene is in the final year of his contract, set to become a free agent this offseason. Discussions for a contract extension between Dorion and Duchene’s camp started in November, but the star player has yet to put pen to paper. If Duchene isn’t re-signed soon, the team will need to seriously think about moving him. His value is extremely high right now, as he has 21 goals and 48 points in 42 games on the Senators’ top line.
The latest updates on the 28-year-old are that, despite discussions, there are no firm numbers on the table yet for Duchene. Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch notes that it’s still unknown what Duchene will do and he isn’t in a rush to decide either.
“The biggest thing is if I don’t have an answer for them I would expect that they’ll make a move,” said Duchene. “You can’t really afford to let guys go for nothing anymore in this league, or probably ever; you couldn’t do that. I understand that’s the situation. At the end of the day, I need to be sure of what I’m doing and it’s a process right now that I’m evaluating. It’s not an easy one because it’s the first time I’ve ever been in this situation. It’s really hard to make in mid-season. I’m taking my time, as much time as I have here, and I’ll see what happens. But we’re not at that point yet,” (from: “GARRIOCH: It will be a busy time for Ottawa Senators as they return to work” – Ottawa Sun – 01/30/19).
TSN’s Darren Dreger has reported on TSN 1050 that the team has set a cap for signing Duchene at $8 million per season and if owner Eugene Melnyk doesn’t come off of that, Duchene will not be staying in Ottawa.
Where Could He End Up and For What?
As he said back with the Avalanche, Duchene wants to play playoff hockey. It’s understandable that he wouldn’t want to wait for what could be years during the Senators’ rebuild for a good playoff run. As the trade deadline gets closer, Duchene’s likelihood of re-signing is getting smaller.
It’s unlikely that Duchene goes to an Eastern Conference team, as the Senators won’t want to be forced to play against him that much. Looking to the West, the Nashville Predators could be interesting. The Predators have struggled with injuries to centremen Colton Sissons and Kyle Turris, who is still on the injured reserve. Duchene could give the Predators the boost they need to push the team over the hump and win a Stanley Cup.
He won’t be cheap, though – when the Senators acquired him last season, Duchene brought the Avalanche a haul, including a first-round pick, a third-round pick, highly-touted prospect Shane Bowers, and Andrew Hammond. Duchene’s value is higher now as he’s been putting up more points, but it’s known that the Senators could lose him for nothing in just a few months if he doesn’t re-sign and he may be a rental for the team that acquires him. That being said, a sign-and-trade isn’t out of the question and could make the return as sizeable as possible for the Senators.
Mark Stone is in the same position as Duchene. He’s set to become a free agent this summer and it’s been reported that negotiations have begun, although just like Duchene, there are no firm numbers. He’s a couple of years younger than Duchene, at 26, and has been with the Senators for longer. In his 358 games with the Senators, he has 300 points, including 51 points in 51 games this season which leads the team.
Stone has become the heart and soul of the team and has said that he wants to stay. Although, Erik Karlsson said that too before he was sent to the San Jose Sharks. Stone is still young and could be the leader through the rebuild. The question – is Stone willing to wait for his chance at the Cup? If he re-signs, he’ll likely captain the team moving forward. The organization needs a big name on the roster to fill seats, and Stone could be just that.
Where Could He End Up and For What?
Being a bit younger, Stone may be more likely to re-sign with the Senators than Duchene. He has more prime years left and could afford to wait until the team is a contender again. If he decides he won’t re-sign, then like Duchene, they will try to move him before the deadline. Murat Ates of The Athletic recently wrote that the Winnipeg Jets could be a match for Stone, another Western Conference contender. (From: “Mark Stone and the Jets are a good fit — but is the price to acquire him too steep?” – The Athletic – 01/28/19.)
Stone has been a 60-point producer for three of the last four seasons and looks to get there again in 2018-19. He should bring back even more than Duchene. Ates gives two options to trade with Winnipeg. If it’s just Stone, the return could be Jack Roslovic, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2020 conditional second-round pick that becomes a first if Stone re-signs. The other option that Ates gives is Stone and Mikkel Boedker for Roslovic, a 2019 first-round pick, Mathieu Perreault and Nic Petan.
In both of these scenarios, there’s a significant return for Stone. As much as the Senators may want to keep both Duchene and Stone, trading both of them could result in a major jump forward in the rebuilding process.
Not as high profile as Duchene and Stone, but Ryan Dzingel is right there behind them in trade rumours. Like the others, Dzingel is a pending free agent and is drawing interest from numerous clubs. He’s playing on the top line this season, although on another team he’d likely stand out as a second-line winger. But at 26 years old, he has a lot of hockey in front of him and he may fit well with another club.
Dzingel is making $1.8 million this season and should be looking at a decent raise on July 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. This season, he has 20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points in 49 games, mainly playing on the Duchene’s wing. Dzingel has only known the Senators, collecting 121 points through the first 238 games of his career. While he is still involved in trade rumours, Dreger reported that the Senators have recently turned their sights to re-signing him.
“He’s going to be more affordable,” Dreger said, “You need good players to transition from rebuild into a playoff-contending team, and why trade a Ryan Dzingel when you’re going to try and get that player back. Unless – unless – it just becomes a cost issue and whatever Ryan Dzingel is expecting to avoid free agency is cost prohibitive. But based on his level of production this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ottawa takes a hard run at keeping him.”
Where Could He End Up and For What?
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported that numerous teams are interested in acquiring Dzingel. This includes the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Avalanche. All of them would be a good fit for Dzingel as they have high-end centremen and/or a top line left winger to take some of the pressure off of him.
The decision on Dzingel will probably wait until after Duchene and Stone are dealt with. If Duchene and Stone stay, it becomes more likely that Dzingel would be traded due to cap constraints in the next few years. If he is traded, a comparison that has come up regularly is the Michael Grabner trade last season to the New Jersey Devils. In that deal, the New York Rangers sent Grabner to the Devils for a second-round pick and a prospect. The return from Dzingel should look similar to this.
Forever the whipping boy of Senators fans, Cody Ceci may be on his way out of Ottawa. With the Los Angelas Kings setting the bar for returns on defenders by sending Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dorion will strongly look at sending the defender away. Ceci has been Ottawa’s homegrown player, growing up in Ottawa, playing for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and then being drafted by the Senators. He has 30 goals and 107 points in 413 games in Ottawa, including five goals and 15 points this season.
Dreger went on TSN’s Insider Trading to discuss the Ceci situation, “Now, the Ottawa Senators are still in a rebuild mood, so the return absolutely is attractive. There’s been much speculation around Cody Ceci, whether he’s in play or whether he’s not in play. For that return, 100 percent Cody Ceci is in play. Why wouldn’t Ottawa look for a first-round pick and a couple of prospects or a first-round pick and a NHL roster player for a 25-year-old right shot D-man.”
Where Could He End Up and For What?
Garrioch reported that while the Senators aren’t actively shopping Ceci, they are listening to offers. Calls on the 25-year-old have been coming in since before the December freeze, and it would only take one right offer for Dorion to pull the trigger. (From: “GARRIOCH: It will be a busy time for Ottawa Senators as they return to work” – Ottawa Sun – 01/30/19.)
While he likely won’t get a Taylor Hall-like return that was once rumoured, Ceci does still have some value. In fact, it may still be the Oilers that Ceci ends up playing for. They have long been connected and should remain a team to keep in the discussion moving forward. Anything similar to the Muzzin trade for Ceci would be a big win for Dorion and the Senators.
If Ceci isn’t getting heat from the fans, then Bobby Ryan has had the brunt of it. Since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks back in 2013, Ryan has played in 402 games for the Senators, scoring 99 goals and 247 points in that time. He’s having a solid season now, with 12 goals and 31 points. With Ryan playing well, and a history of solid playoff hockey, perhaps now is the time to trade Ryan.
Ryan’s future will depend a great deal on Duchene and Stone’s situations. If both players get traded, the Senators may need to keep Ryan for salary cap purposes and to provide a veteran presence on the team. If one or both Duchene and Stone leave, Ryan’s chances of leaving Ottawa should increase a great deal. The Senators have a number of young wingers coming up through the system that would quickly snap up his spot in the lineup.
Where Could He End Up and For What?
The biggest deterrent for other teams will be his contract. Ryan is in the fourth year of a seven-year deal, making $7.25 million per season. The team would need to retain a great deal of Ryan’s contract. In the summer, it was rumoured that the Vegas Golden Knights were open to getting Ryan in a package with Karlsson. Perhaps they, or another playoff team, may be interested in the veteran winger who has playoff experience. He may help a team’s bottom-nine in a Stanley Cup push.
If Ryan is to be moved, it will come after the Duchene and Stone decisions, and likely after many of the other wingers on the various trade blocks are dealt with as well. Ryan won’t be at the top of anyone’s list, but he may be a solution for a team that misses out on the top talent available. The return for Ryan will vary a great deal depending on how much salary the Senators retain. For a team looking for playoff depth, Ryan may fetch a couple picks from a willing team.
Zach Smith, Magnus Paajarvi & Mikkel Boedker
Three depth, veteran players on the Senators may also be on the way out. Zach Smith, Magnus Paajarvi and Mikkel Boedker have all received interest on the trade market, according to Pagnotta. The Senators’ rebuild needs a change of core and veteran players. These players, along with others on this list, are all a part of that group that may go in the name of the rebuild.
Smith, 30, has only known the Senators, playing in 584 games and collecting 90 goals and 184 points. He’s a solid third- or fourth-line player, who can help out on the penalty kill. Paajarvi is a fourth-line player who has yet to live up to being selected 10th-overall in 2009.
His best season was as a rookie in 2010-11, where he had 15 goals and 34 points. Since then, he hasn’t had more than nine goals or 16 points. Boedker was acquired in the Mike Hoffman trade this past summer. He can play on the second- or third-line and chip in offensively. In 50 games this season, he has five goals and 27 points.
All three of these players would bring in similar returns, Boedker’s perhaps slightly higher. They’ll all bring back much-needed draft picks from teams that are looking to make a playoff run. With so many young players coming up through the system, these three become expendable to the Senators.
What Do the Senators Need in Return?
The Senators may blow up their roster, or they may send some pieces away and move others in the summer. In the return for these players, there are a few pieces that the team needs to get back in return. The most important is a first-round pick. The Avalanche have the Senators’ possible first-overall pick in 2019, and they need to get at least one back in trades before the draft. It won’t be the first overall, which is projected to be Jack Hughes, but any first round pick is better than no first round pick.
Second on the list, should be more picks. This is the time when the team needs to think of the future and stockpile draft picks. The more picks that Dorion can get, the better chance the team will draft a future star. Third and final, the Senators need more prospects. Just like draft picks, the more the better. In order to be successful, developing young talent is crucial in the NHL. Look at any of the recent Cup winners and you will see the talent that was developed within.
The Senators may look like a very different team by Feb. 26. There are not many players on the team who are untouchable, but the players on this list have already received some attention on the trade front. With numerous pending free agents, there will be some major decisions made for the future of the Senators ahead of the Feb. 25 deadline.
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.