You would be hard-pressed to find someone or something that hasn’t had a hard time dealing with everything that has gone on this past calendar year. Virtually everything has been turned upside down and forced to adjust on the fly, not knowing exactly when “normalcy” will enter back into the picture. The same goes for the NHL and the 2020-21 season. Not only were they forced to condense the schedule to 56 games and lose tons of money by doing so, but they also had the Canadian and United States border to deal with. Because of this, the Scotia North Division was created, so the border issue became non-existent. Until now.
With the NHL trade deadline usually around this time of the year, it’s just another reminder that things still aren’t normal. April 12 is the deadline this time around, and the rumours are starting to pour in a lot earlier than usual and for a good reason. While it has been discussed around the league that they are looking into changing the current 14-day quarantine if a player has to cross the border, nothing has been made official. This is one of many major hurdles teams around the league will be facing if they want to make a deal.
Who Can Ottawa Trade?
There’s no way of predicting exactly what the Senators will do leading up to the deadline. One thing that we do know is that if the Senators are going to be doing anything leading up to April 12, they will be selling instead of buying. But that right there is where the problem lies. Who exactly will be buying? General manager Pierre Dorion has been doing his best, just like every other GM in the league, to see where everyone’s headspace is leading up to the deadline.
The Senators have some unrestricted free agents that may catch the attention of some playoff-contending teams, but the sense around the league is that there most likely won’t be many deals made at this trade deadline because teams are fearful when it comes to spending during the shortened 56-game season. The list of UFAs on the Sens goes as follows:
- Artem Anisimov
- Ryan Dzingel
- Erik Gudbranson
- Mike Reilly
- Derek Stepan
- Braydon Coburn
- Micheal Haley
- Anton Forsberg
- Matthew Peca
Stepan was the one player on this list that the Senators were hoping to move on from sooner rather than later this season. When he was acquired from Arizona before the season began, the hope was that he would have a defined role as a veteran leader on this team, but that changed quickly. Stepan and the organization mutually agreed that they would explore trading him before the April 12 deadline because he wanted to be closer to his family. Unfortunately, Stepan suffered a season-ending injury, so his trade value immediately plummeted.
Gudbranson and Reilly are among the other top players that the Senators could be looking to move on from. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Sens bring Reilly and/or Gudbranson back next season, but that is a decision that doesn’t have to be made right at this moment. In fact, you could make the arguments that Reilly has been one of the more consistent blueliners recently, and there’s not much more you could ask from the Ottawa native in Gudbranson, especially in his role as a leader this season. In any case, Dorion wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t taking phone calls.
While these veteran players have been decent for Ottawa this season and have played a big part in helping the young core of players grow and mature, don’t be shocked if they’re not extended, even if the Sens don’t trade them. They have Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jake Sanderson in the pipeline, who will be sure to see some action next season. The Sens will also have to make a decision on Christian Wolanin. He has to suit up for a specific number of games for the Senators to retain his rights for restricted free agency. If he doesn’t meet the requirement in the next 23 games, he will become a UFA. So, at this point, maybe Dorion would look at exploring a deal for him.
Up front, there isn’t much to choose from as a buyer. Stepan is out of the question because of his injury, and I can’t picture any teams wanting one of Dzingel or Anisimov. Both have been underperforming, especially Anisimov, and there’s a chance that Dorion would try to look at extending Dzingel this summer, but it’s a bit of a stretch at this point.
What Will Ottawa Do?
The list of factors that will hinder general managers ahead of the trade deadline this season is not a short one. There are salary cap constraints, budgetary influences and, of course, the aforementioned quarantine restrictions – all of which will play a big part this season on top of the market itself as a whole.
These are just some of the reasons why general managers will not make any moves this season. There’s also the intra-divisional play format, no fans in most buildings, especially in Canada, so this means there is limited financial incentive for general managers to swing a deal that might only get them an extra round in the playoffs. During a normal season, an extra round of home games could mean anywhere from $4 million to $10 million in extra revenue. This time around, GMs aren’t faced with the same pressure, and that means more teams than usual with be sticking to the status quo.
If teams are willing to make deals leading up to April 12, the moves will have to make sense in dollars. Usually, that’s not always the case, and the quarantine issues, especially north of the border, are becoming the stop sign. As previously mentioned, the NHL’s head office is still negotiating with the federal government, but, at this point, any player coming from the United States to Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. If this rule remains, a player dealt to Canada may be able to play for two weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With all these factors at play this season and the fact that Ottawa is a selling team with not much to offer, it’s hard to predict exactly what they will do at the deadline. Letting some of their players on expiring deals walk without getting anything in return won’t hurt them as much as it usually would. They have tons of young players in the system that are looking to make the jump within the next year or two.
There’s a lot of moving parts on the team, but it’s guaranteed that Dorion won’t be dealing any of the young players. If you look at the way the Senators have been this season, the players have taken a big step forward while head coach D.J. Smith continues to put them in the right situations to have success. Only time will tell what they will do during the second week of April.