The Ottawa Senators have traded right wing Evgeny Dadonov to the Vegas Golden Knights for defenceman Nick Holden and a 2022 third-round draft pick.
Originally a Florida Panthers selection in 2007, Dadonov played in the NHL from 2009-2012 before returning home to Russia for five seasons, where he emerged as one of the KHL’s best forwards. When he returned to North America in 2017-18, he became one of the league’s top wingers, scoring 81 goals and 182 points over three seasons. He got his big break in 2020, signing with the Senators to a three-year, $15 million contract, with $11.5 million of it paid in the final two seasons. It was one of the biggest free-agent signings last season and made him one of the highest-paid players in Ottawa. However, 2020-21 was his worst season since 2011-12, as he managed just 20 points in 55 games.
Holden never reached the fame of Dadonov but established himself as a reliable offensive defenceman. Despite never getting drafted, he has spent 10 seasons in the NHL and played for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, and Golden Knights. He set a career-best in 2016-17 with the Rangers, scoring 34 points in 80 games, and is consistently a 20-point player. Last season was a down year for him as well, scoring just two assists in 17 games, but he was much more prominent in the playoffs, where he had seven points in 15 games.
Golden Knights Need Depth Scoring
Despite the promise of solidifying the top-six, Dadonov never found a consistent rhythm with the Senators and frequently found himself bounced between the second and third lines, frequently playing with Nick Paul and Colin White, who also struggled much of the 2020-21 season. He’ll now try to do that with the Golden Knights, most likely on the third line, providing Vegas with some depth scoring, something that was clearly missing in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
At 32 years old, Dadonov is unlikely to hit 70 points again, but he still is an effective scorer in the NHL. Despite his off-year, he scored 13 goals last season in a reduced role, which ranked fifth on the team. His cap hit is hefty, especially for a third-line player, but with the Golden Knights now free of $7 million after sending Vezina-winner Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks, they have the freedom to add veteran pieces in order to make another deep playoff run.
Senators Have Other Priorities
Most importantly for the Senators, moving Dadonov frees up a significant chunk of cap space that will allow them to offer deals to their two biggest priorities at the moment in Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson. Both players are currently restricted free agents and will need new deals before the 2021-22 season, and management has stated that getting these two players under contract is one of the team’s biggest tasks this offseason. While contract talks have so far been quiet, it’s certainly been in the works for months, as these two cemented themselves as the team’s core moving forward.
As for Holden, he makes significantly less than Dadonov at just $1.7 million, and his term is much more manageable as he is slated to become a free agent at the end of next season. With the Golden Knights, he was placed in a depth role and often given the responsibility of leading their young defenders, like Zach Whitecloud, which he’ll continue to do with the Senators and the likes of Erik Brannstrom, Artyom Zub, and fellow Albertan Jacob Bernard-Docker. He’ll also be tasked with solidifying the defence from a bottom-pairing role. He is a left-shot defender, but has experience playing both sides, so it’s also unlikely he pushes anyone out of a spot.
The trade addresses a need for both organizations, and while not the most exciting move, should provide them with the pieces they need to become stronger teams.