Nugent-Hopkins Is a Good Fit for the Senators

While the Ottawa Senators made it past the trade deadline without dealing Mike Hoffman, rumors about the team shopping the 28-year-old have persisted. With Senators GM Pierre Dorion taking in back-to-back Edmonton Oilers games last week, there have been rumblings that the Senators are interested in acquiring Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the Oilers in exchange for the scoring winger.

The Oilers were one of the many teams attached to Hoffman since trade rumors first surfaced in December, but the two parties never worked out a deal. Of course, the Oilers would likely want more than just Hoffman in exchange for a 24-year-old centre who has proven his worth at both ends of the ice.

Hoffman, while an extremely talented scorer with elite skating and shooting ability, has a reputation of being a one-dimensional player. Assuming the Oilers want to acquire Hoffman to put him on Connor McDavid’s wing, though, the 28-year-old could very well be scoring so many goals that fans won’t have time to complain about his defensive play.

Hoffman could be a great fit in Edmonton, but with any deal that involves two highly skilled players, it isn’t easy to evaluate whether or not the trade would be worth making.

Senators Need Centre Depth

The Derick Brassard trade created a significant hole at centre in Ottawa, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau currently centring the team’s second line. Pageau’s play has improved since taking on this bigger role, but he does not provide the offense that Nugent-Hopkins would.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was one of the Oilers’ many first overall picks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Prospects like White and Logan Brown should be on the Senators soon, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll immediately contribute at the level expected of a top-six forward.

This makes adding a proven centre like Nugent-Hopkins a logical move. Similar to Brassard, Nugent-Hopkins is an effective two-way forward that could give the Senators two very good forward lines. Considering Ottawa’s plan to get younger and faster, Nugent-Hopkins is a good fit.

Adding another talented centre gives the Senators some flexibility, letting them play Zack Smith on the wing and giving Pageau more favorable matchups on the third line. Nugent-Hopkins is also able to play left wing, and even though Ottawa would probably rather have someone who could play on the right side if they’re losing Hoffman, this still gives the Sens more options at forward.

Cody Ceci Another Option for Oilers

While bringing in Nugent-Hopkins would solve some of Ottawa’s issues, losing Hoffman would bring other problems to light. Without Hoffman, the Sens are going to need a scoring winger to play with Matt Duchene. Duchene and Hoffman have developed excellent chemistry over the course of the season, and it’s definitely in Ottawa’s best interest to keep their number-one centre happy.

Mike Hoffman #68, Ottawa Senators
Mike Hoffman #68, Ottawa Senators – February 3, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Hoffman isn’t part of the deal, would the Oilers be interested in someone else on the Senators? It’s no secret that Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli has been looking to add a defenceman, and with Cody Ceci heading into restricted free agency this summer, the Sens need to figure out how the 24-year-old defenceman fits into their plans.

While the Sens GM has been public about his adoration of Ceci, the Sens are already due to sign Mark Stone, another impending RFA, to a big extension in the offseason. The big minutes that Ceci has taken on this year mean that he will want to be paid top-four-defenceman money despite his inconsistent play.

Does This Trade Improve the Senators?

The Oilers would likely ask for a package in return for Nugent-Hopkins, though, no matter who the centerpiece of the trade is. While Chiarelli has a history of making one-for-one deals, he’ll be pressured to get a great return for this former first overall pick after the fallout from the Taylor Hall trade.

Whether or not Dorion pursues Nugent-Hopkins in the offseason will give Sens fans a better idea of what his plan is going forward, particularly if the Oilers want another roster player from the Senators as part of the deal. Nugent-Hopkins is a phenomenal player, so this trade would be less about selling assets than it would be about Dorion actually trying to improve his team. However, depending on what the Sens have to give up, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually be better off in the end.

When the Senators added Matt Duchene, they showed a willingness to pay a big price to land an elite player. The team had enough good prospects to justify trading futures, but if the Sens are serious about getting younger, they’ll have to be very careful in their dealings with Edmonton.