While Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is focused on who to select in the upcoming NHL Draft, he would be wise to also take a look at successful non-draft acquisitions made by Stanley Cup-winning teams. For example, in the lead-up to the 2009 NHL trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Chris Kunitz. At the time, he was a 29-year-old winger who had scored 186 points in 292 games for the Anaheim Ducks since they reclaimed him off waivers from the Atlanta Thrashers early in 2005.
Related: 5 Worst Trades in Senators History
Everyone should be aware of how it worked out — Kunitz helped the Penguins achieve great success over the next several seasons. I’m going to take a look at this deal, along with a few others from Stanley Cup-winning teams that helped take their young core group of players over the top. The Senators should use these deals as examples of the type of move they should make to help their promising young team become true contenders.
Chris Kunitz to the Penguins
Kunitz had scored as many as 25 goals and 60 points as a Duck. He had also helped them win a Cup in 2006-07 (sorry Sens fans). He was traded to the Penguins in 2009, along with prospect Eric Tangradi, for young offensive-defenseman, Ryan Whitney. A year prior, the Penguins had traded for Marian Hossa. He was great but they fell just short of the Stanley Cup, losing in the Final to the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, he left as a free agent that offseason.
Looking for some additional firepower to help their young core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins were willing to give up Whitney, a 26-year-old defenseman who had been playing 22-plus minutes a game for a few seasons for them, and had scored as many as 59 points back in 2006-07.
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup that season, and would win two more in 2015-16 and 2016-17 (sorry again, Senators fans). Kunitz would score 388 regular season points and 76 more in the playoffs over the course of eight-plus seasons with the Penguins. By bringing in the gritty, veteran, top-six winger, the team added a player that was able to help them succeed for several seasons. They understood that Whitney was expendable with Gonchar already there and Letang emerging as a young player at the time.
Justin Williams to the Los Angeles Kings
The height of Williams’ success as a Carolina Hurricane was in 2005-06. He scored 76 points in the regular season and 18 more in the playoffs as the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. In March of 2009, the 27-year-old Williams was traded to the Kings in a three-way deal. The main piece going to the Hurricanes was Eric Cole, and for the Edmonton Oilers it was Patrick O’Sullivan.
The Kings also gave up a second-round pick. O’Sullivan was a promising 24-year-old offensive player who had scored 53 points just one season earlier. The concern with Williams at the time was his health — he had missed significant time in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
The Kings hoped that a healthy Williams would help push their young core, led by Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick, to true contender status in future years. Of course, the gamble paid off — Williams went on to score 266 points in 427 regular-season games, 54 in 73 playoff games, helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups, and won the Conn Smythe in the 2014 Playoffs.
Marian Hossa to the Blackhawks
This move is different than the first two as it was a signing, not a trade. Having said that, just as the Penguins and Kings gave up good, young players to add a veteran to their group, the Chicago Blackhawks knew that by signing Hossa to a big contract, they would be sacrificing some of their young players who would no longer fit under the salary cap. The 12-year contract was signed in the summer of 2009.
The young Blackhawks, led by Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith, were coming off a loss in the Conference Final to the Red Wings the season prior. With Hossa the next season, they won the Stanley Cup. They won two more after that, with Hossa scoring 415 regular season points and 73 playoff points for the team in his eight seasons there, and was recently selected as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
The Blackhawks would end up trading away good young players like Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, and Dustin Byfuglien, but having Hossa as part of their core worked out quite nicely for them.
A Look Ahead for the Senators
It should be noted that the Penguins and Blackhawks were much further along in the development of their young core groups. The Kings are probably the closest to where the Senators are at now, and even that is not a perfect comparison. Another season to see more from the likes of Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom, Josh Norris, their young goalies and of course the players they draft third and fifth overall would be beneficial in understanding who to trade for, and who to trade away.
This type of move will require highly regarded prospects going the other way. It seems like a move that would make the most sense in the 2021 offseason, but if the opportunity presents itself sooner, Dorion needs to consider it.