The Ottawa Senators once again look to be gearing up for a busy trade deadline on Feb. 24. Five players currently sit on the TSN Trade Bait list, two of which are among the top three. While the crop of trade targets is less enticing than last year’s, teams have shown that they are willing to pay high prices to bolster their rosters for the playoffs. Already, several players have been traded, including the Senators’ own Dylan DeMelo, who was sent to the Winnipeg Jets for a third-round pick.
While general manager Pierre Dorian has reportedly said he has enough picks and prospects, his actions would say otherwise, with the team acquiring two more later picks in recent deals. The team’s goal is still to build towards the future, and with some of the most enticing players at this season’s deadline, rumours are flying as to where they will end up, and what the return will be.
J-P Pageau Still Up In the Air
He remains the highest-profile player on the Senators coming into the trade deadline, but for several weeks, there were no developments on whether he would be traded or re-signed. Finally, the Senators and Jean-Gabriel Pageau got down to contract talks this week. Pageau seems to want to stay in his hometown, but the Senators aren’t ignoring the calls coming in for the talented center, as several playoff-bound teams are interested in acquiring depth scoring.
One team that likely isn’t in the running anymore is the Edmonton Oilers. Long in the rumour mill with Pageau, they seemed like a perfect fit with their lack of scoring punch beyond Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. However, with less than $1 million in cap space and no desire to part with a first-round pick, it seems that Pageau and his $3.1 million cap hit are off the table, even if salary is retained.
Now, the Philadelphia Flyers seem to be frontrunners. They also are unlikely to part with a first-round pick, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, and have limited cap space, but could be open to other packages, especially if the injured Nolan Patrick does not return. If there is a lower pick, the Senators could target one of the Flyers’ prospects like Morgan Frost, Bobby Brink, or defenseman Cam York. It may seem like a lot, as those players look to be sure-fire NHLers, but the Senators still have the upper hand as they would love to keep Pageau around. If the deal doesn’t suit their needs, they simply won’t trade him.
Other teams reportedly in on Pageau are the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche. The Flames have struggled to score recently, but like the Oilers and Flyers, have little cap space to play with. The Avalanche, on the other hand, have over $6 million in space and have been in rumour mills regarding several high-profile targets. With center Nazem Kadri down week-to-week with a lower-body injury, they would have a third-line spot available for Pageau. The Senators also have a need for defensive depth after waiving Cody Goloubef, and could target someone like Connor Timmins or Ryan Graves in a trade.
Namestnikov Deal Appears Imminent
While Pageau has been in the spotlight for most of the month, Vladislav Namestnikov has been rapidly gaining interest from several teams. TSN currently ranks him third on their most sought-after trade pieces, and reports have surfaced saying that at least four teams are in the running: the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dorian was given a gift on Feb. 21 when the Boston Bruins acquired Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks for veteran David Backes, prospect Axel Anderson and a first-round pick. Kase, also a winger, is on pace for 33 points this season; Namestnikov is on pace for 34. It is worth noting that Kase is three years younger and scored at a 55-point pace last season, but injuries have largely hindered his breakout. Namestnikov, on the other hand, has been largely injury-free and is a proven 20-goal scorer. The Senators may be able to get a first-round pick if Dorian plays his cards right.
The Avalanche may be considering Namestnikov as a Plan B option if their attempts to acquire the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider fall through, but they’ll have to act fast as the Jets and Maple Leafs appear to be gearing up for an aggressive deadline. Both teams have already made moves in the last few days and are hoping to make long playoff runs this season. However, only the Blue Jackets and Avalanche can afford Namestnikov’s $4 million cap hit without moving an asset or salary retention.
Still, a deal appears to be coming sooner rather than later, as Namestnikov did not dress for the Feb. 20 game against the Jets, and will sit for a second straight game on Feb. 22 against the Montreal Canadiens. While that doesn’t mean a deal is finalized, it is certainly a precautionary measure by the Senators and likely influenced by a team very interested in trading for him; a similar precaution was taken at last season’s deadline with Cody Ceci when a deal was expected.
Oilers Interested in Ennis
Tyler Ennis is having a career season with the Senators, leading some teams to inquire as to his availability as a playoff rental. One of the leaders appears to be the Oilers, who are still looking for scoring depth without breaking the bank. That makes Ennis all the more enticing, as his $800,000 contract would not force the Oilers to move an asset. General manager Ken Holland has said that the team will make moves at the deadline, but nothing big, making the Alberta-born Ennis all that more likely. Like Namestnikov, he also didn’t play on Feb. 22, leading some to believe a deal is coming soon.
As for the return, the Senators could expect a mid-to-late round pick and possibly a depth player like center Gaetan Haas, who has 10 points in his rookie season, center Colby Cave, or Markus Granlund, who has struggled to find consistency after being selected in the second round in 2011. The Senators have done well with players who have needed a change of scenery, with their biggest success most recently coming from Anthony Duclair. Disgruntled forward Jesse Puljujarvi could also be of interest to the Senators, but it seems unlikely the Oilers are ready to part with such a talented prospect as of yet.
Hainsey a Possible Fit For Canucks
It seems less likely now that Ron Hainsey is traded at the deadline after the Senators moved DeMelo and waived Goloubef, but he’s still an attractive option for teams looking for cheap defensive help. Craig Button said on TSN that the Vancouver Canucks still have a weakness at defense, and a low-cost addition like Hainsey would fit the team perfectly. However, the Canucks are also rumoured to be in talks with the Maple Leafs about Tyson Barrie, who’s been one of the hottest potential trade chips in recent days. According to Button, Hainsey offers more of what the Canucks need, specifically grit and veteran leadership.
The Senators have several other upcoming unrestricted free agents on their roster, and they reportedly are all on the table, but interest has been subdued so far. Craig Anderson and Ryan Callahan, both on expiring contracts, have modified no-trade clauses, while Mikkel Boedker has only played 11 games this season, sitting out the rest as a healthy scratch. The Senators would like to find him a new club, but it seems few teams are biting with his $4 million cap hit. Mark Borowiecki, another upcoming UFA, is out indefinitely with an ankle injury after having a career year.
Chris Tierney reportedly has generated some trade interest, as he will become a restricted free agent at the season’s end, as could Connor Brown or Duclair for similar reasons. Regardless, the Senators have plenty of options to consider for what will likely be another exciting deadline day for the team.
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