The Ottawa Senators have become one of the most interesting teams to watch at the trade deadline over the past several seasons. While part of that comes from the fact they’ve been one of the worst teams in the league and are routinely forced to sell off their most valuable assets, which always makes for some interesting moves, it’s also been fascinating to see how general manager (GM) Pierre Dorion has handled these difficult situations. More often than not, he’s been able to capitalize at the right time on his players, getting the best return possible by waiting until the perfect moment to move them.
Although Dorion has faced some criticism for some of his other moves, there are few Senators’ GMs who have had as much success as him at the trade deadline. Before his arrival, the Senators were a strong team and chasing a deep playoff run, which resulted in some strange deals to accomplish that goal. Going back further to the mid-1990s, the team had few assets to sell, but they still managed to get rid of some of their best young talents for aging veterans who never stuck around long. So, with the 2022 Trade Deadline bearing down, let’s take a look back at some of the best and worst deals in Senators’ history.
Senators’ 5 Best Trade Deadline Moves
Feb. 22, 2019: Senators Trade Matt Duchene and Julius Bergman to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 2019 First-Round Pick, Vitali Abramov, and Jonathan Davidsson
In 2016-17, the Senators made it to the third round of the playoffs and nearly knocked out the Pittsburgh Penguins, taking them to seven games before the eventual Cup winners moved on to the Final. With all-star defender Erik Karlsson leading the way, the team figured that they were likely only a top forward away from returning to the semifinals and possibly even a Final appearance. So, early the following season, they swung for the fences, acquiring Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche in a three-way deal with the Nashville Predators that saw the Senators’ 2019 first-round pick head the other way. It was a risk to trade a pick so far in the future, but the team was convinced they’d be a contender for a long time.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Nearly everything went wrong after the trigger was pulled, and had this list been for the worst trades in franchise history, this would certainly rank near the top. Duchene failed to find a rhythm in Ottawa while Karlsson struggled with injuries and was traded the following season. As a result, the Senators plummeted through the standings, and by 2019, were one of the worst teams in the league leaving their first-rounder, now in the Avalanche’s hands, with one of the better chances to become the first-overall selection.
Thankfully, Dorion managed to make lemonade out of lemons, finding a suitor to take Duchene’s services at the 2019 Trade Deadline. The Columbus Blue Jackets took on Duchene along with minor-league player Julius Bergman, and the Senators regained a first-round pick in the 2019 Draft, promising prospects Vitali Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, as well as a conditional first-round pick in 2020 should Duchene re-sign with the Blue Jackets. Although he departed Columbus at the 2019 free agency period and Abramov and Davidsson never panned out, the pick was used to select Lassi Thomson, who has emerged into a promising young defenceman. Sure, he’s no Bowen Byram, who the Avalanche selected with the Senators’ selection, but it looks like he’ll be part of the team’s long-term future on defence.
Feb 23, 2019: Senators Trade Ryan Dzingel to the Blue Jackets For a Pair of Second-Round Picks and Anthony Duclair
Just one day after turning the challenging Duchene situation into a success, the Senators returned to the Blue Jackets and made another blockbuster deal, this time sending Ryan Dzingel to Columbus, along with a 2019 seventh-round pick, for Anthony Duclair, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 second-round pick. Dzingel, unlike Duchene, was having a career year with 22 goals and 44 points through the first 54 games, but with his contract expiring, the Senators opted to sell high on their young sniper, and it couldn’t have worked out any better.
With the Senators, Duclair looked refreshed, much as he had as a rookie back with the New York Rangers. In 21 games, he put up eight goals and 14 points, which he followed up with a 23-goal, 40-point campaign in 2019-20. It was an incredibly unpopular decision to not give him a qualifying offer at the end of the season, and since joining the Florida Panthers, he’s transformed into a minor star. The picks were never used by Ottawa but became integral in shaping the team’s roster anyway. The 2020 selection was packaged with Jon Gruden to the Penguins for goaltender Matt Murray, while the 2021 selection was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for veteran forward Derek Stepan.
Although the subsequent trades have had varying results, the initial Dzingel trade was one of the best of the 2019 Trade Deadline, and the addition of Duclair worked wonderfully for a season and a half. The Senators got exactly what they needed for their rebuild and they did their best to construct a competitive roster. If only they had used their assets just a bit more astutely.
Feb 24, 2020: Senators Send J-G Pageau to the New York Islanders for Three Picks
After selling most of their team in 2018 and 2019, the Senators were looking like sellers at the 2020 Deadline, and one player was catching the attention of the NHL. Before 2019-20, Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a depth center who was starting to show some potential as a secondary scorer, but at just 5-foot-10, he didn’t look like a player a team would build around. He put up a career-high 43 points in 2015-16, which is nothing to sniff at, but that looked to be the top-end output for the undersized center.
Fast forward to 2019-20, and suddenly, Pageau was one of the league’s most underrated stars. After 60 games, he somehow sat first on the team with 24 goals and third with 40 points. A bidding war started to heat up around the player, and by the deadline, he was worth far more than the Senators ever expected. When the New York Islanders offered a trio of picks – a first, second, and a conditional third in 2021 – they, of course, jumped on it.
While the conditional third was never used, as the condition that the Islanders won the 2020 Stanley Cup never happened, the Senators still made out very well. The first, which fell to 27th, was used to select Ridly Greig, an aggressive forward out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) who is currently fourth in league point-per-game. The second was packaged along with the Senators’ second pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs to move up and take defenceman Tyler Kleven, a hard-hitting defensive-minded player who leads the University of North Dakota with 62 penalty minutes. Both players are starting to look like important parts of the organization’s future and exactly what Ottawa needed from the trade.
Mar 4, 2009: Senators Trade Antoine Vermette to the Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and a 2009 Second-Round Pick
Antoine Vermette was quickly becoming one of the Senators’ best young players after the 2005 lockout. By 2007-08, he was not only one of the team’s best penalty killers but also came fourth in team scoring with 53 points in 81 games. He provided depth and secondary scoring that gave Ottawa a chance every year to make a deep playoff run. However, their goaltending was a different story. After leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, Ray Emery had become increasingly inconsistent and irritable and was bought out a season after those heroic efforts. That left the Senators without a starting goalie and little chance of returning to the Final.
That gap forced Vermette’s name into trade rumours, and finally, in 2008-09, the Blue Jackets answered the call, sending over goalie Pascal Leclaire and a 2009 second-round pick. Initially, he was the big prize as he was expected to become the team’s first true starter since Patrick Lalime once he returned from ankle surgery. Unfortunately, injuries and inconsistency followed him to Ottawa, and he was forced to retire by 2011. It was a risk worth taking, though, as Vermette never replicated his 53-point season, although he did end up with a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In the end, though, the second-round pick became the best part of the deal. With their sights still set on goaltending, the Senators picked up the top-ranked European goalie 46th overall, who was none other than Robin Lehner. He quickly became the team’s future in net after backstopping the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Senators to a Calder Cup in 2011 and took over the crease in Ottawa in 2013-14. Although he didn’t stick around long, he was one of the best goaltending prospects they ever selected.
Feb 18, 2011: Senators Land Craig Anderson from the Colorado Avalanche for Brian Elliott
The Senators were in a tough spot in 2010-11. After making the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07, they struggled to repeat that performance, failing to make the playoffs twice and bowing out in the first round twice in the following four seasons. It didn’t help that GM Bryan Murray had signed them into a corner, filling up their cap space with aging veterans who failed to make an impact with the team. So, at the 2011 Trade Deadline, he had a fire sale, sending away six players in separate deals and ending up with two first-round picks, three second-rounders, and 12 total picks at the 2011 Draft. Yet the crowning achievement was flipping struggling goalie Brian Elliott to the Colorado Avalanche for equally struggling goalie Craig Anderson.
It seemed like a simple change-of-scenery deal to give two upcoming free agents a fresh start. But Anderson immediately rebounded in Ottawa, posting a .939 save percentage (SV%) over the remaining 18 games of the season. Next season, he was just as good, helping the Senators return to the playoffs. Then, in 2012-13, he recorded the greatest season by any goalie in franchise history, putting up a .941 SV% and a 1.69 goals-against average (GAA) over 24 games. He continued his dominance in the playoffs, propelling the Senators to the second round for the first time in six years. Four seasons later, he got them to the Conference Final for the third time in franchise history and forced the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Penguins to seven games.
Although the deal was relatively unremarkable, the ramifications were far-reaching for the Senators and Anderson. In his 10 seasons with the team, he claimed the title of being the team’s greatest goalie of all time. Despite their descent into the league’s basement, he remained a consistent force between the pipes. Elliott, on the other hand, had a strong 2011-12 season with the St. Louis Blues, but has since struggled to keep a starting job and has bounced around the league.
Senators’ 5 Worst Trade Deadline Moves
Apr 3, 2013: Senators Send Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher and a 2014 Fourth-Round Pick
In 2012, the Senators nabbed towering Blues’ prospect Ben Bishop for a second-round pick a year in the future. He initially was pencilled in to take over the backup job that season, but Elliott, who signed with the team after struggling with the Avalanche, revitalized his career and forced him out. So Ottawa swooped in and capitalized on the Blues’ tough situation, paying a low price for one of the NHL’s top goalie prospects.
With Anderson firmly in the starting role, it was assumed Bishop would take over as backup and work his way up to the starting job. But the Senators hardly gave him a chance, flipping him to the Tampa Bay Lightning just a season later for prospect Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick in 2014. Conacher had been one of the NHL’s top rookies in 2012-13, scoring 24 points in 35 games, but once he arrived in Ottawa, he was a different player and ended up being traded in the middle of the following season. Bishop was also a different player with the Lightning, emerging as one of the best goalies in the league until his retirement in 2021-22. Thankfully, neither of the picks panned out, or this deal would have looked even worse for the impatient Senators.
Feb 20, 2009: Senators Acquire Chris Campoli and Mike Comrie for Dean McAmmond and a 2009 First-Round Pick
Two seasons after their tragic Stanley Cup Final loss against the Anaheim Ducks, the Senators struggled. At the midpoint of the season, they sat way under the .500 mark with just 14 wins in 41 games, but still believed they were a playoff team. So, with a recent hot streak and the trade deadline bearing down on them, they decided to trade veteran Dean McAmmond and their first-round pick, originally owned by the San Jose Sharks, to the New York Islanders for Chris Campoli and Mike Comrie.
How a first was ever attached to this deal is anyone’s guess. Comrie was on pace for the second-worst statistical season of his career, while McAmmond, a 15-year veteran, was also on pace for his worst season. Campoli offered some upside and was playing on the second pairing, but he was hardly worth a first-round pick. Yet it was added, and the pick eventually made its way to the Ducks, who used it to select Kyle Palmieri 29th overall. Meanwhile, the Senators failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and began their descent into a rebuild. An extra first-round pick would have been preferable to two veterans who were gone by 2011.
Feb 18, 2004: Senators Add Peter Bondra for Brooks Laich and a 2005 Second-Round Pick
Peter Bondra was arguably one of the greatest Slovakian hockey players ever to play in the NHL. In 1081 games, he racked up 892 points and appeared in an All-Star Game five times. But in 2003-04, he was far from the player he’d been. He still had 35 points and 21 goals in 54 games with the Washington Capitals, but injuries and age were starting to take their toll. Still, when he became available at the deadline, the Capitals demanded a premium price. The Senators, still looking for a long postseason run, decided to pony up and parted with prospect Brooks Laich and a second-round pick in 2005 for the sniper.
Bondra arrived in Canada’s capital and quickly put up five goals and 14 points in 23 games, but was held pointless in the playoffs and as a result, the team was eliminated in the first round. When hockey returned for the 2005-06 season, the Slovakian instead opted to sign with the Atlanta Thrashers, capping his time in Canada at just 30 games. Laich, on the other hand, became a mainstay in Washington, beloved for his secondary scoring, grinding style, and excellent locker room presence. While it’s difficult to know whether he would have developed into that player in Ottawa, he became someone that they could have used in their 2007 Cup run.
Mar 20, 1996: Senators Flip Jaroslav Modry to the Los Angeles Kings for Kevin Brown
Jaroslav Modry was a promising young defender when the Senators acquired him from the New Jersey Devils in 1995. Although he had just over 50 NHL games to his name, he had shown excellent offensive skills in the minors. But the Senators were in a tough spot in 1995-96; while they had made some improvement, they were still one of the worst teams in the league. So, looking at their blossoming young core of forwards, they decided to part with Modry for some scoring support, sending him along with a late-round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for prolific junior scorer Kevin Brown.
While it was a good deal, in theory, the result could not have been more one-sided. With the Kings, Modry emerged as a top-tier offensive defenceman, putting up 42, 38, and 32-point seasons from 2001-04. Brown, on the other hand, was flipped months later to the Anaheim Ducks for Mike Maneluk, who was then traded the following season for cash. The only saving grace here for Ottawa was that they acquired Wade Redden the following season from the Islanders, mitigating the pain from losing a future all-star defender.
Mar 14, 2000: Senators Acquire Tom Barrasso from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Janne Laukkanen and Ron Tugnutt
The Senators had a strong goaltending tandem in 1999-00 with Ron Tugnutt and Damien Rhodes, but neither had established themselves as the starter. Looking for a sure-fire number one, Ottawa went looking in the trade market and found a promising youngster in Patrick Lalime. In 1996-97, he set an NHL record with the Penguins for the longest unbeaten streak to start his career, which led to an ugly contract and was subsequently sent to the Anaheim Ducks at the 1998 Trade Deadline. He sat in the minors until the 2000 Draft when the Senators decided to take their chance on the youngster and trade for him.
In his first game with the Senators, he recorded a 17-save shutout and won six out of his next 12 games, posting a .912 SV% in the process. It was some of the best regular-season goaltending the team had seen and by the trade deadline, he had a 16-3-11 record with a .905 SV%, which was significantly better than his counterpart in Tugnutt. But it wasn’t good enough for Ottawa and they decided to get some insurance before heading into the playoffs, acquiring Lalime’s old goaltending partner with the Penguins, Tom Barrasso, for Tugnutt and defenceman Janne Laukkanen. The 35-year-old was far removed from his best years, but they still gave him the starting job over their young phenom.
Unsurprisingly, Barrasso went 3-4-0 in his first seven starts, yet he was still there in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lalime didn’t start a single game as Barrasso went 2-4-0 with a .905 SV% as the Senators were eliminated in the first round. While it’s impossible to say how things would have been different had they trusted Lalime right from the start, there’s little doubt that he gave them a better chance to win. But they weren’t convinced, and their uncertainty cost them a valuable veteran goalie, a 20-point defenceman, and a year of wasted potential.
Senators Deadline History
- Erik Gudbranson traded to the Nashville Predators for Brandon Fortunado and a 2023 seventh-round pick
- Mike Reilly traded to the Boston Bruins for a 2022 third-round pick
- Brayden Coburn traded to the New York Islanders for a 2022 seventh-round pick
- Christian Wolanin traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Michael Amadio
- Pageau traded to the Islanders for a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional 2022 third-round pick
- Matthew Peca traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 seventh-round pick
- Tyler Ennis traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2021 fifth-round pick
- Vladislav Namestnikov traded to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2021 fourth-round pick
- Mark Stone and Tobias Lindberg are traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Erik Brannstrom, Oscar Lindberg, and a 2020 second-round pick (used to select Egor Sokolov)
- Biran Gibbons is acquired from the Ducks for Patrick Sieloff
- Ryan Dzingel traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets along with a seventh-round pick in 2019 for Anthony Duclair, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick
- Matt Duchene is also sent to the Blue Jackets, along with Julius Bergman, for Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson, and a first-round pick in 2019 (used to select Lassi Thomson).
- Ian Cole traded to the Blue Jackets for forward prospect Nick Moutrey and a third-round pick in the 2020 draft.
- Nick Shore traded to the Calgary Flames for a seventh-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
- Derrick Brassard traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a three-team deal with the Golden Knights. The Senators received Cole, Filip Gustavsson, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2018, and its third-round pick in 2019. The Penguins acquired Brassard, Senators’ forward prospect Vincent Dunn and its third-round pick in 2018 as well as Vegas’ prospect Tobias Lindberg. The Golden Knights recieved Ryan Reaves from the Penguins, its fourth-round pick, and retained 40 percent of Brassard’s salary.
- Chris DiDomenico traded to the Blackhawks for Ville Pokka.
- Nate Thompson and Dion Phaneuf are sent to the Los Angeles Kings for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. The Senators retained 25 percent of Phaneuf’s salary.
- Viktor Stalberg is acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2017 third-round pick.
- Jonathan Dahlen traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Alexandre Burrows.
Senators 2022 Deadline Forecast
The 2022 Trade Deadline will likely bring more of the same with the Senators trying to dump as many of their expiring contracts to playoff teams for picks and prospects as possible. That leaves players like Chris Tierney, Zach Sanford, and Josh Brown on the chopping block and likely will also include Michael Del Zotto, Nikita Zaitsev, and restricted free agent Anton Forsberg. Many fans hope Nick Paul will remain with the Senators, but he too may also be a casualty of the deadline, as he’s having a career year and is on the last year of his deal.
However, change may be on the horizon. In an interview with Pierre LeBrun, general manager Pierre Dorion said, “We’re definitely hoping this is our last deadline as a seller. I think the need to sell is definitely diminishing. We did want to get a few players in this year, and we knew some of them would only be around for a year and some we’ll try to sign. But there’s no real need to be selling at a premium compared to previous years.’’ That’s great news for the fans, who have been waiting for this team to become a playoff powerhouse once again. Many of the pieces are in place, and the years of patience may be finally paying off.
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.