We're at the stage in the season where if teams don't turn things around soon, they will find it hard to make the playoffs. Obviously the Senators defied the odds last season, but that doesn't mean they should rely on having another massive late push again. Currently they sit 2nd in the Atlantic Division, but I have no idea how.
The way the defence is playing, I'm not sure they will be able to even get into the playoffs. Like I said yesterday, they are giving up the most shots against per game in the entire league, and it's all because of their second and third pairings. If Ottawa wants to make the playoffs, and even take that next step, I think they need to add a defenceman. Bryan Murray is apparently looking at guys in a trade like Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, and Kris Russell, but those aren't very good options.
For this list I tried to look at defencemen who would fit well on a second pairing as an upgrade, as well as players who have had their names thrown around the rumour mill a bit. Are these players going to get dealt? Probably not. But I think at least one of them could be acquired by the Senators if they are willing to give up a roster piece. It's hard to speculate what exactly especially because they don't have too many chips, but I would think that players like Curtis Lazar, CodyCeci, Jared Cowen, Zack Smith, Matt Puempel, and Fredrik Claesson are possible trade candidates.
I wanted to give some other trade options which would legitimately make Ottawa's defence better. Some may not be totally realistic, but they are at least options. Here they are:
Cam Fowler, Anaheim
Fowler has apparently been shopped around, and I have heard rumours about him for a few years now. The Ducks are a legitimate Cup contender though, so they would need some quality NHL talent coming back. If I were Ottawa I would at least call Bob Murray, although I'm not sure how far the conversation would get. I'd be curious to see if they would want a forward or defenceman in return, because if they need a defenceman then it would have to include Patrick Wiercioch.
In that case, it isn't really worth it. But if Ottawa can somehow centre a package around a forward then I would be all over it. Fowler has three more years on his deal which is good, but his cap hit of $4 million would be a hard to fit in for Ottawa. This is the least likely of all options, but the Senators aren't doing their job if they don't see what their asking price is.
Ryan Murray, Columbus
Despite being drafted 2nd overall in 2012, he has only played in 119 games in the WHL and NHL in the four seasons since. He has been plagued by injury troubles, but I think he can still be a quality defenceman. He may not be as pricey as he was a couple years ago, and this could be a good opportunity to buy low on a 22 year old. In his 96 career games, he has been the Blue Jackets best defenceman in terms of relative corsi, although the standards are very low.
The good thing with Murray is that he is still on his ELC, and Ottawa won't have to worry about the money for this season. At the same time, if Ottawa trades for him they will have to pay him in the summer for at least $3 million I would assume. I'm not quite sure what to think of him, but I think he would be an upgrade over Cody Ceci, and maybe even Wiercioch.
Brendan Smith, Detroit
Smith certainly won't help Ottawa offensively, as he has just 49 points in 207 career games. He's quite an underrated defenceman, but I think he could be had for the right price. Much like Murray, he also leads the Red Wings defence in relative corsi over the past four years.
He's exactly the type of player that Ottawa needs, because he can be competent in the defensive zone, and they would be able to live with his offensive limitations. The Red Wings aren't going to be in a sell mode, but perhaps they could be in a similar mindset as Anaheim where they would want an NHL player in return.
He has only two years left on his deal, and his cap hit of $2.675 is very manageable. I can't speculate as to what the return would be, but I doubt Detroit would accept a package with just a prospect and a pick.
Mark Fayne, Edmonton
Fayne is ripe for the picking. He is getting the Jeff Petry treatment, in that he's a solid defenceman but Oilers fans hate him for some reason. His contract is more than Ottawa wants to take on at $3.625 million for the next 3 years though, which makes it tough for the Senators to trade for. However, that doesn't mean the Senators can't bring him in as long as money is going the other way.
He's even more of a defensive defenceman than Smith, but like I said, they need someone like that to make up for the deficiencies of Mark Borowiecki, Jared Cowen, and even Cody Ceci. He's another underrated player that doesn't get too much attention.
We know that the Oilers have always been a good match with the Senators for a trade, but nothing has ever materialized besides the Eric Gryba trade. If Edmonton is out of the playoff race soon, then I can definitely see them shopping Fayne in order to get out of the contract. The Oilers have liked Zack Smith in the past, or maybe they can somehow be enticed with a used Jared Cowen, or Milan Michalek.
That's probably unrealistic, but you never know. Even if they don't want either of those players I bet that a trade simply for picks would work. Petry's return last year was just a 2nd and a 4th round pick, although he was a rental.
Dmitry Kulikov, Florida
Kulikov is only 25, but he's been in the league for seven seasons now. He isn't a stud defenceman that many thought he would be when he was drafted 14th overall in 2009, but I think he would be a definite upgrade on the second pairing. He shoots left though, so it would be interesting if he would replace Wiercioch, or if one of them would play on their off-wing.
Despite not being a top player, he is still making a good amount at $4.33 million for the next two years. That would be the biggest hurdle for the Senators, as I think the Panthers would be willing to deal him. He has been on the rumour mill for years, and if the Panthers think they won't be post-season bound then perhaps they will just cut ties with him.
Kulikov is one of Florida's better defencemen, but I don't think he is part of the core that the Panthers want to build around. At the same time, this option is unlikely considering he is a Russian. Murray doesn't seem to be a fan of Russians, so this probably won't be happening. A good option nonetheless.
Adam Larsson, New Jersey
I had been saying last year and even the year before that Larsson would have been a good buy-low candidate, as he was getting no ice-time, and it looked like he was on the block. This year he is getting a career high average of 22:49 minutes of ice-time per game, so perhaps the Devils won't be so quick to deal him. The strange thing about Larsson is that he was underwhelming in his 3 ELC seasons, but he's signed for another 6 years at a cap hit of $4.166 million.
So he may come relatively cheap as a trade target, but it won't be cheap on the Senators budget. I really don't know how the Devils feel about him right now, but like Fowler, I would urge Ottawa to at least call. The Devils are in a playoff spot now, but definitely should not be in a few months. The Senators would have to do some convincing and include a good piece for sure. The cap hit may be too much to swallow, but he could be an upgrade.
Justin Braun, San Jose
I covered the Sharks for the 2013-14 season on an old hockey blog, and in watching the Sharks games I liked Braun's game. He isn't going to wow you, but he would be an improvement on Ottawa's second or third pairing. He still has five years left on a contract extension he signed one year ago, and it's not too bad at $3.8 million. He's another right-handed shot that could fill in for Cody Ceci, and surprise surprise, he's another defensive defenceman.
The Sharks are also one of those teams that will be in the playoff mix, so they may not be willing to deal Braun. However, this could be a trade that materializes in the off-season.
For each one of these players, there are drawbacks that make a trade less likely. Some guys are still on playoff teams so it'll be hard to pry them away. Some teams may be unwilling to give up on guys like Murray or Larsson, and that's understandable.
I understand that it will be hard to upgrade the defence on the fly, but these are simply a few options. The easiest acquisition that makes sense would be Mark Fayne just because of the Oilers sudden distaste for him.
Is there anybody else you would like to see Ottawa target? Let me know in the comments.