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The Season Is Over: Now Let The Fun Begin

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With the NHL season finally over, we can turn our attention to what should be an exciting off-season league-wide.

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Ottawa Senators have not played a game in over two months, there were still other teams playing for the Stanley Cup in April, May and June. The season is finally over now though, and all 30 teams can turn their attention to the off-season. It's a quick turnaround for teams like the Penguins and the Sharks, but for a team like Ottawa, it's been a long wait.

The first event that is coming up in just eight days is the NHL Awards Show, which many of you are probably just remembering about. It isn't anything particularly special, but we will be able to see if the Drew Doughty bandwagon is real or if the voters were smart enough to see how good of a season Erik Karlsson had. Other than that, there won't be any Senators winning awards because they did not have a great year of course.

The Awards are not something that people are dying to see, but the 2016 Draft is different. Ottawa has the 12th pick, and there's a very good chance they pick a blue-chip prospect like Clayton Keller, Tyson Jost, Jake Bean, etc. The Draft is always filled with intrigue due to the fact that there are usually quite a few trades involving not just picks, but players as well. I don't know how active the Senators will be, but seeing who they will pick at 12 is interesting enough. They sort of need to hit the nail on the head with this pick considering that their farm system is still lagging a bit.

Then after the Draft finishes on the 25th, Free Agency will begin on July 1st. This crop of free agents isn't anything special besides Steven Stamkos of course, and there's no chance Ottawa can sign him. However, it is always fun to watch the "frenzy" (which doesn't turn into a frenzy until a few hours in) because signings can sometimes come out of left field. I'm not sure how much PIerre Dorion can do in free agency due to the internal budget, but I'm hoping that he can at least add a depth player or two, and move some money around.

If anything, watching dozens of players like Keith Yandle, Loui Eriksson, Kyle Okposo, Dan Hamhuis, etc. change teams in one day is quite entertaining. Now neither the Awards, or the Draft, or Free Agent Frenzy are going to be the best part of the off-season. No, the best part is going to be watching how teams set themselves up for the expansion draft coming in 2017 (that is all but confirmed).

This season there was hardly any action for trades, but this summer could be much different. The NHL has not had an expansion draft since 2000, so it's not something that we have experienced in a long time. Due to the complicated protection rules, there are going to be plenty of teams trading away players that will be unprotected otherwise. Essentially, GM's are going to want something for their asset(s) before they have to give them up for nothing.

The one name that comes to mind in this scenario is Marc-Andre Fleury. Each team can only protect one goalie, and Fleury has to be protected due to his no-move clause. Considering Matt Murray is younger and cheaper, it would be ridiculous to expose him to expansion. Therefore, it'll be amazing to see a goalie of Fleury's caliber traded because he has to go.

There will certainly be other scenarios like this around the league where teams are deep in a certain position and they would like to get at least something in return. The Senators may not be quite as anxious to move somebody, although there are a few which they must be thinking about. With Ottawa protecting seven forwards and three defensemen, their list will most likely look like this:

Forwards:

Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad, Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Defense:

Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci

Ryan and Phaneuf have to be protected because of their NMC's, and the others seem like obvious selections. That would mean that Marc Methot, Zack Smith, and Curtis Lazar are exposed. I'd be curious to see if one of those players comes up in trade discussions, although it would be a complicated situation where the odds that Ottawa gets what they want are slim.

Maybe Dorion would look at trying to move Phaneuf so he can protect Methot, although he was probably involved in getting him to Ottawa, so that seems unlikely.

I honestly don't know what to expect this summer from Dorion, but we know that there should be some action. I really feel like he will make a move that we don't expect---for better or worse. And if not, then we can sit back and watch as lots of action around the league unfolds. When Bob McKenzie thinks there will be lots of trades, there will be lots of trades.

Ottawa doesn't have a lot of room in the budget to make a big splash, but there could be some trades coming our way. At the very least, it will be a great summer for rumours and real transactions. We haven't seen something like this in 16 years.