With this Ottawa Senators season falling apart, it’s only natural to start thinking about trades. With different sources putting their playoff odds between 5% and, uh, 0%, it’s in their best interest to accept their fate and aim for their best shot at Rasmus Dahlin. A good way to do that is to gut the roster of guys who won’t be much use in a re-tool. But who could be traded? Let’s take a look through the roster.
The Small Fries
The Sens could trade a guy like Ryan Dzingel or Jean-Gabriel Pageau, but given their young ages and contracts, it might not make sense. Besides, a guy like Dzingel probably nets you, what, a 6th? If the Sens plan to re-tool, Dzingel is likely more useful in two years than whatever a 6th-rounder gets you. Pageau might get more, but I’m hard-pressed to see the Sens replacing him on the third line.
No, the biggest guy I see getting traded in this category is Zack Smith. Ge’s a useful third-/fourth-line tweener, but $3.25M for three more seasons isn’t the best for Ottawa (keeping in mind that Pageau makes $3.1M for 2 more seasons). Of course, the term also makes it harder to trade him. Still, a team looking for centre depth (Pittsburgh?) could give a 3rd for him.
As much as it pains me to say it, the other guy I see in this category is Fredrik Claesson. He’s been a repeated healthy scratch, he’s due for a new contract next year, and the Sens for some reason think they have defensive depth. I could see him becoming an Anton Stralman, a good player that everyone discovers when he gets a real shot on a contender. I think he deserves it over being scratched for Ben Harpur and Johnny Oduya after toiling in the AHL 3.5 seasons only to watch lots of guys get a shot over him.
The Washed-up Vets
Around the trade deadline, teams will always pay for "veteran presence". Johnny Oduya seems like the ideal guy here: Cup-winner, old. A team would give at least a late pick to grab him for a Stanley Cup run à la 2016-17 Ron Hainsey.
Of course we’d all like to say Alexandre Burrows here, but he’s got no-trade protection and another year left after this one. Still, the Sens saw fit to trade Jonathan Dahlen for him last year, so maybe Dorion can find a sucker this year.
The Actually Good Players
Ottawa actually has some talented players, though you wouldn’t know it from watching the games. Rumours have said Mark Stone is untouchable (as he should be), and I’d assume Matt Duchene is too since it would take a lot of pride-swallowing for Dorion to turn around and trade him again.
Derick Brassard has been rumoured, and I’d be fine with that. He’s good, but he’s also over 30, and his contract’s up in 2019. He wouldn’t be worth re-signing for Ottawa, so you might as well trade him when the return’s highest. Garrioch shot that down a couple days ago, but this team has a long history of lying through the media. Don’t be surprised to see a Brassard trade.
I’d also love to see a Cody Ceci trade, but I can’t see this happening, and Garrioch even said in the above link that there hasn’t been much interest. If he were traded, he’d fetch a decent return and I’d stop stressing that the Sens were going to throw first-pairing money at him this summer. But Ceci has become this team’s ride-or-die, so we’re stuck with him.
The other rumoured name is Mike Hoffman. My personal love for him likely plays a role here, but I’d be disappointed about this. He’s on a great contract, he’s the beat goal-scorer on this team, and there’s no way the pieces this team gets back make up for him. I was fully prepared for the team to make a devastating Hoffman-for-spare-parts trade by the end of 2017, and I’m a little relieved it didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. He just turned 28, and I can’t help but think he’d be a big part of this team in a season or two if they keep him around.
That being said, I could accept a Hoffman trade with a big IF: if it also involves offloading salary. I could lose Hoff if it meant Dion Phaneuf or Bobby Ryan disappeared. I don’t dislike either player, but their contracts are crippling. Either one gets in the way of a quick re-tool. I have a hard time seeing how the Sens can hope to compete in the near future with both of those contracts still on the books. I can’t think of a team who’d want Hoffman and have the cap space to absorb a toxic contract, but that’s about the only way the future gets brighter. There is a possibility that a team trades a slightly-older highly-paid goal-scorer for the pair of them, especially one on a shorter-term contract. By this, I mean someone like Max Pacioretty, though likely someone not in the same division. Maybe you can swing a trade like this for someone like Rick Nash, a highly-paid older guy about to go UFA. I’d expect there’d be picks coming back in a salary dump like this. I don’t think it’d be worth it just to dump salary (the positive of Hoffman outweighs the negative of a toxic contract), but I could probably be swayed on this opinion.
The Elephant in the Room
Of course the biggest trade asset the Sens have is Erik Karlsson. There’s no way the Sens get back fair value if they trade him, but there’s also no point on holding onto him if the team’s going to trade Hoff and Claesson and rebuild with Phaneuf and Ryan still here. I’d have an awful time watching Karlsson get traded, but I also don’t think it’d be better to watch him with a $12M extension with Pyatt-Thompson-Tanner Glass as the second line. And if the team’s going to trade him, the return will only get worse the longer they wait. They might as well do it now if they’re going to. I don’t want this team to trade Karlsson, but that’s mostly because this team would be miserable without him. I expect he’s got another 7 years or so of being elite left in him. Nicklas Lidstrom won his last Norris Trophy at age 41! But the Sens have done too much sort-of going for it recently, and I’d like to see the team either trim the fat and build around EK, or commit to trading him and everyone else who won’t be any good in three seasons. It’d be painful to watch, but at least there might be a direction other than, “Make the playoffs every other year, and then who knows?”
At the very least, we should know in a couple months about the team’s future. Nothing but an Oduya trade means they don’t think the most recentplayoff run was a fluke, 2017-18 was just a year of bad bounces. A Hoffman trade would mean they feel pressure to do something - probably cut salary - but that management doesn’t really have a long-term plan to compete. And a Karlsson trade would mean it’s time to buckle up, because it’s all getting blown up.