Heading into this season’s trade deadline, we were expecting a complete firesale. The team was amidst yet another losing streak having lost four straight, and following Melnyk’s comments from the NHL 100 Classic, everyone was expecting the team to be moving out plenty of player salaries.
Players rumoured to be on the move included Ryan, Burrows, Brassard, Smith, Pageau, Hoffman, Thompson, Phaneuf, Oduya and Karlsson. It was a long list.
The first ball dropped a couple weeks prior to the February 26th deadline, as Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Los Angeles Kings along with Nate Thompson for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. Dorion accomplished the near-impossible by shipping out Phaneuf’s toxic contract, although he had to both retain salary, as well as take back the hefty contract that belongs to Gaborik. All in all, the Sens saved nearly $5M, as a result (not including potential buyouts), in a trade that was made based purely on financial motivation. Seeing the route Ottawa was deciding to take, it didn’t plant a seed of confidence as we moved closer the deadline.
The stress continued to mount, as every day there seemed to be some development to the potential of an Erik Karlsson trade. With unrestricted free agency looming in the 2019 off-season, and Karlsson stating earlier he’ll look to “get what [he’s] worth”, it was assumed that Melnyk would be unwilling to fork over the $10+ million per year he’d command.
Dorion later said that they weren’t actively shopping Karlsson, and only “listening to offers”. Although based on the reports, which even came from respected insider Bob McKenzie, they seemed to be doing much more than just having an open ear. More and more info started to poor through — rifts between Karlsson and Melnyk, Bobby Ryan potentially being included as part of the trade, teams like Tampa Bay, San Jose and Vegas putting together massive offers. Stress continued to mount through the fanbase, right up until 3:00 p.m. passed on February 26th, with Karlsson still a Senator.
The deadline passed, and names that were surely going to be traded found themselves still in a Sens uniform. The only other major move made by Dorion was sending Derick Brassard to the three-peat seeking Pittsburgh Penguins, in exchange for a bunch of future assets, most notably this season’s first round pick and goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson.
The trade deadline also saw another storyline emerge: Pierre Dorion was taking away Guy Boucher’s toys. Some of his favourite veterans were being sent packing, such as the aforementioned Nate Thompson in the Phaneuf trade. Then followed Chris DiDomenico, who was swapped for Ville Pokka from Chicago. Dorion couldn’t find any suitors for Oduya, Burrows and Dumont, with all three being placed on waivers. Oduya was claimed by Philadelphia and Dumont by Tampa Bay, while Burrows was immediately brought back up.
Here was the final haul from the Sens’ 2018 trade deadline:
IN: Filip Gustavsson, Marian Gaborik, Nick Moutrey, Ville Pokka, 2018 1st round pick (PIT), 2019 3rd round pick (PIT), 2019 7th round pick (CGY), 2020 3rd round pick (CBJ)
OUT: Chris DiDomenico, Derick Brassard, Dion Phaneuf, Nate Thompson, Vincent Dunn, 2018 3rd round pick (OTT)
Although the deadline wasn’t nearly as busy as expected in terms of actual trades completed, the Karlsson rumours were the main storyline throughout, putting everyone on their heels. Those final moments saw stress levels reach nearly the same heights as the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, as this wasn’t just one star player on the line — it was the entire future of the franchise.
Even with that episode behind us, we still have the whole off-season ahead. Expect more development, more glossed over comments from Dorion, and more terrible fan proposals. With Melnyk still at the helm of it all, they won’t be stopping any time soon.