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Sterling Predictions: Trades, Unrestricted Free Agents, Melnyk

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Part 2 of this year’s edition of Sterling Predictions

NHL: SEP 28 Preseason - Senators at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In part two of our Sterling Predictions series, we turn our attention to the management side of things. How will the roster change over the course of the year? Will ownership?

The Sens will start this season with 9 (!) players set to be unrestricted free-agents at year end. How many of these nine will finish the year with the team? Who gets traded first?

Ross: Seven of them will finish with the Sens, with only DeMelo and Hainsey traded. I predict DeMelo gets traded first, about a week before the trade deadline.

Colin: I’ll go out on a limb and say that all nine will finish the year with Ottawa, which is the complete opposite of last season. Some of them have untradeable contracts (Anderson & Boedker), while others have little to no trade value anyways. I think the first trade of the year will involve Belleville, so I’ll guess Jordan Szwarz gets shipped out for some defensive depth.

Brandon: I have a hard time seeing most of them going anywhere, in terms of trades. I don’t think DeMelo gets traded, but I think Hainsey will be the first to be shipped out. It’ll depend on his value at the time, but I believe he’ll attract attention as a bottom four option on a contender’s blue line. Tyler Ennis will be a prime candidate as well, but I don’t know how he’ll do in terms of numbers as a part of what’s a relatively pedestrian Ottawa bottom six. In the end, I’ll say six finish the year.

Spencer: Five of the nine will still be with the team, and I think Pageau goes first. He seems like a prime candidate to pump and dump to a playoff team looking for someone with experience and offensive numbers (which will be inflated because of the minutes he’ll play in Ottawa that he wouldn’t get elsewhere).

Ary: Like the others, I’m going to guess that a majority will finish the year with the Sens. I predict that Ennis and DeMelo will get moved as players with the most value -- cheap, capable, bottom-of-the-lineup players that a contending team will pay a mid-round pick for as defensive depth. DeMelo’s the only one that sort-of makes me sad, because he was quietly very effective last year and I hope he gets a real chance with Brännström this year in lieu of Hainsey... but I doubt that will actually happen.

Dewie: All will be here, with the exception of DeMelo and Hainsey.

nkb: It’s going to be hard to recoup much value for some of the players, but I do believe DeMelo and Hainsey will find a new home at the very least. I’d also be surprised if Ennis plays out the season in the nation’s capital but the rest will likely stay for one reason or another.

Does Jean-Gabriel Pageau finish the season with the Sens? If yes, does he re-sign in the off-season?

Ross: Yes and no, he’ll re-sign with the Sens mid-December.

Colin: Agreed with Ross, Pageau is so synonymous with Ottawa that moving him could cause a disturbance in the universe. He’ll be re-signed before the season’s end.

Brandon: I really feel like this one is a coin toss, but I’m going to say he gets traded at the deadline. His value as a defensive centre will be high going into the playoffs, especially with his history of postseason heroics, and I think by then a young player (Brown, Norris) will have emerged to take his spot. It’s going to suck, but Ottawa will likely be better for it in the long term.

Spencer: I don’t think so. “Centre who is a defensive specialist” has trade deadline deal to a contender written all over it.

Ary: The team has a tough decision to make with the centres they have not named Colin White. I’m going to guess that Pageau’s “intangibles” make him a natural assistant under a Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot-led roster playing tough minutes. I’m not sure if he’s still that player after the injury, and the Sens would be wise to strongly consider moving a player of his reputation for a high pick or decent prospect.

Instead, I think one of the other centres -- Anisimov or Tierney -- get moved, and will guess the latter because the Sens won’t want to pay him.

Dewie: I think Pageau will stay and re-sign. He’s one of the longest serving Senators and may get an A in the long run. There’s also quite bit of sentimental value to his playing in an Ottawa jersey.

nkb: Pageau will stick around and sign an extension before the year’s out. He’ll age gracefully into the pesky fourth line role he was always destined to play.

How about Craig Anderson? Will there be a market for the 38 year-old in what is almost certainly his last season in the league?

Ross: The Sens will try to trade him, but there won’t be an appetite from any other team. He’ll finish as a Senator.

Colin: Goalie markets are always tough, and few teams can even accommodate his cap hit. It’d take a miracle (or maybe a draft pick) just to move him at this point.

Brandon: I don’t see it, but it’s possible. I could envision Ottawa retaining a bit of salary in exchange for a higher pick, and to send Andy to a contender for a chance to win a Cup. He’ll have to be better than he was last year, though, and I don’t know if that’s in him anymore.

Spencer: I think Anderson finishes the year with Ottawa - I’m not sure anyone would (or should) trade for him.

Ary: I don’t think so, barring injury and desperation from an old school general manager. Andy’s had some trying seasons, but is still quite possibly the best goaltender in franchise history. I hope he gets the rousing send-off he deserves at the end of the year.

Dewie: I think Andy doesn’t want to move around so close to the end of his career. The young goalies aren’t ready, yet and Andy will probably finish off his career here while primarily splitting the workload Nilsson.

nkb: There will be lots of talk of “doing right” by Anderson, who’s deserved this kind of treatment, but no play-off team will be interested in the 38 year old. He’ll play out the string in Ottawa.

Does DJ Smith make it through the season as the Head Coach?

Ross: Absolutely. Has a first-year coach ever been fired?

Colin: And keep paying him for the next two years? Not on the Sens’ watch.

Brandon: Definitely. No doubt in my mind.

Spencer: Yes, I think Dorion understands how little the “wins column” means for this team this season. Is DJ Smith the head coach when the “unparalleled years of success” start? That’s another question.

Ary: Yes. I’m less optimistic about him than others seem to be (surprise, surprise!) but there’s no way the team has the resources to fire a head coach on a three-year deal. Smith comes in with very low expectations and a depleted roster, and outside of a public disparaging of the owner, it’s hard to imagine he could do anything that would lead to the team firing him.

Dewie: DJ Smith will at least last the year, if only for PR issues. A lot of his long term future depends on how he treats the prospects.

nkb: On the one hand first year coaches with three year deals rarely get fired. On the other hand, this team is going to be very bad and Eugene Melnyk is notoriously impatient; if the Sens finish dead last again, how long is Smith’s leash? He’ll likely last this year, but if things get really ugly I’ll expect him to be walking on thin ice next season.

Is this the year that Eugene Melnyk sells the team?

Ross: No, sadly. But there will be at least a dozen rumours about him selling.

Colin: I’ll stick with my bold prediction. The time is nigh.

Brandon: This might surprise some people, but I think so. It may not happen until the summer, but I think Eugene’s goose is cooked. Based on what we’ve learned over the last few weeks, he appears to have an exorbitant amount of debt. I think he’ll either sell the team outright to help pay some of what he owes, or the league will finally step in because they’ve just had enough of the shenanigans.

Spencer: Oh man, please let this be a yes.

Ary: He’s gone quiet recently -- a good thing -- but I still can’t imagine Gary Bettman is pleased with the team pissing away an arena deal that would secure the franchise for the next 25 years. He either sells, or brings on partners. I hope it’s the former.

Dewie: Yes, this is the year of Melnyk freedom! Or at least the year that the fans finally sue him.

nkb: I don’t think this is the year, but his financial situation is getting really dire. Missing out on the Lebreton development has been him in a very tight spot with the league. We shall see.