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Quick Thoughts: Ryan Dzingel Traded to Columbus

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Solid picks, and a low-risk, high-reward investment in return.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

A day after shipping Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Ottawa Senators sent another player to Ohio. Pierre Dorion finalized a deal Saturday night, that sent Ryan Dzingel and Calgary’s 2019 seventh-round pick to the Blue Jackets. In exchange, Ottawa receives Anthony Duclair, and Columbus’ second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.

On the surface of it, this doesn’t appear to be a bad return for Dzingel. It isn’t likely that Columbus was willing to give Ottawa any more outrageously high picks, having already given them this year’s first, and possibly next year’s as well. It would have been nice to get a first somewhere in this deal, given Dzingel’s level of production, but it was likely hard to do better than this.

The Blue Jackets now boast a forward core of Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matt Duchene, Nick Foligno, and Ryan Dzingel. The deal makes sense from the perspective of a team with an uncertain future. Panarin and star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky appear to be on their way out this summer, so this is likely Columbus’ last year to make a good run at the Stanley Cup. Are they the Tampa Bay Lightning? Not by any stretch, but a forward group like that gives them a fighting chance.

Dzingel fits in nicely on a team that relies on a quick transition game. The Jackets average 3.20 goals per game, and that number seems likely to go up with their new additions.

In terms of the return for the Senators, it seems they got exactly what they wanted. A first, or two seconds seemed to be the asking price for Dzingel, and with next year’s draft slated to be a strong one, it’s good to have another second-rounder, as well as one the next year.

Are we forgetting something?

Oh, right. Anthony Duclair.

Duclair was selected by the New York Rangers in the third round, 80th overall, of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He spent three and a half seasons with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, and totalled 249 points in 203 games. His best season came in 2013-2014, when he totalled a whopping 99 points in 59 games, playing with the likes of Nick Sorensen and Mikhail Grigorenko.

The 23 year-old began to truly be regarded as a can’t-miss prospect after the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship. Duclair posted eight points in seven games, for a gold medal-winning Team Canada squad. He himself scored a goal in the championship game.

After playing just 18 games for the Rangers, Duclair was traded to the Arizona Coyotes with John Moore and picks, in exchange for Keith Yandle and Chris Summers.

Duclair had a solid first full season, totalling 44 points in 81 games, but after a following season where he spent time in the AHL due to lack of production, he requested a trade. The Coyotes obliged, sending him and Adam Clendenning to the Chicago Blackhawks, for Richard Pánik and Laurent Dauphin on January 4th, 2018. Duclair again failed to find any measure of consistency, with only eight points in 23 games.

Following last season, the Blackhawks did not qualify Duclair, who was an RFA, and he signed a one year, one-way contract with the Blue Jackets, worth $650,000.

Though 19 points in 53 games had Anthony Duclair on pace for a half-decent season, his attitude quickly became a question in Columbus. Outspoken head coach John Tortorella blasted Duclair in the media, admitting to sitting him due to “bad listening skills”. Torts went on to rip the 23 year-old forward:

From the perspective of a Senators fan, there’s some definite cause for concern here. As Tortorella said, four times in five years is not a good sign for a young player. It appears that this is the general perception of Duclair throughout the league. A player of his skill level should have no problem finding a home with an NHL team, but Duclair hasn’t appeared to endear himself to any of his coaches.

However, the part of Torts’ commentary that is worth nothing is that he thinks “there is something at the end of this tunnel”. Anyone that has watched Duclair should be able to recognize that there is no shortage of skill here. His skating, shooting, passing, and hands all have the makings of a top-six forward in the NHL. His CF% rating is similar to that of Jackets captain Nick Foligno, but Foligno has been on for 40 goals for and 32 against, while Duclair is 22-24, according to Natural Stat Trick. Corsica Hockey has him ranked as the 88th overall left-winger in the NHL.

Where this makes sense for Ottawa is in the risk-factor. Though he’s struggled to produce consistently at the NHL level, and is quickly gaining a bad reputation, it’s a low-risk investment for the Senators. Duclair is an RFA at the end of this season, and has 21 games left to prove himself. If Ottawa likes what they see, they retain his rights at the end of the season, and shouldn’t have a problem re-signing him. If they wish to move on, they can try to flip his rights for picks, or let him walk in free agency.

Even if Anthony Duclair doesn’t pan out, Ottawa still gets two second rounders out of this deal. If it does, they get a highly-skilled top-six forward to compliment the likes of Drake Batherson, Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and Logan Brown, and this trade becomes a landslide win for the Sens.

As far as Duclair himself goes, one would have to think this is likely his last real chance to become an NHL mainstay. If these comments about his attitude are the reality, and hold him back from reaching his full potential, it would be a real shame. He has the potential to become, at the very least, a really good forward for the Senators. But his level of skill has the makings of a top-tier winger. With the Senators forward core being gutted, it’s likely that Anthony Duclair will get top-six minutes the rest of the year in Ottawa. Here’s hoping he can make the best of an opportunity, in a low-pressure situation, and we’ll see him return as a top forward next season.

At any rate, it’s sad to see Ryan Dzingel go. Homegrown players like that don’t come around often, and he’s improved every season so far. That said, he’s 26 years-old, and likely won’t be any more valuable than he is right now. Despite the (warranted) furor around trading him, it’s a good return achieved by Pierre Dorion.

In honour of Ryan Dzingel, I’ll leave you with this. Thanks for everything, Ryan, we’ll miss you and we wish you the best.