We did it again, folks. We’ve made it through another week.
Let’s dive in.
On the Trade Deadline
This past week the first big trade domino fell, as the Calgary Flames paid a hefty but reasonable price to add some much needed scoring to their forward group in the form of Tyler Toffoli. It was also noted on Wednesday that Pierre Dorion was spotted scouting the Minnesota Wild for the second time in the past month.
Which got me thinking. What are the Sens going to do in the coming weeks?
The answer in my opinion? Probably not much.
The trade deadline is a place where contenders go shopping for a deep playoff run while bottom feeders sell off what they can to play the long game and hope that one day, in the not so distant future, they’ll be the ones shelling out first round picks for 2 months of a steady veteran.
The problem here is the Sens aren’t really either team. While they sit near the bottom of the standings, they aren’t doing so because of the strong play of solid veterans they could move to a team in the hunt. They’re doing so because of the kids, the players Dorion wouldn’t dream of moving. Or, shouldn’t dream of moving. And it goes without saying they’re not going to be adding players for a run at the playoffs either.
When talking about the trade deadline, the same few names come up. Nick Paul, Chris Tierney, Zach Sanford and Anton Forsberg. You might hear a Josh Brown or Austin Watson rumbling from time to time but that’s more than likely started by hopeful fans than anything else. Of these four, I don’t see a scenario where Paul doesn’t sign an extension with Ottawa because I don’t think his trade return, unless Dorion can somehow get a first round pick, will be more valuable that what he is to this team - someone who literally does it all. Tierney’s a veteran who’s fading but a team will probably toss a mid round pick out for in the name of “centre depth”. Sanford is intriguing and feels like the most likely to get moved because he’s the type of player hockey men™ love to get at the deadline. Whether or not Forsberg goes anywhere is almost entirely up to Ottawa’s health in net. If Matt Murray has to miss any significant time between now and the deadline, there’s no way he moves.
In the end, I think we see two NHL players leave the roster - Tierney and Sanford. In exchange? Likely two mid-round picks and a prospect who we get excited about for a few weeks before we forget who they are.
On Some Wild Scouting
Speaking of the Ottawa Senators potential trade deadline plans, was anyone else really surprised to see that Dorion was watching Minnesota for the second time in a month, six weeks ahead of the trade deadline?
This trade partnership at this particular point in this particular season doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
On one side, you have a team in Minnesota who’s almost certainly going to appear in the postseason. They’re buyers. Their trade deadline targets will be immediate upgrades to their NHL roster. The Senators have a number of players who could fit under Minnesota’s cap while providing upgrades on the bottom half of the lineup. That part makes sense.
On the other side, you have a team in Ottawa who’s almost certainly not going to appear in the postseason. They’re probably not buyers. Their trade deadline haul will likely be middling futures in exchange for some playoff push depth. And if they do end up doing some buying, they’d be almost certainly using futures to get that done. Futures are something the Wild don’t need.
Whichever roster player you, fellow Sens fan, are thinking about as a future member of your Ottawa Senators is not someone Minnesota will be giving up before the deadline.
So why is Dorion looking at Minnesota’s NHL roster this seriously?
We’ve all seen the idea that Kevin Fiala might be on his way out of town because he’s up for a new contract and money is a little tight for the Wild but I hardly think Minnesota is going to move a player of Fiala’s level before the offseason. He’s a solid scoring option that every team pushing for a playoff spot wants and needs. If Dorion is really serious about Fiala, he’d have plenty of time to watch him following deadline day.
It’s going to be fascinating to see who, if anyone, Ottawa gets from Minnesota. If no deal comes to fruition ahead of the deadline, I hope we get to find out the reason for this scouting party because it’s left confused.
On Ridly Greig
It feels like every other day someone is posting a highlight reel goal, big hit or announcement that Ridly Greig is the [Sponsor’s] Player of the [Timeframe]. As fans, we are all guilty of pumping up our prospects. I’ve seen a lot of people pencil Greig into next year’s top nine, sometimes top six, after forgetting the likes of Josh Norris, Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson all took leaps and bounds in their game thanks to time spent in Belleville.
Nonetheless, I was curious to see how Greig’s production this season matched up against others in the same development timeline so I had a quick look. One of the most impressive things about Greig’s season offensively has been his primary point production. For players in their DY+2 season in the WHL this year, Greig ranks first in EV P1/GP and third in Total P1/GP.
To give you a comparison, Greig’s 0.86 even strength primary points per game ranks in the top ten for a DY+2 WHL player since 2015. Other players in the top ten include Brayden Point, Dillon Dube, Mat Barzal and Oliver Bjorkstrand. There are also players in this group who haven’t done much - Jayce Hawryluk, Brett Gleason, Tristan Langan - so it’s not something to take to the bank but it’s encouraging to see the kind of company Ottawa’s third first rounder of 2020 is keeping.
He just needs to spend time in Belleville first. He’s a left shot centre in junior and there’s no reason, in 2022-23, to put him ahead of Josh Norris, Tim Stützle or Shane Pinto down the middle or Brady Tkachuk, Alex Formenton and Nick Paul down the left. And, while we all dream of a bunch of troublemakers on the fourth line, that’s not where he should be either. Let him learn from Mann, play big minutes, put up a Josh-Norris-level rookie season and join the big club the year after.
On that note, I’ll just leave this here.
On the 2022 Draft
I know, I’m all over the place today. We’re six weeks from trade deadline and four months from the draft yet that’s where my head is at.
I’ve been vocal about my desire for the Sens to move their first round pick (for the right package) but, while I’d love that, I’m genuinely expecting them to use their pick this summer. Presuming they end up somewhere close to their current standing in the league, let’s say Ottawa picks somewhere between 5th and 10th. We’ll go with 8th, for fun.
The Best Pick
As we know, the draft is a mystery and the exact order is difficult to pick. That being said, sitting around 8th is likely to be players like Connor Geekie, Brad Lambert and Juraj Slafkovsky. For me, I’d be picking Brad Lambert because I think he’s got the highest ceiling. Although I certainly wouldn’t blame the Sens for taking Slafkovsky here after seeing his performance at the Olympics.
The Most Sens Pick
That being said, we know how much the Ottawa Senators love the United States National Development Program. From Tyler Boucher to Brady Tkachuk to Jake Sanderson (and many more), the Sens have spent a decent amount of draft capital on this particular program. With that in mind, and knowing Logan Cooley will be long gone by the time Ottawa picks, it’s only natural that Frank Nazar gets the call. Not only is he a USNDTP player, he’s NCAA committed and he’s a right winger.
Check, check, check.
The Most Sicko Pick
We love to have a laugh (and a bit of a cry) when the Sens take a player nobody expected. Last year it happened at 10th overall with Tyler Boucher. I’d argue many were also surprised when Tyler Kleven was picked in the second round. And, of course, we can’t forget the time they used a third to grab Leevi Meriläinen, a goalie who was left off virtually every draft list and had every member of Sens Nation quickly googling his name.
For this player, I select Owen Pickering of the Swift Current Broncos. Pickering is a 6’4” left shot defenseman who Corey Pronman has said is mobile for his size, has offensive skills and the tools to be a top four defenseman. He’s a projected first rounder but Elite Prospects is the place you’ll see him ranked the highest, at 19.
He’s your next Ottawa Senator.
On Adam Gaudette
I was right there with pretty much everyone else who saw the news that the Sens picked up Adam Gaudette off waivers and thought... cool, I guess!
What I didn’t expect was what the Sens ended up getting. A decent depth player who does have the skillset to play up in the lineup when necessary. He’s a 0.5 pts/gp player through 18 games which, for depth, is pretty fantastic. Since the Sens lost Batherson, he’s been hovering around 13 minutes per night, playing frequently with Tim Stützle and seeing some secondary powerplay time.
He’s also currently on a one year deal with a sub-million dollar cap hit and he’s coming off a season where an NHL team decided he was worth losing on waivers. He’s also only 25.
This checks off all the boxes of a player the Sens should be bringing back next year. He’ll be low cost and has shown in a small sample size to be effective. Low risk, high reward. I see no reason why Ottawa can’t bring him back on a short term, small money deal to bolster their offensive depth and lift the Sens powerplay out of a place where it makes sense, based on their options, that their second unit includes Chris Tierney.
This is particularly important if Dorion can’t go out and bolster the right wing position for the NHL club. Walking into training camp with Drake Batherson and Connor Brown as your top two right wingers isn’t the worst thing for a team with aspirations to battle for a Wild Card spot. It’s when Austin Watson is your third line right winger where your ability to compete for a playoff spot comes into question. If they can have Gaudette (and Egor Sokolov, of course) as options for a third line scorer, that’s how you build skilled forward depth that can compete in 2022-23.