Let it never be said that Pierre Dorion is shy when it comes to making trades. During his tenure as the Ottawa Senators GM, Dorion has re-shaped his roster in ways both big and small via the trade market; the 2022 deadline saw the Sens as active as they’ve ever been with five different trades and a goalie signing. Yet, for all of the activity one can’t help but be left with the feeling that not much has actually changed in the bigger picture. When we look back on this year’s flurry of action, it seems unlikely that the acquisition of Travis Hamonic, Mathieu Joseph, or Zach Senyshyn will have changed the team’s trajectory in a major way. The same can be said for the departures of Nick Paul, Zach Sanford, or Josh Brown. Ultimately, all of this is playing at the margins.
Whether Ottawa did well or not at the deadline is a matter of expectations. Each trade can be rationalized on its own, though some more easily than others, and in a few cases the Sens were simply doing what was required of them. Zach Sanford and Josh Brown were pending UFAs who did not have a future with the team. Trading Sanford for a fifth round pick and Brown plus a conditional seventh for Senyshyn and a fifth is about all that could reasonably be expected. When it became clear that Paul and the team would not come to terms on an extension before the deadline, there really was no choice but to deal him. Joseph is a capable NHLer that’s still young enough to have a bit of upside potential. He’ll certainly be given an opportunity to play higher in the line-up in Ottawa than he did in Tampa Bay. None of those trades, however, improved the team today or likely in the future. They are all best described as lateral moves.
Dorion’s real attempt to upgrade his team’s roster for next season came in the form of Hamonic. In this regard, it’s hard not to see ghosts of past blue line acquisitions gone wrong. Hamonic struggled in his time with Calgary and then most recently Vancouver. By all accounts, the Canucks were desperate to get out of his contract. He’ll also be 32 before next season starts and this is all before wading into the various reports floating around about how unpopular he was with his teammates. Jack Capuano talked a big game about Hamonic potentially being a good fit beside Thomas Chabot (?!) but it’s very difficult to see that going well. Remember, there was a brief shining moment when Erik Gudbranson was supposed to be Chabot’s partner as well. The price paid to acquire Hamonic, a third round pick in a draft where the Sens already have two other third round picks, isn’t extravagant and Hamonic only has one year left on his deal so this isn’t a disaster. It’s also unlikely to help, especially past next season.
Dorion understands that one of Ottawa’s biggest weaknesses is on the right side of their blueline but after today any big leaps forward will almost certainly need to come from another trade or internal improvements. The Sens have two young prospects in Jacob Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson who will both be 22 before next season starts. There has been increasing noise that Ottawa will attempt to off-load Nikita Zaitsev in the off-season. Assuming the Sens find a way to get rid of him, a roster spot would open up for one of the two young prospects. The organization is also clearly counting on star prospect Jake Sanderson to step in and make an immediate impact. Maybe Nick Holden or Erik Brännström will slide over to the right side. Either way, the clearest way forward is with what’s already here.
At forward, the Sens will be counting on health for all of their best players and that one of the youngsters that has to break through makes an impact in the NHL. If both of Shane Pinto and Ridly Greig are able to contribute in a meaningful fashion then the whole picture looks a lot brighter. All of this could happen, Ottawa’s accumulated a veritable haul of young players as part of the rebuild. Some of those are bound to pop. Today’s flurry of activity didn’t really change that in a meaningful way: the Sens will rise or fall with what they’ve already got. For now, we wait.