Dorion's No-Trade Blunder: The Straw that Breaks the Camel's Back?

This latest fiasco with Evgenii Dadonov has me wondering if it will give Michael Andlauer cause to fire Pierre Dorion as GM of the Senators

Dorion's No-Trade Blunder: The Straw that Breaks the Camel's Back?
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann / Unsplash

There is a very good chance that this article will become obsolete very shortly. In fact, there could be bad news for the Ottawa Senators today, on November 1st. Over the weekend, we got confirmation from Elliotte Friedman that there will be some form of punishment imposed upon the Senators for their lack of communication to the Vegas Golden Knights regarding Evgenii Dadonov's no-trade clause (NTC):

If you remember, Dadonov was traded to Vegas in the summer of 2021 for Nick Holden and a 3rd round pick. At the time, Dadonov had a 10-team NTC that requires updating every season. However, for some reason, the Senators appear to have told Vegas that his NTC was not submitted on time or was essentially void so Dadanov could be traded to any team if Vegas wished to do so.

Then, at the 2022 trade deadline, the Golden Knights tried to trade Dadonov to the Anaheim Ducks in order to free up cap space. The Ducks were on his NTC list though, which eventually voided the deal. Here's what Friedman had to say at the time of the nixed deal:

What's funny is that Dadonov would go on to have 5 goals and 16 points in 16 games to finish the season, so even though Vegas ultimately missed the playoffs, it's not as if he hindered the team. For a team that was juggling the salary cap and LTIR as close as possible though, every dollar mattered, and I get why Vegas would be incredibly upset about a deal falling through after they did nothing wrong.

In 2022, it was reported that there would be no punishment for the Senators, but things have resurfaced again. Friedman said on Monday that Vegas wants to clear its name in that fiasco due to their overall reputation with how they have treated players, so that means Ottawa has to be held responsible. And now we're just waiting to see what the punishment will be: perhaps a draft pick or two, or a fine, or perhaps both.

I don't think it will be as harsh as a 1st round pick (and the Senators are reportedly pushing back on their punishment this week), but it could be a 2nd or 3rd rounder and a fine. This isn't the end of the world, but it's an extra asset thrown away for no reason whatsoever. The Senators got nothing positive from this at all.

It's very frustrating as a Senators fan for multiple reasons. Firstly, I have no idea why or how the Senators got it wrong, but they either blatantly lied about the NTC or were incompetent enough that they missed something incredibly important. Secondly, the fact that there is no central registry in the NHL for things like this so they can step in before deals are finalized is asinine. Dorion and the front office made a mistake, but the NHL should have been able to rectify things sooner before word even got out that Dadonov had been "traded" to the Ducks.

Although the NHL should have some blame here, it ultimately falls on Ottawa. With a careless mistake that will make the organization lose a draft pick or money, it makes me wonder if this is the final error that Dorion can afford. New owner Michael Andlauer obviously hasn't been around during all of Dorion's tenure, but I can't imagine he's feeling all that confident in him, especially considering he was likely on thin ice to begin with—not necessarily because of the track record, but because owners like to bring in their own people.

I don't want to paint Dorion's time in Ottawa as a complete failure, because there are plenty of good things: drafting Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, Jake Sanderson, Drake Batherson, Ridly Greig, and Shane Pinto, acquiring Josh Norris, Jakob Chychrun, Artem Zub, Claude Giroux, Anton Forsberg, etc., and extending most of their core to great deals. However, there have been some issues as well:

  • The aforementioned Dadonov fiasco where they will have to lose either a pick(s) and/or money.
  • The Cody Ceci for Nikita Zaitsev trade, which ended up with the Senators attaching a 2nd and 4th round pick just to dump Zaitsev.
  • The Matt Murray trade/extension which cost a 2nd rounder and Jonathan Gruden plus a 4-year deal worth $6.5M. Murray was so underwhelming that Dorion needed to trade a 3rd and 7th round pick to Toronto while keeping 25% of the contract, which expires next summer.
  • The Matt Duchene trade, which essentially made them lose out on Bowen Byram in the 2019 draft (or they could have taken someone like Moritz Seider, Trevor Zegras, or Dylan Cozens). This had people excited at the time, but it was poor planning.
  • Somehow not signing Shane Pinto has worked out due to his 41-game suspension, but in August Dorion was unaware of this suspension and had no plan to fit him onto the roster. It's still unclear what the plan is to free up a sliver of cap space.
  • Trading Filip Gustavsson for Cam Talbot, with Gustavsson immediately becoming a star in Minnesota.
  • Almost the entire 2021 draft...the fact that a 2nd rounder, Ben Roger, didn't even receive an entry-level contract is a massive failure. I want to be careful to not call Tyler Boucher a complete lost cause because he has intriguing tools, but taking him 10th overall seems like the ultimate galaxy-braining.
  • Getting nothing for Mike Hoffman and even moving down a round in the draft.
  • These two are of lesser importance but still matter in the grand scheme of things: Colin White extension (6x$4.75M), which they're still on the hook for with his buyout. Also the Michael Del Zotto contract (2x$2M), with his buyout still on the books.

I could be missing some things and you could quibble with some that are or are not included, but the point is that he's made some painful mistakes over the years. If Dorion's tenure as Senators GM does end soon, I'm never going to say he was horrendous or that he had no idea how to build a team. He did some good things for the team, and it's hard to argue against the young core that he has built up.

At the same time, he's made too many blunders for a team that has to be taking the next step and "best in class" as Andlauer would say. With Steve Staios as the President of Hockey Operations, he's the main decision maker now anyway, but I'd be more comfortable with a fresh set of eyes working alongside him. Sports discussions are never binary, and I can appreciate certain things Dorion has done for the team. But Andlauer can't accept mediocrity off the bat, and they need to have a GM that won't be as careless. We'll see if the team agrees.

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