Email Hotstove: Trade Deadline Expectations for the Senators

Our thoughts on what should and will happen

The NHL Trade Deadline is a month away, on February 25th, it’s the perfect time to think about what the Ottawa Senators will do. With four Senators on TSN’s trade bait list (and Duchene at no. 1), the Sens figure to be busy over the next month. With that in mind, we had a two-fold question:

What are you hoping the Sens will do (especially concerning their pending UFAs) heading into the trade deadline? What do you expect they will do?

Colin: There’s a few different layers here. In an ideal world, my hope would be that the Sens build around their fantastic core to form a team that can contend for the playoffs and maybe even a championship. Although considering the Sens have been parading their rebuild since the beginning of the, I’ve ruled that out as a possibility, mostly because that would involve bringing back Stone and Duchene.

Apropos of that, my expectation is that none of the three big UFAs are in a Sens uniform come next season, barring new ownership. There’s no reason for any of them to believe in the direction this team is headed, and the front office doesn’t have the finances to compete with the open market. I suspect that at least one them will be traded before the deadline because of this -- after all it fits the rebuild narrative they’ve already been pushing. I know it’s a bleak, but that’s going to be the state of the Sens as long as Melnyk is at the helm.

So now that we have the new parameters, my hope is that they don’t back themselves into a corner the same way they did with Karlsson, and get an excellent return for whoever they decide to trade. Of course it will be hard to satisfy a fanbase when a beloved player is headed the other way, but it’s possible. And given the way all three are having some inflated offensive numbers (see: shooting percentage spikes), winning these trades could be very doable.

Brandon: I know better than to have hope when it comes to Ottawa hanging on to their star-calibre players, but this situation feels a little different than the likes of Alfie and Karlsson.

My hope is that Ottawa inks Stone and Duchene long-term. Stone is clearly the unnamed captain of the team, and his leadership ability is clearly having a nourishing effect on the development of Brady Tkachuk and Colin White. They’re both turning in to top-end players and, that’s a credit to Stone’s influence on and off the ice. Matt Duchene is Ottawa’s offensive backbone. His playmaking ability is something that we haven’t seen in Ottawa since Jason Spezza, and he’s really similar in the way that he has a knack for always finding the open guy, and his anticipation in the offensive zone is elite. Duchene deserves a ton of the credit for Ryan Dzingel’s breakout season this year.

Speaking of Dzingel, I hope Ottawa trades him. Things would be different if this team had any chance of being a competitor a year or two from now, but the benefits of hanging on to Dzingel are outweighed by the pro’s of dealing him. He brings speed and scoring ability that teams need going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his low cap hit in the last year of his deal makes him an ideal rental. I guarantee teams are salivating over Ryan Dzingel right now, and could be convinced to give up a decent return for him.

Now, what do I THINK will happen? To be honest, I think the fact that contract negotiations between Pierre Dorion and Duchene’s camp aren’t anywhere significant in mid-January speaks volumes. I think we’re in a similar situation to the Karlsson negotiations, where Dorion knows he won’t be able to meet Duchene’s demands, but will try his damndest to give the impression that he’s working hard on a deal. I expect Matt Duchene to be traded at or before the deadline.

I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to Mark Stone. For some reason, I get the impression that he wants to be in Ottawa, and will be more likely to stay home rather than test the open market. I think Stone will ultimately cost less than Duchene on the open market, and therefore Ottawa will be able to palate giving him 8+ a little better. Could I be wrong? Absolutely, it could be that Dorion feels the need to prioritize Duchene to justify giving up the lottery pick, but I see Stone sticking around. Call it cautious optimism.

Dzingel is as good as gone.

Ross: I really don’t know how I feel about this team. Extending Stone after trading Karlsson feels a bit like my parents shot my puppy, and then are trying to placate me by pointing out I still have a betta fish. Sure, betta fish are cool, but it doesn’t undo the fact you just murdered my puppy. So my inner anarchist just wants to see it all crash and burn and fall to pieces. Let all the UFAs leave, watch the team drop to the indisputable bottom, see how low attendance can go. Melnyk deserves a basement dweller of a team, and watching everybody good leave is a great way to get there.

As for what the Sens will do, I think Stone will be extended. Dorion will go to Melnyk and beg him to open up the wallet for one superstar, because it’s the only way people will still buy tickets at all. I see him back at eight years, something like $9.5M. Thomas Chabot will be eligible for an extension on July 1st, and I imagine Dorion will want to get that one done early. I think Chabot will wait to see what Morgan Rielly gets, but I expect he’ll sign for somewhere in that neighbourhood. To be able to pay Chabot $7M per season, they’re gonna have to shed salary. I imagine Duchene’s gone, because he wants to win, his roots with Ottawa are very shallow, and I think Melnyk will only be willing to pay one big money. Ceci’s in the rumours now, and I think the Sens will see the emergence of Chabot, Wolanin, and Jaros as a reason that Ceci could be expendable. And I expect Dzingel will be gone. NKB has talked about how sad it is that Dzingel will be gone, because he’s a bona fide second-line winger that the Sens developed without any major pre-AHL pedigree, but he’ll want money, the Sens will want to give some semblance of a rebuild, and he just won’t fit in. Some team is gonna offer a 1st and a prospect for him, and Dorion will jump all over it.

Beata: I mostly agree with the others here. A part of me almost wants the Sens to tear it all down and lose everyone, because I’m petty and angry at them and these players deserve better, but at the same time, I like these players and I like watching them play and even though I have exactly 0 faith in this team ever being legitimately good under current ownership, I want to hold on to the few things I still like about them. Stone, Duchene and Dzingel are some of those things. I guess with how little confidence I have in the Sens, I’m thinking less about what would help the team win, and more what would make me happy as a Sens fan, if that makes sense. In this case I think keeping all three UFAs would accomplish both those things.

As for what I think is happening? Yeah, they’re not staying. As Colin said, there’s just no reason for them to believe in the direction of the organization and I can’t see why any of them would want to stay. I think Dzingel will be traded at the deadline because the Sens could get a good return for him and the PR wouldn’t be quite as bad, and they’ll hang on to the other two for as long as possible before ultimately losing them in free agency.

Ross: Beata, you think Dorion would rather lose them for nothing than trade them in February? If that’s what actually happens, that’s probably even worse than my scenario of trade everybody.

Beata: It’s tricky, because it’s absolutely worse to lose them for nothing and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he decided to trade them at the deadline, but I also think things are so bad right now that he’ll want to do whatever he can to hold on to them.

I think it definitely depends on where negotiations are at in February. If he thinks there’s a chance they’ll re-sign, he’ll do whatever he can to hold on to both of them. But it’s also entirely possible he decides they’re not staying and tries to get something from them.

I guess I’m just conflicted because I’m sure the players will want to leave, but equally sure that leaving would be disastrous for the franchise and that the team will try their best to avoid it.

Dewie: What I want them to do obviously is focus on getting Stone and Duchene extended. While they will both be overpaid, especially Duchene, it’s a risk worth taking if this team is going to be any good in the near future. I would absolutely love if they could trade away some dead weight and get Dzingel signed too. But in Sens world that’s way too much to ask for. Even if we believe the whole rebuild thing, we need a core to build around. Every good team overpays and fans should stop using Bobby Ryan as an excuse for why we shouldn’t give our stars long term deals.

What I think will happen is both Duchene and Dzingel will be traded by the deadline and Stone waiting until the end of the season to see how ownership shapes up. It’s all going to come down to the bonuses and the lockout protection and frankly if Melnyk is here for much longer, it can’t be done for both big players.

Spencer: What I hope they do:

First, extend Stone. That’s pretty much the only thing that has to happen for me by the trade deadline. I go back and forth about extending Duchene, only because of the fear of the Sens being back into the playoff picture when Duchene’s at the tail end of his extension and his performance has likely dropped. That being said, one of Duchene or Dzingel have to be extended by the deadline, the other traded for as much immediate help as possible. I’d much rather a proven, ready to go prospect over a first round pick. But those are hard to come by.

Unrelated to the “big 3”, I hope they finally move on from Cody Ceci. I think there is still trade value there (even though there probably shouldn’t be) so they’ll be able to help out the rebuild while getting themselves as far away from his terrible play as possible.

I also hope they find a home for Craig Anderson. I know the Sens need someone to tend the net, but I really just want that guy to finish his career in an exciting way, not in the tire fire that is the Ottawa Senators. He deserves it.

What I expect them to do:

Here’s the fun part... I expect them to lose everyone. I don’t see a valid reason for any of the big 3 to stay in Ottawa, as much as I’d love them to. The management group hasn’t proven it can build a team and, more importantly, a Eugene Melnyk owned team will never find success. If I’m a guy like Duchene or Stone, I’m hoping to win a Stanley Cup during this next contract and, while it’s not guaranteed anywhere, I’d guess it’s least likely to happen in Ottawa with Melnyk at the helm. There are too many distractions and not enough resources to build a contender here.

The funnest of the fun part is where they trade off the big 3 UFAs and then extend Cody Ceci for 8 years as something they’ll advertise as “hey look, we got one of our big stars to stay” while we collectively roll our eyes. Too pessimistic?

Dewie: That’s harsh Spencer. Harsh! If they manage to trade Ceci and Andy, I can see them extending Dzingel as well as Stone. Not feeling a Duchene extension as much as I would love it.

Ross: Spencer, I think that wins for going most quickly from wide-eyed optimistic to full-blown pessimistic.

Spencer: It’s one of my many talents, Ross.

Ary: I think the contrast Spencer has (eloquently) presented is one of the most frustrating factors for fans of the team. A series of poor decisions, with ownership at the root cause of most, which has put the team in a bigger mess than they were already in.

Yes: Mark Stone should definitely be signed and it would be another massive failure if the organization can’t manage to get yet another homegrown star signed long-term. On-ice and off-ice, this is a no brainer.

Duchene is interesting because, from a purely on-ice perspective, you can make a reasonable case that he may not be worth the $8.5M+ it’ll probably take to sign him. Via Capfriendly, that would be a cap hit that has him ranked among the top-25 of players in the league for a centre who may not be at peak performance when the Sens are ready to compete again. When we consider the Duchene trade was a move that Dorion was making to “put his team over the top”, you could argue that the Sens may do reasonably well in trying to use the same logic on another team, even though they’ll understandably receive less in a trade than they paid because it’s only for half a season, rather than a season and a half. I can empathize with Dorion when he made the trade, because the team had just gone to the Cup Finals and he didn’t know how much longer he’d have Karlsson, though he also takes blame in misidentifying his team’s talent, and how big of an anchor the team’s sans-Karlsson defence is to their on-ice performance.

The doozy now, though, is that Duchene leaving not only fuels the narrative that the team is losing another top player, but also looks piss poor to Mark Stone, who wants to play with other good hockey players. There’s some sort of on-ice argument that the team has decent top-six prospect depth at centre in Logan Brown and Filip Chlapik -- something to fall back on if Duchene is moved -- but that’s probably not going to look good to Stone. If Karlsson had signed, he could at least fall back on the team having another elite player.

Going back to Spencer’s point, what hurts me is that they’re likely going to lose the players who they shouldn’t be getting rid of. Even from a financial perspective, you can attempt to find money by trying to trade Craig Anderson ($4.75M -- running with Nilsson and Hogberg), Zack Smith ($3.25M -- a locker room favourite, but an older player whose role can be filled by two younger options in Pageau and Tierney), and Mikkel Boedker ($4M -- who you can maybe sell to a team because he’s having a rebound year with 27 points in 49 games after just 37 in 74 with the Sharks). We have no idea if Dorion is trying to do just that, but given that the media reports have focused on losing Dzingel -- a homegrown T6 talent with the speed and shot to still be decent over the next 3-4 seasons -- instead. Not to mention, there’s the anchor that is Cody Ceci: a misidentified player symptomatic of the Sens inability to put together a defence corps with four T4 bodies over the last decade, and likely getting the raise if he got $4.3M last offseason. Yes, you’ll have to replace him if he’s traded -- that’s a good thing, and will help the organization immensely in being able to see how the team (and poor Max Lajoie) perform without him in the lineup.

So what do you think should and will happen? Let us know in the comments!

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