Since 2018, the tradition of Ottawa Senators players being shipped out at the trade deadline is as much of a staple in the capital as Bluesfest, and by extension, so is the post-deadline assessment of the team that remains.
While the players that Pierre Dorion parted ways with in 2021 don’t quite live up to the name recognition of guys like Matt Duchene, and Mark Stone, there was still plenty of conjecture leading up to the fateful day about who should go, and who should stay.
So, as is now tradition, let’s go over everything that happened from Sunday night to a little after 3pm on Monday, and take stock of the iteration of the Senators that we are left with for the final stretch of the season.
Senators Trade Mike Reilly to Boston Bruins for 2022 3rd-Round Pick
While he wasn’t quite on the level of Duchene, Stone, or Erik Karlsson, Mike Reilly was the Senators’ most coveted asset in 2021.
It’s easy to understand why. After a rough early start to the campaign, the 27 year-old rebounded in a big way, cementing himself as the Senators’ undisputed left-side option on the second pairing, and quarterback of the second powerplay unit. While he didn’t tally a goal on the year, Reilly set a new career-high for points in just 40 games, on the back of 19 assists.
A native of Chicago, Reilly was acquired by the Senators in January of last year, with Andrew Sturtz and a 2021 fifth-round pick going back to the Montreal Canadiens. Brought in to eat minutes while Ottawa’s youngsters developed, Reilly turning into a third-round pick is a slam dunk for Pierre Dorion, especially given this year’s comparatively weaker market.
While fans may have wanted more in return, it seems fair to say that Reilly commanded his worth, and the pick being in 2022 allows the Senators the benefit of a better scouting year.
This trade was about as good as it gets for Dorion.
Senators Trade Braydon Coburn to New York Islanders for 2022 7th-Round Pick
When Braydon Coburn was acquired — along with Cedric Paquette and a second-rounder in 2022 — from the Tampa Bay Lightning in December, it was easy to see what the Senators were doing. In sending LTIR players Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson the other way, Ottawa freed up cap space for the Lightning, in exchange for a high draft pick.
Everyone in the capital was fine with this, but they were less thrilled to see Coburn on the ice for 16 games. It’s understandable that the Senators needed to showcase him for potential trades, but the lack of willingness (at least early on) to stash Coburn on the taxi squad in lieu of younger players left a bitter taste in the collective mouth of Sens fans.
At this stage in his career, Coburn is a depth player for a contending team to carry in the event of an injury in the playoffs. He won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning last season, playing just three games in the bubble, and it’s clear that the Islanders are looking for something similar.
A seventh-round pick is not sexy by any means, but for a 36 year-old defender with just two points on the year, one kind of has to take what they can get.
Senators Claim Victor Mete off Waivers From Montreal Canadiens
Full marks to Dorion for this one, because it was not a move that I thought he would make.
Mete was a perfect fit for Ottawa, especially given the players they had already parted with to this point. Regardless of what one may think about the respective performances of Reilly and Coburn, their absences left a major hole in the Senators’ left-side depth.
That said, Ottawa hasn’t always been eager to take advantage of the waiver wire, especially where smaller players are concerned, so I wasn’t confident that they would take a flier on the 5’9 Mete.
Ottawa now gets a free look at Mete, an RFA at the end of this season, while maintaining contractual control if they decide to bring the 22 year-old back. It’s the type of low-risk, high-reward venture that has paid off for this team in the past.
Senators Trade Erik Gudbranson to Nashville Predators for Brandon Fortunato, 2023 7th-Round Pick
I really do feel for Erik Gudbranson. A local guy, getting to play for his hometown team, but it never truly ended up being a fit, and now he has to relocate to Nashville immediately after the birth of a child.
As they say, though, hockey is a business, and Gudbranson’s time in Ottawa didn’t produce much in the way of positive results for either side. Acquiring him for a fifth-round pick last October from the Anaheim Ducks, Dorion was criticized for not getting more in return for taking on Gudbranson’s contract, and rightfully so. The defender’s $4 million cap hit was not insignificant, and the Senators should have gotten more for doing the Ducks a favour.
While Gudbranson was by all accounts loved in the room, and a leader on the team in his role as an alternate captain, Ottawa just did not get what they needed from the 29 year-old. Gudbranson didn’t perform well in his own end, and at times failed to serve his role of clearing the netfront.
Getting an AHL defender with some upside, and another late pick is probably the best Ottawa could have hoped for in this instance, which is a shame in light of what they gave up for Gudbranson.
It’s tough to dispute that the Reilly and Coburn acquisitions eventually paid off for the Senators, who in both instances recouped more than they gave up. While Gudbranson may have provided an intangible impact to the locker room development of a young group, not getting more for him initially came back to bite Dorion.
But in clearing those three roster spots, the Senators created some opportunities for their young players. Erik Brännström in particular stands to get a great look with Artem Zub on the second pairing, and quarterbacking the second powerplay unit, essentially taking over for Reilly. Coburn moving out also grants Mete the chance to cement himself on the third pairing, and the absence of Gudbranson creates space for Jacob Bernard-Docker, expected to make his NHL debut at some point in the next week or so.
It wasn’t perfect, but the 2021 trade deadline appears to have been a net win for Dorion. He moved out depth pieces who weren’t going to serve the future of the organiztion, and while he perhaps would have liked to move Ryan Dzingel, Anton Forsberg, and others, Ottawa ultimately emerge as an improved team, set up better for the future. Dorion will likely have to add another defender or two in the offseason, but for now, the Senators’ youth are set to take the reins for the remainder of the year.
This is the moment that fans have been begging for, and it will be fascinating to see what comes of it.