Five Thoughts for Friday: Ullmark, Staios and the Draft

Some reflections on the Ullmark trade, the Sens' needs at the Draft, and more!

Five Thoughts for Friday: Ullmark, Staios and the Draft
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Goalies are Voodoo, but Ullmark is a Good Bet

It is a truism that evaluating NHL goalies is especially difficult, and that, outside of a few truly elite netminders, performance can vary wildly from season to season. Linus Ullmark might not be quite in the rarefied air of the game's elite, but if he's not he's pretty damn close; he did, after all, win the Vezina trophy for the 2022-23 season. Ullmark has been one of the league's best by traditional measures such as a SV%, and by more advanced metrics like Expected Goals Saved, for several seasons now. It's fair to wonder if he's up to the task of being a true number one, as he's never played more than 49 games in a season before, but unless Steve Staios was going to trade for Connor Hellebuyck, he's done very well here. So much of the Ottawa Senators' struggles last season could be traced directly back to their goalies; that shouldn't be a problem in 2024-25.

Maybe you can sense the "but" coming. Since Craig Anderson left the franchise, it feels like every potential solution between the pipes has come with a serious caveat. Not so with Ullmark. Will he be the long=term solution in Ottawa? That will require a long-term contract. For now, though, there's no "but", there's no qualification. It's just good news, for once.

Staios Delivers the Goods

Well, it took a bit longer than some might have hoped for Staios to make a major change to the roster, but his first big transaction was impressive. Shedding Joonas Korpisalo's onerous contract with minimal retention (25%) in the process of acquiring a new starting goalie is a very tidy piece of work. Paying the price of the 25th overall pick isn't nothing, but it would likely have cost at least something of value to simply unload Korpisalo in a different transaction – let alone bring back a goalie. Staios' M.O so far has been to move slowly, and deliberately. Being willing to wait until the B's, apparently committed to dealing Ullmark, had run out of trading partners after the Jakob Markstrom and Darcy Kuemper trades provided a fair amount of leverage. It's easy to imagine a less capable operator botching the situation.

Don't Believe Everything You're Told

If it hadn't been clear before the Ullmark trade, it should be now: Staios will tell us absolutely nothing about his plans before they are executed. There was considerable consternation among some segments of the fanbase when, in an earlier media availability this off-season, Staios intimated that the team was comfortable with Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg as their starting tandem. Obviously he had been working on theUllmark trade for quite some time, so, no, they weren't comfortable bringing back last year's goalies, but Staios was not willing to publicly imply he might be exploring a goalie transaction.

It's a dramatic shift from Pierre Dorion's fire-from-the-hip approach, and maybe it'll take some getting used to, but I can't say I'm too sad to seemingly have a GM who is approaching team building with a bit more discretion.

Sens' Needs Are Many

While I have nothing but praise for Staios' acquisition of Ullmark, we still don't have much of an idea of how the team will be approaching tonight's draft. For whatever else you want to say about the Pierre Dorion regime, we all had a pretty clear understanding of the type of player that the team was likely to target. Until we've seen a draft, or two, we can't know for certain what characteristics are prized by this group.

There's seemingly a consensus that the Sens should be focused on drafting a defenseman with the 7th overall selection – should they keep it. I'm not philosophically opposed to another defenseman, certainly any potential Jakob Chychrun trade that doesn't return another NHL-calibre defender could leave that blue line looking thin. Unfortunately, I wouldn't say the forward group is exactly stuffed to the gills with the necessary skill to be a top contender either; particularly if Josh Norris remains either injured or ineffectual. As of this writing, I think Ottawa is pretty well set in net, and that's only something that was sorted out this week. Otherwise, there's plenty of work to be done and I can be sold on any skater, playing any position.

Draft Coverage

Speaking of the Sens and their needs at this draft, I think I speak for a lot of fans when I say that while it can be fun to really dig into who's going to be available at the top of the draft, it would be nice to not have to care so much anymore. If we are prepping extended coverage for yet another top ten pick in June 2025, I am going to scream. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, you can find everything we've written about the Draft (so far) right here. I'm very proud of everything we've put out, and I hope we never have to do it again. Enjoy tonight, Sens fans!

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