Five Thoughts for Friday: Greig Needs to Stay, Trading Rentals, and more!

Thoughts on the rest of Greig’s season, trading veterans, the idea of a panic trade, and more

Five Thoughts for the last Friday of January, a month that has seen the Ottawa Senators playoff hopes die:

Trade the Rentals

Sadly, the playoffs aren’t happening this year. We didn’t expect them, but to be 12 points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand at the end of January is incredibly disappointing. There were some “meaningful” games in December and the beginning of January, but that didn’t last very long. With that being said, the rest of the season should be about figuring out what they have for next season. The UFAs in the off-season are Austin Watson, Nick Holden, Cam Talbot, Derick Brassard, and Travis Hamonic, and all of them could and should be dealt before the trade deadline.

Watson is a weak-link on the fourth line who can’t keep up with younger and faster players. Holden is fine as a depth defenseman but they can find somebody just as good or better via trade or free agency. Talbot has been fine with a .905 SV% but they should be looking for a better goalie tandem next season. Brassard was a PTO signing and although he’s been fine, he’s not part of any future plans. Lastly, Hamonic has perhaps been a good mentor for Jake Sanderson, but if they’re serious about making the playoffs next season, he should not be getting shifts.

None of these players will get much of a return, but even a few mid-round picks is better than nothing, plus it’ll give them a chance to let guys such as Egor Sokolov, Angus Crookshank, Jacob Bernard-Docker, and Lassi Thomson get some minutes. There’s a good chance this will be the third season in a row where they trade subpar veterans, let the kids play, and then see their results improve.

Panic Trade?

Although I’m looking forward to trades that jettison some pending veteran free agents, I’m not looking forward to a potential panic trade by Pierre Dorion in order to save his job. We know that he’s been looking to add a defenseman since the summer but has failed to do so. I don’t think he’s delusional enough to think they should be buying, but I can see him making a Hamonic-esque trade in order to be ready for next season. According to Dave Pagnotta, Ottawa has been linked to several defensemen:

Pagnotta isn’t always the most reliable, so take that with a grain of salt. However, the Senators are constantly being talked about in regards to defensemen. The only player that fits well in terms of performance, handedness, age, and contract is Matt Roy, as all of the others are either not good anymore, too expensive, or play on the left side. I’d love to get Roy for the right price, but considering Ottawa’s horrific track record of adding NHL defensemen from other teams, I’m quite nervous to see who they will end up getting.

There’s a strong chance that the new ownership group will want their own GM and coach for next season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Dorion tries to prove to them that he can build a contender. That’s all speculation of course, but I can’t imagine Dorion feels 100% safe with his job security. I sincerely hope he does not do anything rash, especially if it involves trading for an expensive (and inefficient) rental like Matt Dumba.

Don’t Send Greig Down

Ridly Greig played his first NHL game on Wednesday, and he did not look out of place whatsoever. The 20-year-old rookie recorded an assist, led the team with eight shots, had two takeaways, and two blocked shots in just 13:46 of ice-time. He has 23 points in 28 AHL games this season, which isn’t otherwordly, but he’s definitely one of the better players down there. It was only one game, but I’m fairly confident in saying that he already belongs at the NHL level. Even if he isn’t going to put up a ton of points early on, he has the physicality, hockey sense, and two-way ability that will make him valuable no matter what.

It’s difficult to temper expectations when he starts on the second line with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux, but we need to be patient with him because he’s always profiled as middle-six type forward. If he’s anything more than that, that’s gravy. He may end up getting sent back down at some point, but I don’t think he’ll really need it.

Depth Matters

Coming into the season, Ottawa’s top-six looked fantastic. They have all played well, except for the fact that Josh Norris has only played 8 games and will miss the rest of the season. After he went down the first time, all of a sudden Shane Pinto was thrust onto the second line when he was clearly not ready. Then subsequent injuries to Mathieu Joseph and Tyler Motte really showed Ottawa’s lack of depth.

Every team will look worse when their regulars get hurt, but the best teams are able to overcome that. Ottawa can’t use injuries as an excuse this season, because the reality is that contenders won’t have just six top-six forwards, they’ll have seven or eight so they can step in when necessary. Colorado had Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin, Artturi Lehkonen, and Andre Burakovsky in their lineup, plus they had Alex Newhook and JT Compher who could move up in a pinch if they had to. Tampa Bay had Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, plus Tyler Johnson and Pat Maroon.

I’m not saying the Senators should have that insane depth already, but if they want to take that next step, it’s not good enough to simply have guys that are “alright” in the bottom-six. They need to actually priortize their depth at both forward and defense.

Time’s Ticking for JBD & Thomson

As I mentioned before, I’m hoping that Bernard-Docker and Thomson will get a chance to play more games down the stretch if Hamonic and/or Holden get dealt. Bernard-Docker is turning 23 in June and has just 26 NHL games under his belt. He typically looks decent on the ice because he doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, but he also doesn’t really excel at anything either. I was surprised to see that his on-ice metrics are quite bad though, as he sits second last on the team in Goals Above Replacement at -2.7, only ahead of Hamonic. That’s not good considering GAR is a cumulative stat.

It seems like he should be able to be better than that though, and I wouldn’t give up on him, I just think his ceiling is probably capped at a 3rd pairing player. He is an RFA in the summer and he will require waivers next season, so he’ll either be dealt to another team, be a full-time regular, or he won’t be tendered a qualifying offer. The same goes for Lassi Thomson. He is only a few months younger than JBD and although he has one year remaining on his contract, he will also require waivers next season.

Thomson has a bit more upside due to his offensive skills (14 points in 24 AHL games this season), but he only has 18 NHL games so far and hasn’t been able to stick. Both of them need to get a look at some point this season, and there’s a chance that one or both aren’t with the team next fall. It’s too bad that neither of them have been able to take a full-time spot because it’s right there for the taking.

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