Five Thoughts For Friday: The Start of Trade Deadline Rumours

Plus, some talk about the struggling powerplay and Mikyla Grant-Mentis's bizarre departure from Ottawa

Five Thoughts For Friday: The Start of Trade Deadline Rumours
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

Bring him (Erik Karlsson) home (but maybe not this season)

The trade deadline is approaching, and you know what that means: the Ottawa Senators are looking for defensemen, and insiders are suggesting Erik Karlsson as an option.

Elliotte Friedman suggested on the Jeff Marek Show yesterday that the Penguins might be open to moving on from Erik Karlsson. Both hosts agreed that a return to Ottawa would be cool and potentially of interest to both sides. 

As fun as that sounds, I can’t see it happening this season. As Friedman says, it would take a lot to convince the Penguins to trade Karlsson. The reigning Norris trophy winner is also at a point in his career now where it’s hard to know what you’re getting from him, which doesn’t really seem like what the Sens need right now. Ottawa is also loaded up on offensive-minded defensemen, which I love, but because of that I can’t see them going for another one.

The one thing that really stuck out to me in that podcast was that both hosts agreed that it feels like the Ottawa Senators and Erik Karlsson aren’t done with each other. They seem to think he’ll find his way back here one day, and for what it’s worth, so do I. He belongs in Ottawa. One day, maybe after his current contract has expired, he’ll be a Senator again. I believe it.

Mr. Greig

We all knew that Ridly Greig would become a menace and a much-hated player among rival fanbases, but wow, is it fun to see this happening so quickly and so suddenly. Somehow, an empty net goal has put him on the map in a big way, to the point where three grown adults apparently testified in front of the league and Gary Bettman that Greig deserved to get cross-checked in the head because of it.

Trust this kid to reignite the Battle of Ontario. What a guy.

I know a lot of people are ready for this discourse to be over, but personally, I’m at a point now where I want it to keep up. I want Morgan Rielly to talk about it before his next game. I hope Leafs fans keep complaining all season. I want their first matchup of 2024-25 to be circled on everyone's calendars.

Between Greig sending Leafs fans into a weeks-long meltdown and becoming an NHL-wide meme, Tim Stützle living rent-free in the head of every Montreal fan for about 2 years running, and Brady Tkachuk generally being Brady Tkachuk, this Sens team is endlessly entertaining. I need to see what kinds of shenanigans they get up to in the playoffs, and soon.

What’s going on with the powerplay?

It brings me no joy to report that Daniel Alfredsson might be bad at this part of his job. Never meet your idols, or have them coach your favourite sports team. Whatever.

Despite being perfect in every way, Alfie has unfortunately been making some pretty weird decisions about the powerplay, and it’s been going on long enough that I think we need to talk about it.

The Sens’ powerplay is currently 26th in the league at 15.9%, way down from last year when they were 15th at 20.6%. Since January 1st, they’ve scored only 8 powerplay goals, which is the 6th fewest in the league.

So why is this happening? Here are a few possible reasons:

For one, Stützle has been bumped off the first unit since Shane Pinto’s return. On some level, I can understand it: Stützle hasn’t scored a single powerplay goal this season despite being second on the team in powerplay ice time behind Brady Tkachuk, and the Sens have enough options that they can put their best playmaker on the second unit and spread out the wealth. Still, Stützle has historically excelled on the powerplay, so reducing his icetime and giving him worse linemates doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. Since his first NHL season in 2021, Stützle has the most powerplay points on the Senators, and is fourth in powerplay goals. He also has 10 powerplay assists this season, so it’s not like he’s been completely useless. Reducing his powerplay time seems like a bad idea.

The other big change is that Josh Norris is not in his usual spot. Back in 2021-22, Norris scored 16 goals on the powerplay, and we all know where most of them were scored from: the top right circle. That’s his spot. It works for him. But for some reason, Alfie has moved him to his other side, making it harder for him to pull off the one-timer that has served the Sens so well for so long.

Look, I get it. The powerplay hasn’t been working all season, and it’s time to galaxy-brain it. Alfie is God, and powerplays are always hot and cold, and so it’s entirely possible this will start working soon. But some of these decisions just don’t make sense.

Don’t trade Josh Norris

We’ve talked about trade deadline rumours and powerplay decisions, so that leads us nicely into the rumours going around about Josh Norris potentially being a trade option.

Now. Do I think Norris should be untouchable? No. From what I’ve seen, the Sens’ stance on the matter is similar to my own: they’re not actively trying to trade him, but he might be available if there’s a trade that makes sense. That’s good. That makes sense.

Still, I’m starting to see a lot of people suggest Norris as a player the Sens should trade, and I just don’t get it. Norris is having a down year coming off a major surgery that kept him off the lineup for a full year, so his trade value isn’t very good. Also, the Sens are one of very few teams in the league that aren’t desperate to free up cap space right now. They’ll have problems during the summer, sure, but the cap is supposed to go up, and they have dead money coming off the books. Let’s wait to see what the situation is this summer before trading one of our best forwards.

Mikyla Grant-Mentis deserved better

The structure of the PWHL means that lineup decisions are always going to be a bit heartbreaking. Players who are let go from their teams don’t really have other options to play professional hockey, the way they do in the NHL. With more NCAA grads set to join the league next year, these lineup decisions are going to get even tougher. 

It’s thus especially difficult to see a player let go from her team for no logical reason.

Let’s rewind a bit to the draft, just to show how weird this whole thing has been. When the PHF folded, you could make the argument that Mikyla Grant-Mentis was the best player in the league. Not everyone would agree with that, but anyone who followed the PHF would likely place her in the top 10. Being a star in the PHF doesn’t automatically mean a player will succeed in the PWHL, so there’s some logic behind her not being drafted… except that 33 PHF players were drafted and she wasn’t one of them. Several of her teammates were drafted ahead of her. These are players who were behind her in the depth chart and did not put up as many points as she did on the same steam. This is like drafting a bunch of Sens players to your fantasy team but leaving Tim Stützle on the board.

So that was weird, but she got her chance in Ottawa, and played perfectly well with 3 assists in 6 games. She was one of the few Ottawa players able to create high-danger scoring chances, and had good chemistry with her linemates. I understand that Ottawa needed to make a change, but it’s simply baffling to choose Grant-Mentis as the odd woman out.

Also, if they really wanted to get rid of Grant-Mentis, it’s very strange that they weren’t able to trade her. From a purely on-ice perspective, none of this makes sense, and I wish there was more media covering this league, because this seems like the kind of thing people need to be asking about. 

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