What do you think is the Sens' biggest need six weeks before the trade deadline? What player(s) can you see Ottawa trading for to fill that need? What do you think it would cost the team?
Peter: Although I think the Sens are in pretty decent shape six weeks out from the trade deadline, there are a lot of small moves they could make to improve their chances.
The biggest one they'd benefit from would be an upgrade on defence, but I don't see a big splash happening for a number of reasons: Boucher seems happy with the second pairing (which is most in need of improvement, in my opinion), the cost for a good blueliner would be too much (in salary and in assets), and paying a high price for a blueliner right now would be foolish if you're likely to lose him (or another D you like, such as Methot or Ceci) in the expansion draft this summer. Still, with Claesson as the seventh defenceman right now, the Sens might be looking for a more experienced depth guy to solidify the corps--Francois Beauchemin has been mentioned, but he's got a big salary this year and next year even if the price to acquire him would probably be low. Someone like Mark Stone's brother Michael would be an interesting option whose name I've heard mentioned in rumours, but Cody Franson and Ron Hainsey could be some solid UFA rental options as well. I'm not sure how much I'd want the Senators to pay for a rental since they're not close to true contention, but a small price could be worth it for short-term improvement to defensive depth.
Up front, an upgrade in the bottom six might make sense, but--again--I think Boucher seems pretty content with what he's got, so maybe we're not likely to see much. A few former Senators are buried in the AHL right now and might be worth looking at if they're placed back onto waivers (Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Erik Condra), but I doubt we see anything major until we know what kind of player Clarke MacArthur will be when he returns.
Of all the things the Senators might do, the biggest might be a trade involving Curtis Lazar. His early stint in Binghamton doesn't seem to have helped his production much, and it's looking like he may not become the offensive producer the Sens hoped when he was drafted. Still, he's likely got some remaining trade value to a rebuilding team by virtue of his draft position, World Junior Championship reputation, and generally positive attitude. Ottawa may decide that the time is now to move on from Lazar and give him a change of scenery in order to bring some scoring depth from a team that's on the outside of the playoffs.
Colin: This is a difficult question. Although the forward and defense corps have been passable (we're in a playoff spot!), the way we've been playing so far has not reflected that of a cup contender. If contending is this team's goal, then we need to get a top-nine forward and top-four defenseman ASAP (and to answer the question, I think both positions are just as dire). However, as much as we need to fill these positions, I'm afraid that it won't really do anything. Tom Pyatt will continue to get regular minutes while dragging our top players, and the organization will still be putting Cody Ceci on a pedestal. Boucher and Dorion are too attached to give them up, even though Ceci and Pyatt in particular have been our Achilles heel thus far.
Aside from that, taking a brief look through some recent Armchair GMs, the names that keep popping up are Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan Spooner, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Strome, Anthony Duclair and Francois Beauchemin. A lot more forwards than defensemen, which makes sense due to the recent nature of the trade market. Many of these are very intriguing, although there's two obstacles the Sens face with concocting a trade.
The first, and probably most important, is the financial situation. We're already over budget, so we'll somehow have to find a cheap quality player, and still probably have to give some salary back the other way. This eliminates most teams from trade talks already, which is why Anthony Duclair is a very alluring option. The other is that we'd have to give back a valuable asset the other way, and the Sens don't have a pinpoint position of strength to deal from. A trade would probably have to involve sacrificing some of our future, and I don't think Dorion and co. are too keen on going that direction.
Trevor: Yeah, I think the upcoming Expansion Draft will complicate things a great deal for every team in the league. Ottawa has to protect Karlsson and Phaneuf, so acquiring someone else would mean Marc Methot would be exposed, like Peter mentioned. This is not the year that Ottawa has enough assets to go for it anyway, so as long as they target some upgrades on defense in the summer, then I'll be happy.
Certainly that second pairing is a huge weakness right now, and I'd be trying very hard to trade Cody Ceci for a team who still believes he has some value. I think Ottawa would be able to get at least a decent forward for him, which is also another need. Of course if Ceci is moved, then somebody will have to replace him. However, I would just look for a solid 3rd pairing player who can take Chris Wideman's spot, and then move Wideman up.
I am not going to rely on Clarke MacArthur coming back and staying healthy, so I'm going to assume that there will be at least two holes to fill in the bottom six. Ottawa simply does not have the scoring depth that other good teams have, although once again, we have to factor in the expansion draft. I would not mind going for an expiring UFA, just because they wouldn't have to worry about exposing him.
As for potential names, it's so hard to tell who's on the market, especially for defensemen. For forwards, Martin Hanzal's name has been brought up, and I wouldn't mind that acquisition to have him as a 3C, as long as nothing too important is headed the other way (B level prospect perhaps). If PA Parenteau is for sale, I would be all over that as well, since Ottawa's depth on the right side is incredibly thin.
There won't be many options, and the expansion draft plus budget ramifications make things extremely difficult for Pierre Dorion. At the end of the day, Ottawa probably needs a 3rd line right-winger, a 3rd/4th line centre, and a 2nd pairing defenseman, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did nothing because their hands are tied.
Colin: To elaborate a bit on Francois Beauchemin, who Dorion has apparently shown interest in, I think it's worth mentioning that Beauchemin's connections run deep with the Senators. Pierre Dorion used to be a scout for the Montreal Canadiens, and was part of the scouting staff that drafted Beauchemin in the first place (1998, 75th overall). Another connection is that Jim Clark, who is currently the Sens' director of professional scouting, was an assistant general manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005 when they traded Sergei Federov to bring in Beauchemin. Don Boyd (Sens amateur scout) was also the Jackets' director of player personnel during Beauchemin's brief stay in Columbus.
This may or may not mean anything, but it could very well be one of the reasons why the Sens are attracted to Beauchemin. Maybe they're stuck remembering him in his prime, even though his play has gone off a cliff the last couple seasons. He is one player I hope the Sens don't make a trade for, even though it seems impossible due to his salary and no-movement clause.
On a completely coincidental note, Sens prospect Cody Donaghey was traded to Val D'Or a couple days ago, in exchange for none other than Francois Beauchemin (the other one).
Beata: It's kind of hard to say what the Sens should be looking for right now because, honestly, I feel like what they really need is for some their players to start playing better. I don't see any huge gaps in the lineup, and certainly none that can be fixed at the trade deadline. It's not like in previous years, when we've all been able to point to the defence and say "do everything in your power to fix that right this instant because it's embarrassing." Also, as others have pointed out, the expansion draft complicates matters considerably when it comes to trading.
Obviously, it would be nice to acquire a top-4 defenceman, but that's certainly not happening unless Ottawa is willing to give up some really good assets, which I doubt they are. Not to mention that with Claesson and Chabot both looking to crack the lineup in the next few years, they should be very wary of picking up any more defensemen who could potentially block the younger guys down the line. They already have one of those in Phaneuf. If they can get rid of Ceci, I can see them maybe acquiring a cheap 2nd or 3rd pairing guy on an expiring contract who can help in the short term but won't stick around for very long.
As for forwards, the top six looks pretty okay to me, but the bottom six could use some work. My guess is that if the Sens do make a trade, they go for a bottom six forward, because it's an area where they can probably find a cheap, easy upgrade on what they currently have.
As for names, there are no players in particular that I would really like the Sens to target, but I would love it if they could find a way to get rid of Lazar and Ceci. Neither one is reaching their full potential here, and they're both young, former first round draft picks, which should at least give them some trade value.
Michaela: While I would love to see the Sens make some changes to the defence, the expansion draft makes it particularly challenging to bring in a key piece in that position (as mentioned above). The team could make a move to bring in a rental defenceman, but at what cost? In my opinion, the team should really look at improving their bottom-six forwards. Sure, changes to the bottom-six aren't going to make a big splash in the line-up, but the team could use some help in the secondary scoring department.
Players like Chris Kelly (7 points in 39 games), Curtis Lazar (0 points in 19 games) and even Jean-Gabriel Pageau (13 points in 39 games) aren't providing the kind of offensive support expected of players in their position. While the team doesn't exactly need them to put up big numbers, it's the secondary scoring that often makes the difference when your top lines are facing tough competition. In games against top teams like Pittsburgh and Washington, the bottom-six should provide support, taking some of the pressure off the top-six. This just isn't happening for Ottawa this season.
So a low-budget, depth winger could be the easy answer they're looking for, without having to give up too much. A lot of this will depend on what happens if/when Clarke MacArthur makes his return. But I think an upgrade to the bottom-six is a move that makes sense for the Sens right now, given the upcoming expansion draft, budget restrictions and current team need.
Callum: It all depends on how big of an improvement you're looking for in this team. If you'd like to add a little something simply to bolster their chances of making it to mid-April, then some quality depth in the forward corps is your best bet.
The Senators made an attempt in claiming Matt Nieto a week ago, so I assume that's the sort of player they're trying to go after, but something a tad more enticing should fit the bill. A player that can bring scoring and defensive stability to the bottom six has been available through waivers a few times this season, but right now, Ottawa might have to give up one of their lesser known prospects and a third round pick to get a rental worth while.
But if you'd like to really give the team a chance at winning a couple rounds in the postseason, then a top six forward and top six defenseman is what you should be looking to add. Now, this does mean you'll have to be willing to lose a couple of key pieces, but the good news is, teams like Colorado and Tampa Bay, among others, are publicly looking to shake things up.
As many of my colleagues will likely throw out here, Cody Ceci is one of the more valuable trading pieces the Senators have. And because they aren't willing to cut ties with players like Logan Brown, Colin White, Thomas Chabot or Jonathan Dahlén, then Ceci might be on the chopping block.
You'd also be looking at players like Curtis Lazar and Tom Pyatt to sweeten a couple deals. But it won't just take the three I've named to bring back some top talent. Not even close. If you want to go after some of the players around the league possibly up for trade - Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ondrej Palat - then you'll have to give up something you really would rather not.
Personally, I could do with either a solid upgrade on either the forwards or defense and then an addition of depth to one you didn't add the upgrade to. That's not enough to turn this team into a contender in this league, but it'll bring them closer to that title than they have been in an exceedingly long time.
Ross: It's hard to pick one hole. As people keep pointing out, the defence has been a problem, especially the second pairing, but fixing it is hard given that expansion is right around the corner. The top-six has seen Ryan Dzingel getting regular time, which is great for him, but I don't really think he's a top-six forward on a contender. It would be nice to be in a situation where there's enough scoring talent, Guy Boucher doesn't feel the need to play Hoffman or Stone with Pageau. The bottom six hasn't been great either, and we could probably use an upgrade over Kelly/Pyatt especially. And let's not forget goalies, since this team is a Mike Condon injury away from having two goalies with a grand total of one NHL start as the only guys available.
People keep pointing out that Ottawa's best trading pieces are Ceci and Lazar. I'd like to see the team move on from those two at this point, because I think their values will only continue to decrease. But what can you get for those two? Not a lot. Definitely not somebody established. Ceci-for-Drouin rumours were rampant when Drouin had moved home. Now that Drouin is a top-six NHL player, you never hear anything about that. Actually you hear the opposite: Drouin is not available. So you use those two to go after promising young players (which both were not that long ago) or washed-up older players. Neither of those appeal to me a lot.
All this to say I have no idea and I don't envy Pierre Dorion's job over the next six weeks.
Beata: The goalie question is an interesting one, because the Sens seem to have a whole bunch of capable players in that position, very few of which are currently available. We don't know how long it will be until Anderson comes back (I'm assuming he'll want to play in the playoffs but considering the reason for his absence the team definitely shouldn't be pressuring him to return), and Boucher doesn't seem to trust Hammond even when he's healthy. Mike Condon's been good but like Ross said, there isn't much behind him. I could maybe see them going for another goalie, but only if they give up Hammond or Driedger for someone who can help them right now. Even then, they're still left with more goalies than they need at the end of the season and there's no guarantee they actually improve their goaltending by that much.
Ross: I'm pretty sure management thinks Marcus Hogberg is the goalie of the future, and O'Connor/Driedger have become placeholders until he's available to come to North America. But Anderson's getting older, and could very well retire in 2018 when his contract's up. Hammond might be out of pro hockey by then. The goaltending present of the Sens is OK, but the future looks bleak. It's not something I want to see them address by trade right now, but I'd like to see the team address it at some point.
NKB: The reason the Senators find themselves in the situation they're in today is largely because Cody Ceci and Curtis Lazar have not developed as one might have hoped. Chabot and White have been mentioned as untouchables, but remember that it wasn't so long ago that Ceci was deemed too integral a piece to trade for Jonathan Drouin. Going back a bit further, there was a time when Bryan Murray was said to be unwilling to trade Jared Cowen because he was afraid Cowen would come back to haunt the Senators. Today, a package of Ceci + Lazar *and* a pick might not even be enough to pry away someone like say Gabriel Landeskog. When teams are evaluating trade chips, draft picks and young prospects have the added advantage of "untapped potential"; they could become anything. If a prospect does turn out, the franchise has the most valuable commodity in a salary cap world: a young, productive player on a cheap contract. But the danger in holding on to prospects is that their trade value decreases rapidly if they struggle in the NHL.
All this to say that right now, there's a decent chance that Thomas Chabot, Colin White and Logan Brown's value may be as high as it's ever going to be. If the Sens want to meaningfully improve (and to cement their play-off status, I think they need to meaningfully improve) it will be necessary to part with one of those three prospects. Truthfully, they could use help virtually everywhere except for Centre and Left Wing (particularly if Clarke MacArthur is able to return at some approximation of his old self). In their recent history, the Sens have been unwilling to pay the price of parting with their top prospects. I'm not sure I see that changing this time around.
What say you? Tell us in the comments!