One of the many ways for fans to make new discoveries about their favourite team is by going through trades and drawing connections between them. You’d find out tons of fascinating stuff, such as how Nick Paul is the lone piece remaining in the 2001 Alexi Yashin trade with the New York Islanders.
I recently discovered one of these “trade trees” thanks to a minor acquisition the Senators made this past season, of depth forward Mike Amadio from the Los Angeles Kings. Insignificant transactions like these can sometimes link to each other to create a chain of events spanning several years, in this case, fifteen.
Our story begins in Vancouver, B.C. in the year 2006, A.D. The Ottawa Senators don’t know it yet, but they’ll reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history several months from now. For the time being, they select a nice group of players; future top-six forward Nick Foligno with the 28th overall pick, shootout stud Kaspars Daugavins in the fourth round, and defense-only king Erik Condra in the seventh. However, more pertinent to this piece is the third-round selection of a 6’4 right-handed defensemen from Saskatoon, Eric Gryba.
Gryba spent all four years of his collegiate career with Boston University, scoring 10 points in 38 games as a senior. From there, he played three full seasons with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators, taking part in 10 playoff games in 2011, helping the team claim the Calder Cup. As Ottawa was moving into what would end up being an underwhelming rebuild, Gryba was expected to play a supporting role to a promising core featuring, well, let’s not go there.
Gryba had a pretty successful stint with Ottawa, enough to make his selection at the draft worth it. He played in 165 games, picking up four goals and 25 assists. While he wasn’t known for his offense, he was relied on to play tough minutes alongside Marc Methot during the lockout-shortened 2013 season due to the infamous Matt Cooke incident. Gryba put away his first NHL goal on March 23rd, 2013.
He also anchored the third pair with Mark Borowiecki during the Hamburglar run of 2015, in which he scored 12 assists in 75 games.
After the end of the legendary run, the Senators wanted to create space on their blueline for Chris Wideman Jared Cowen, and so they traded Gryba to the Edmonton Oilers at the 2015 NHL draft, in exchange for AHL grinder Travis Ewanyk and their 4th round pick that year.
With that pick comes the second chapter of our story, as the Senators selected Christian Wolanin, a left-handed defenceman who’d committed to the University of North Dakota prior to the draft.
After a few seasons in college, the Quebec City native became a prospect worth keeping an eye on, scoring 35 points in 40 games with UND in his junior season in 2017-18. He signed his entry-level deal with Ottawa that year, and took part in 10 games, earning three points including his first NHL goal.
He went on to split the 2018-19 season between Ottawa and Belleville and headed into 2019-20 expecting a full-time NHL role. Unfortunately, he suffered a heartbreaking injury during training camp, a torn labrum that kept him out of the lineup all year, save for the team’s last three games.
In the 2021 season, Wolanin competed with Mike Reilly, Erik Brannstrom, and Braydon Coburn for ice-time, and I would sum up his performance as neither good nor bad, and it wasn’t enough to earn a full-time role from head coach D.J. Smith. Wolanin’s NHL career isn’t over just yet, but he’s now fighting for one-way money on a different club.
Hoping to squeeze out what little value remained, general manager Pierre Dorion traded Wolanin to the Los Angeles Kings on March 29th, in exchange for Mike Amadio, a forward from Sault. Ste Marie, and a former third-round pick of the Kings from the 2014 draft. He played in five games with Ottawa, scoring one assist.
As a pending RFA, Ottawa could choose to bring him back as forward depth, but with Clark Bishop potentially filling that role next year, I doubt he’ll receive a qualifying offer.
So, you might ask, how exactly does this trade tree span fifteen years, if the first trade was made in 2015? You also are likely wondering about the identity of this “Assistant GM” I alluded to in the headline. Well, I might have neglected to disclose one minor detail of this story. And that is, the pick Ottawa used to draft Eric Gryba, wasn’t originally theirs! It instead belonged to the Boston Bruins.
Back in 2006, Boston was in the market for a new General Manager. Their primary target? Peter Chiarelli. Yes, before his legendary exploits with the Oilers (which I’ve linked here, here, here, here, and here for your enjoyment), Chiarelli was a highly sought-after executive. And the Bruins made the right choice, as they won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with him at the helm. The caveat is that although the Bruins wanted to hire him in 2006, he was under contract with the Senators as an assistant GM. They had to pay compensation to Ottawa in exchange for the rights to negotiate with him. The price? The Bruins’ third-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
The same pick used to select Gryba in the draft that year, who was traded for the pick used to select Wolanin nine years later, who in turn was traded for Amadio six years after that.
I think that’s pretty neat.