Someone has to say it.
Someone has to stand up, and say what none of us want to say or hear. Someone has to take the fall, and step willingly into the crossfire of the millions of angry Sens fans on Twitter dot com. Someone has to be the bad guy.
I know what you’re thinking.
Et tu, Brandon?
If you’re at all familiar with my work, or Silver Seven as a whole, you know that I’ve been no friend of Senators management. I’ve made it abundantly clear that their decisions to trade the likes of Erik Karlsson, and Mark Stone, have been some of the most inexplicably terrible choices I’ve seen in my time watching the NHL. That I’m tired of seeing beloved players, players that I grew up with, shipped out of town despite their wishes.
Things have changed. Like it or not, we are now living in a world where the Ottawa Senators have traded their franchise players, and are looking to slowly claw their way back into contention with a roster of young guns over the next few seasons. In order to do that, they need to maximize draft capital, especially going into what may be the best draft class in almost 20 years.
In order to do that, they need to give up assets, which brings me to Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
The 27 year-old Pageau needs no introduction. He’s a playoff hero, and a figure that has endeared himself to Ottawa fans time and time again. Somewhat surprisingly, Pageau is currently on pace for a career season, with 16 points through the season’s first 21 games.
In an injury-shortened 39 game season last year, Pageau tallied 12 points in total.
So why, then, is the best course of action to trade Pageau? There are a multitude of reasons for this, the most striking being the apparent market that there is for him. It has been reported that the return for Pageau in a potential trade could be massive for a rebuilding Ottawa team.
OT GWG. One GM said this week he thinks #sens might be able to get a first-round pick and prospect for Pageau at the deadline. It’s early. But it’s going to be fascinating for OTT, trying to figure out whether to keep the Ottawa native - especially if the return is like that. https://t.co/cFrSJKYcN1— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) November 8, 2019
Simply put, this is not a return that the Senators can afford to pass up. The draft lottery is by no means a guarantee, especially if they keep winning games, so the best chance to make the most of a stacked draft class is to have as many picks as possible.
As it stands, Ottawa currently owns five picks through the first two rounds of the draft. Their current selection of picks looks like this:
If the Senators could add a third selection in the first round of this year’s draft, they would put themselves in great position to perhaps acquire three outstanding players. The Boston Bruins had three (albeit consecutive) picks in the 2015 draft’s first round, and hit on two, walking away with Jake Debrusk and Zachary Senyshyn. Players they left on the board? Matthew Barzal, Thomas Chabot, Colin White, Travis Konecny, Kyle Connor, Evgeny Svechnikov, Brock Boeser, Sebastian Aho, nobody important, really.
With the skill the Senators have shown at the draft table, three picks in the first round would be a home run. Which brings us back to Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Like it or not, Pageau is the only player that could garner this haul, aside from untouchable youngsters like Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, and Colin White. His roaring start to the season, coupled with his proven track record as a playoff performer will ensure that many teams will be looking to add him. Factor in the value that is placed on centres, as well as the fact that teams looking to make a deep playoff run will want proven performers, and Pageau seems to be the perfect candidate for a deadline deal.
There is also the matter of Pageau himself. While his pace to start the year is certainly impressive, it’s just not reasonable to think that this is a breakout campaign for Pageau. At 27 years old, it seems fair to assume that he is what he is, at this point.
Mark Stone is also 27, and has hit the 60-point marker four times in his career to this point. I hate to rain on everyone’s parade, here, but J.G. Pageau is not likely to suddenly turn into a consistent 50-60 point guy. In fact, if you look at his stats since 2015-2016, Pageau’s point totals have actually been showing signs of regression.
If he had played the four missed games two years ago, that would have amounted to roughly 30 points.
You might think that last year being a write-off due to an Achilles injury works against this point, but it actually serves to show that the regression may very well be swiftly approaching. If you’re not up to date on injuries in athletes, the Achilles is a devastating one. While studies have shown that athletes can return to form about a year after their surgery, there are 30% that are unable to return to play at all. There also an array of long-term complications, such as muscular atrophy, reduced mobility, and the risk of re-rupture.
Am I writing Pageau’s future off? Absolutely not. I think he’s an underrated two-way forward in the NHL, and his performances under pressure and playoff experience make him a valuable asset. But the risk is there, and it’s a big one. The Senators rewarded Zack Smith with a generous extension after a career season, and even waivers couldn’t rid them of that contract when it turned into an albatross.
Let someone else take the long-term risk on Pageau. With him being 27, and the Senators not likely to be competitive for another couple seasons at least, it seems silly to gamble on a contract that will likely end up being an overpayment. With centres like Josh Norris, Shane Pinto, and perhaps even Drake Batherson set to make bids to join the main roster, keeping Pageau doesn’t seem conducive to the team’s long-term goals.
The larger point that I’m trying to get at here, is that Pageau will never be as valuable as he is right now. If I had told you a year ago that teams would have been offering a first and a prospect for him, you would have kicked me in the shin, and you know it. Ottawa needs to take full advantage of this, while they can. Even waiting until the deadline may be too long.
The main reason I’ve seen people want to keep Pageau is leadership, to make him captain. There’s merit to that notion, but I truly don’t believe the Senators are short on leadership. Thomas Chabot and Colin White have committed to the team long-term. Brady Tkachuk goes out and leads by example every night. Bring in a few solid veteran acquisitions as they get more competitive, and the Senators will have more leadership than that conference your boss told you you had to go to next week.
I love watching J.G. Pageau. It’s great to finally see him get some of the recognition he deserves, but the Senators have committed to this. They have traded Erik Karlsson, Ryan Dzingel, Matt Duchene, and Mark Stone, all in the name of returning the team to contender status.
If those guys are tradeable, and Pageau isn’t, then I’m not convinced that there’s much of a plan at all.
You’re the GM of the Ottawa Senators. You’re offered a 1st and a good prospect for J.G. Pageau. What do you say?