The NHL All Star Break is here. Brady Tkachuk is in Florida representing the Senators while the rest of the team appear to be on various sunny beaches taking some much needed time to rest and recharge.
When the team gets back to work, there will only be a few short weeks until the March 3rd NHL Deadline. In January, Pierre Dorion was quoted saying they had six weeks to figure out what they were going to do at the deadline - buy, sell or stick with their current roster. In that time, the Sens have lost a few games and then won four straight before the All Star Break. They currently sit six points back of the final Wild Card spot; a gap which feels simultaneously impossible and achievable.
One little caveat that we have to remember is we don’t know exactly how much freedom Dorion has right now, as the club is up for sale, to make moves. I imagine they’re able to do whatever they need to make this club better, I don’t know why a potential sale would hinder that. But there’s always the chance that it’s going to be more difficult for the team to make a big splash, in particular, because of the dollars and cents that may come along with it.
That being said, we’re going to pretend that the above isn’t an issue for the purposes of this exercise. Let’s assume Dorion has free reign to do whatever he wants to do, as if there’s no pending changes in ownership in Ottawa.
So, for this week’s question, what do you think the Sens should be doing leading up to and on the big day?
One option Dorion has is to go big. The Ottawa Senators absolutely have the assets to go big game hunting and if they truly believe they can make a push for the playoffs, I think they seriously consider it.
At the end of the day, they’re not going to move Shane Pinto or Ridly Greig. They do, however, have a 2023 first round pick, Tyler Boucher, Roby Järventie, Zack Ostapchuk, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson as pieces they could play with to bring in somebody big.
Now, I wouldn’t suggest moving either of the defenseman unless the return is an even better right shot defender, as that’s a clear hole in the organizational depth chart. But they have the capability to do it.
I imagine if they go big, it’ll be for a rearguard. Out in the ether, names like Jakob Chychrun, Connor Murphy, John Klingberg and Matt Dumba all fit the bill, to varying degrees, as players that would cost a bit (or in the case of Chychrun, a lot) and I’d consider as big additions today.
Another option for the Sens heading into the deadline is to be a buyer, but in the realm of adding some accessories to the wardrobe rather than buying a whole new outfit. There are some opportunities out there to add depth both up front and on the back end and if the Sens are looking to continue being competitive in the wild card picture without going all-in on a player like Chychrun, they may look to this route.
In this list, you’ve got names like Jake McCabe or Shane Gostisbehere on the back end or, perhaps, they are the team that finally frees Jesse Puljujärvi from his cell in Edmonton. In the Go Small department, the Sens have three second round picks in the next two drafts as well as three fourths to play with. There’s also a long list of middling prospects who are likely destined for future NHL depth assignments that could be thrown in for these depth acquisitions.
Trim & Cruise
The third strategy heading into the deadline is what I’m calling the “trim and cruise”. There are a few players on the Sens roster who, frankly, probably don’t have a future with the team beyond June 30th when their contracts expire. There are also a few prospects in Belleville who the Sens would be wise to get into some NHL games down the stretch so they have a good idea of what they have in the pipeline heading into the offseason.
With this strategy, the Sens sell off a couple depth players and replace them with AHLers. We’d be looking at one or two of Cam Talbot, Austin Watson, Tyler Motte, Dylan Gambrell, Derick Brassard and Nick Holden heading out the door to be replaced by some combination of Thomson, Bernard-Docker, Mads Søgaard, Egor Sokolov, Angus Crookshank, Jake Lucchini and Roby Järventie.
I differentiate this from the trim and cruise approach because it involves moving either a larger number of pieces or more important pieces.
On the larger number, it would see most or all of the above names head out the door in favour of futures, likely a bunch of middling draft picks, of which Dorion could use at the draft to move up or in other deals to bring in players he wants in the summer.
On the more important players, it would see Cam Talbot certainly head out the door, while maybe seeing someone more prominent like Mathieu Joseph moved out, again for futures. In my mind, selling means you’re looking to the future not making a big splash with a big name in order to bring in another big name. For example, if the Sens were to move out Drake Batherson in a deal to bring in a prominent top four defender, that’s a Go Big move, not a selling move, even though Batherson is an important offensive weapon with a team friendly contract.
What do you think?
So, what is going to happen leading up to March 3rd? Are the Sens going to go big or small? Are they going to trim or sell?
What should the Sens do heading into the NHL Trade Deadline?
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