Complex Brassard trade shows Senators are a motivated seller

John Shannon recaps a complicated three-team trade that sent Derick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

No one can accuse the Ottawa Senators of being unable to complete complex transactions.

If we learned anything during Friday’s drawn-out three-way deal with Pittsburgh and Vegas, it’s that the salary cap hurdles aren’t too much for Senators general manager Pierre Dorion to handle at a time when he’s a motivated seller.

It took some perseverance. The NHL rejected at least one attempt to register the multi-faceted trade before the parties finally sorted out a transaction that grew to include four separate deals.

The end result saw Ottawa ship Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh for futures: A 2018 first-round pick and goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson. The Senators also received defenceman Ian Cole, who immediately became a candidate to be flipped elsewhere before Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

Pittsburgh’s tenuous cap situation made the transaction considerably more complicated.

It required the Golden Knights to be brought into the picture as an intermediary, with Vegas first acquiring Brassard and then retaining 40 per cent of his remaining cap hit while shipping him to the Penguins.

That will cost Vegas in the neighbourhood of $1.9-million in actual salary through the end of next season, and they were rewarded with a 2018 fourth-round pick and gritty winger Ryan Reaves for the trouble.

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It is arguably the most complicated deal we’ve seen in the NHL’s salary cap era – with Pittsburgh and Ottawa also swapping 2019 third-round picks, and AHLers Vincent Dunn and Tobias Lindberg each ending up with the Penguins to help balance everything out.

"This was the most complex trade I’ve made," veteran Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford told reporters. "Three-way deals are hard to make. We thought we had the deal earlier in the day. It wasn’t made. We had to make a couple of changes. It took quite a bit longer than most."

The Penguins are now well-positioned to make a run at a third straight Stanley Cup, with Brassard slotting in as the third centre behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That’s an enviable amount of depth down the middle.

As for the Senators, this was just the beginning of what’s expected to be a busy weekend – one where Dorion is hoping to jumpstart a rebuild by selling off more assets.

He has a lot of cards in play with forwards Zack Smith and Mike Hoffman also on the market, not to mention Cole, veteran defenceman Johnny Oduya and superstar Erik Karlsson.

Some have suggested that a deal involving Karlsson is too difficult to make in-season given the cap complexities and limited number of bidders. There’s also the shadow of Bobby Ryan’s albatross contract – with more than $30-million still owing – which Ottawa would prefer to attach to any trade involving Karlsson.

No question that’s a monumental transaction to try and bring together inside the next 60-plus hours. But after seeing the creativity and pluck shown in getting the Brassard deal across the finish line, it can’t be ruled out entirely.

There’s more fireworks to come in the nation’s capital.

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