The Ottawa Senators’ state of mind was laid bare one year ago when, as a playoff bubble team, they acquired Dion Phaneuf from the Toronto Maple Leafs. You don’t take on a contract of that magnitude—still four more years to go after this one at an annual cap hit of $7 million—unless you’re living in the now.
Twelve months later, it’s safe to say Ottawa is still more likely to acquire established pieces than sell them.
The Sens, who missed the post-season last spring, have surprised some by basically holding down a playoff spot all year. And with the Atlantic-leading Montreal Canadiens stumbling, there’s an opening for Ottawa to take a run at the division penthouse.
While it seems like a stretch to consider the Senators a legit Eastern Conference contender—especially given their unspectacular underlying numbers—it’s worth noting that Craig Anderson, who just returned from a long absence spent beside his wife while she battled cancer, has a career playoff save percentage of .933 in 27 games. Should the Sens lock up, say, second place in the there-for-the-taking Atlantic, would it be that shocking to see them win two playoff rounds?
Any team dangling an in-his-prime, needle-moving player in front of Ottawa is likely to at least ask whether prized blue line prospect Thomas Chabot—who was an absolute monster for Canada last month at the World Junior Championship—could be had in the return.
One young player who could be available is regular healthy scratch Curtis Lazar. The 22-year-old centre/winger, drafted 17th overall in 2013, may be destined to find his NHL footing with a different club, though Ottawa—which does not hold a second-round pick this June or next—would certainly ask for something significant back.
If the Senators make a move—regardless of whether or not it involves Lazar—chances are it will be for help up front. Losing Clarke MacArthur for the season with a concussion was a blow to the secondary scoring and the Sens, who are in the league’s bottom third in terms of goals-per-game, don’t have a single forward who’s producing at a 65-point clip. That’s why you’ve heard the name of Colorado Avalanche stud Matt Duchene linked to Canada’s capital.
Forwards: Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Thomas Vanek, Patrick Sharp,
Defence: Johnny Oduya
Pending Free Agents, age, salaries:
Tommy Wingels, 28, $1,732,500
Chris Neil, 37, $1,500,000
Chris Kelly, 36, $900,000
Tom Pyatt, 30, $8,00,000
Mike Condon, 26, $575,000
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, 24, $900,000
Curtis Lazar, 22, $894,167
Ryan Dzingel, 24, $750,000
Fredrik Claesson, 24, $700,000
Potential assets to move:
From the roster
Curtis Lazar: As noted, things just don’t seem to be working out between the player and franchise. Lazar is at a point where he needs to play consistently.
Cody Ceci: If it helped land a big fish, you could potentially move Ceci and bank on Chabot filling his top-four spot soon. But you’re not trading a big, young, right-shot blue-liner unless it’s for a titillating return, one that likely has to include a decent defenceman for the here and now.
Bobby Ryan: We know it sounds nuts, but standby for an explanation.
From the farm
Logan Brown, C: You’re only moving the 11th overall pick from last year for a piece that pays immediate dividends and because you already have world junior stand out Colin White in the system.
Filip Chlapik, C: The 19-year-old Czech is a top-five scorer in the QMJHL with the Charlottetown Islanders. Again, not a player Ottawa should in any way be anxious to shed unless it really stimulates talks in a serious trade.
2017: 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th
2018: 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th (own), 7th (Rangers)
One bold move team could make:
Well, the real risk would come on the other end of this deal, but it’s worth floating: If you’re GM Pierre Dorion, why not pick up the phone and see if the New Jersey Devils are willing to take a chance on Ryan, a Garden State native?
Things have never jived for Ryan in Ottawa and the situation got worse under new coach Guy Boucher. Would Jersey take a chance on a native son who’s a month shy of his 30th birthday, used to post 30-goal seasons regularly in Anaheim and desperately needs a change of scenery?
Maybe there’s a scenario where the Devils send some money back to Ottawa in the form of Mike Cammalleri—who has two seasons left after this one at an annual hit of $5 million—in exchange for Ryan and a hefty deal that pays him $7.25 million against the cap through 2021-22. It would be a home run swing for the re-tooling Devils and a chance to get out from under Ryan’s contract for the Sens.
Sounds crazy? Well, how many people had Phaneuf headed from one Ontario team to the other last year?
The Senators shouldn’t…
Ship out Chabot or White, perhaps at all and certainly not now. Both were great at the WJC, and in White’s case it was his second straight encouraging showing there. Chabot and White could be significant contributors to the big club by this time next year and that might do more to fill out the Sens roster than any trade can.