Ottawa Senators Expansion Draft Preview

Former NHL GM Brian Lawton joined the Jeff Blair show to discuss what Las Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee has to look for going into the team’s expansion draft.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau was one of the Ottawa Senators’ unlikely heroes during the club’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference final. Pageau scored eight springtime goals in 19 games for the Sens, but now he’s just one of the names the team must agonize over while deciding who to make exempt from the upcoming expansion draft. The Sens asked defenceman Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause in the hopes they could deploy a seven-forwards, three-defencemen approach to keeping the lineup intact. Reports indicated that Phaneuf denied that request so we’ll operate under the assumption that the Senators are obliged to protect him. And when you look at the roster through the Phaneuf-must-stay lens, the decisions get difficult fast.

Here is who we think the Senators will protect, and which player we think the Golden Knights will pick.

FORWARDS
Mike Hoffman
Derick Brassard
Mark Stone
Kyle Turris
Zack Smith
Clarke MacArthur
Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Protecting seven forwards might seem a bit excessive given one of them is Clarke MacArthur, a player who saw a combined eight regular season games in the past two seasons. Here’s the thing: Ottawa struggled to score this past year and relies on offence by committee. There’s no chance Vegas takes Bobby Ryan and his $7.25 million annual cap hit that runs through 2021-22. Ryan showed real signs of life in the playoffs and Ottawa has to hope that carries over.

Speaking of positive momentum, if MacArthur’s concussion problems are truly behind him, he could be a solid second- or third-line option who adds 20 goals to a club that’s trying to win now. Maybe the Golden Knights take a long look at Alex Burrows, banking on him being an asset they can flip at next year’s trade deadline, just as Burrows was on the move from Vancouver to Ottawa last February. As for Pageau, protecting him is more than a knee-jerk reaction to his fantastic playoff showing; he’s a 24-year-old centre who scored 19 goals in 2015-16 and provides very reliable minutes at a critical position.

DEFENCE
Dion Phaneuf (NMC)
Erik Karlsson
Cody Ceci

The reason Ottawa hoped Phaneuf would bow to its “please waive” request is so the club could protect Methot, Erik Karlsson’s long-time playing partner. Under that scenario, the Sens would have sheltered their top paring along with Cody Ceci, who’s 23, 6-foot-2 and shoots right. No matter how well Methot blends with Karlsson, there’s no way to justify keeping him over the young-and-improving Ceci.

It’s also fair to ponder whether Methot is valued more in Ottawa than he would be in other posts. We are, after all, talking about a defence-only guy who turns 32 four days after the expansion draft and who still has two years left on a contract that counts for $4.9 million toward the cap annually. If the Sens are afraid Vegas will choose Methot with the intention of moving him, maybe they can cut out the middleman and jump in on that trade market themselves. Losing him would be less than ideal for Ottawa, but the organization does have Thomas Chabot in its fold and he could be ready to play 20 NHL minutes per night as soon as next fall. He might not be the perfect replacement for Methot right now, but he will be the superior defenceman of the two in fairly short order.

GOALIE
Craig Anderson

No confusion here. Sens GM Pierre Dorion began his year-end press conference by stating Anderson would be the goalie Ottawa protected. Anything else would have been a major surprise, even considering the strong work of backup Mike Condon last year.

VEGAS PICK PROTECTION
Ryan Dzingel…or Mike Condon

We’re wimping out and naming two guys because there’s a solid case to be made for selecting either player. Dzingel, a seventh-round pick in 2011, established himself as an NHLer last year with 14 goals. At 25, the Ohio State alumnus doesn’t figure to become an offensive force, but he’s a very honest player who may still have some room to grow.

As for Condon, he played 40 games this past season and posted a .914 save percentage. If he can perform to that level again, Vegas will be fielding calls from any team with playoff aspirations whose goaltenders either underwhelm or get hurt. As a pending free agent, Vegas would need to work out a new contract with Condon before taking him.

Ottawa has no good option for replacing Condon within the organization, so it might consider buying off Vegas with a late-round pick. Highly touted prospect Colin White may be able to step in and play the roughly 15 minutes per night Dzingel averaged last year.

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