Senators Trade Tiers: Will Ottawa hold on to young stars or sell high?

Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith joins Hockey Central @ Noon to discuss keeping his young team motivated despite playoffs being out of reach, he credits a mix of veteran leadership and enthusiasm from younger players.

With the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline drawing near, Sportsnet is breaking down what each Canadian club has to work with as they head toward Feb. 24. We’ve sorted each roster into Trade Tiers to hash out who’s safe, who’s available, and who’s likely on the move.

The Ottawa Senators‘ approach to the trade deadline sits in direct opposition to the rest of the league’s Canadian clubs.

While progress seems to be coming slowly in the form of a few young stars, the Senators find themselves as sellers at the deadline once again, looking forward to the lottery as opposed to the post-season.

For the most part, their deadline decisions won’t be difficult — aside from a handful of untouchables, GM Pierre Dorion should be looking to flip assets for as many futures as he can, with success in 2019-20 pretty much irrelevant at this point. That said, there are a couple marquee names teetering on the line between core player and prime trade-deadline chips.

That said, let’s take a look at how the Senators roster shakes out in terms of who could potentially move:

Not Going Anywhere

Brady Tkachuk
Much like his brother Matthew in Calgary, Brady’s become the emotional compass for his team. He drags them into games and pulls them through, and is far from reaching his full potential. Tkachuk is already among his team’s top offensive options at just 20 years old and is undoubtedly the future of the franchise.

Thomas Chabot
He’s mitigated the loss of former captain Erik Karlsson by emerging to become one of the most dangerous young blue-liners in the game. An eight-year, $64-million extension inked after Chabot’s breakout 55-point effort last year confirms he’s the No. 1 defender in Ottawa for the long haul.

Drake Batherson
The 21-year-old is among the team’s top prospects and a key part of their long-term plans. A step forward this season — with 19 games at the NHL level and 46 points through 37 games with AHL Belleville — suggests he’s close to being a regular for the big club.

Nikita Zaitsev
He’s one of the few names on the roster signed long-term — the former Toronto Maple Leaf has four more years on the deal he originally signed with Toronto. More importantly, head coach D.J. Smith has been effusive in his praise for the 28-year-old rearguard, who figures to remain in the picture for the foreseeable future.

Bobby Ryan
The veteran’s long been in a difficult situation in Ottawa, with his hefty contract — which still has two more years at $7.25 million annually to go — leading to unrealistic expectations of what he can contribute at this point in his career. Forty-two points last season suggests he can still be a depth piece for Ottawa, and with other squads unlikely to take on his contract, he’s a good bet to remain in the Senators mix.

Colin White
White’s one of the only others on the roster signed for more than a couple seasons in Ottawa, with the 23-year-old having signed a six-year, $28.5-million deal with Ottawa back in August. He’s one of the few who have proven to be an important part of the club’s future.

(Likely) Not Going Anywhere

Artem Anisimov
He’s still signed for another season and remains a decent depth option down the middle to fill out the club’s forward corps. He could move if another club is hurting for centre depth, but seems more likely to stick around and help the team transition to handing the keys over to the young guns.

Chris Tierney
One of the players acquired in the Karlsson trade — which continues to look pretty good for the Senators — Tierney’s continued to make progress as a secondary scorer for the team, while also becoming a reliable two-way player for Smith. He needs a new deal after this season, so it remains to be seen how things play out between the two sides, but he likely remains in Ottawa.

Connor Brown
The 26-year-old winger was acquired in the deal that brought Zaitsev to Ottawa and sent Cody Ceci to Toronto. Brown has thrived with his new club, currently leading the young Sens in scoring with 36 points through 58 games. Like Tierney, he’s set to become a UFA this summer, but the club likely benefits more from keeping him in the fold.

Scott Sabourin
He’s endured a tumultuous 2019-20 campaign, making waves mostly for his run-ins with Auston Matthews and early-season success. With just a few points to his name and a string of healthy scratches, he likely doesn’t draw much interest from opposing GMs.

Nick Paul
Paul’s also dealt with some injury trouble this year, and has worked his way back into the lineup to chip in as a depth forward. The 24-year-old’s having his best season in the big leagues so far, but like Sabourin, the pending RFA likely doesn’t move the needle much for team’s hoping to trade for an offensive boost.

Mike Reilly
The former Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens defender, who was acquired by Ottawa just last month, is signed for next season at a reasonable $1.5-million. He could be flipped, but the Senators might count on him to be one of the few names they know will be on the bench next season, with much of the rest of the defence corps unsigned past 2019-20.

Marcus Hogberg
The 25-year-old bounced around between the ECHL and AHL last season, but has looked pretty solid at the NHL level in 2019-20, his .911 save percentage and 2.48 GSAA ranking as the best of Ottawa’s options at the moment. Signed for another season at $700,000 past this current one, he likely remains and enters 2020-21 as the team’s backup.

Anders Nilsson
Which leaves Nilsson as the team’s potential No. 1 going into next season. The longtime backup put up a respectable .914 save percentage last season — he’s looked less steady through his 19 games so far this time around, which isn’t necessarily surprising given the roster in front of him. Signed on next season at $2.6 million, he and Hogberg look like the likely 2020-21 duo.

Probably Safe, But It’s Possible

Craig Anderson
That, of course, takes us to veteran Craig Anderson, the club’s longtime starter. The 38-year-old is a UFA after the conclusion of this season and still mulling whether he’ll return for another go in 2020-21. Ottawa has Nilsson and Hogberg signed for next year, meaning they’re set up to move on, if need be. As well, given the emphasis in today’s game on having two capable netminders, Anderson could be a useful addition to clubs in need of an improved No. 2 heading into the post-season. He could stay and finish his career in Ottawa, or re-up and return next year, but a move certainly seems possible.

Anthony Duclair
The team’s impending decision on Duclair is perhaps the most intriguing. The 24-year-old has shattered all expectations this season, posting a career-high 21 goals and sitting just 10 points shy of his career-best point total with a third of the season left to play. On one hand, he’s undoubtedly been one of the team’s most electric talents this season, and should be considered a core piece heading into the future. On the other hand, with the first-time all-star a pending UFA in line for a considerable raise, the Senators might elect to sell high on his banner season and look to the future. The better bet seems to simply keep Duclair in the fold long-term, but the door is open just a sliver on the latter option.

Mark Borowiecki
He’s an undeniable fan favourite, has become the heart and soul of the team, and as the first Ottawa-born draft pick for the club, holds a special place in the team’s history. He’s also having his best season yet, his career-high seven goals and 18 points supplementing his physical edge. That said, with the 30-year-old a UFA after this season, the club could decide to capitalize on that value and move him with an eye on stockpiling assets that can help them in the long-term.

Cody Goloubef
The 30-year-old veteran hasn’t had a significant impact since signing with Ottawa, falling into frequent-healthy-scratch territory with the young club. That said, he is a UFA after this season and, given the league’s undying obsession with right-handed defencemen, his handedness likely moves his value up a slight tick.

Could Be On The Move

Mikkel Boedker
A reliable secondary scorer as recently as a few years ago, Boedker has fallen to healthy-scratch status in Ottawa, drawing into only 11 games in 2019-20. The fit isn’t working, and he’s a pending UFA, so if anyone calls looking to take a chance on him, there’s no downside to accepting.

Vladislav Namestnikov
The former Lightning and Rangers standout has had a decently productive season, with 24 points through 52 games so far. Having put up 22 goals and 48 points a couple years ago, splitting time between Tampa Bay and New York, the pending UFA could be a piece teams look to add as an offensive boost.

Ron Hainsey
The stay-at-home defender is also a soon-to-be UFA, and while he’s dealt with a bit of injury trouble, he remains a key minute-eater for Ottawa. Should a contender be looking to stem the tide on a blue-line injury or add a veteran presence, Dorion could get some calls on Hainsey. And with the team looking to the future, it would benefit them to stockpile as many futures as they can.

Tyler Ennis
The 30-year-old Ennis is enjoying a strong season in Ottawa, posting 13 goals and 30 points so far in 2019-20. Given his well-established skill level, resurgent production, and affordable price tag — clocking in at just $800,000 this season — the pending UFA could be an interesting rental for contenders with limited cap space.

Dylan DeMelo
The 26-year-old — who was also acquired in the Karlsson deal with San Jose — is up to playing 20 minutes or more per night this season, and is among the team’s leaders in Corsi For percentage. And, of course, he’s among the always highly-coveted group of right-handers. He could very well be a key part of Ottawa’s future, but with a $900,000 cap hit and UFA status coming this summer, he could also fetch the Senators a decent return from a contender looking for blue-line help.

Find the rest of our NHL Trade Tiers lists here: CGY | TOR | EDM | WPG | VAN | MTL

More Likely To Move

Jean-Gabriel Pageau
As has been the case many a time in recent years, the trade deadline positions a key Senators name as one of the most attractive deadline options on the market.

This time, it’s hometown boy Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who’s upped his value with a 21-goal, 34-point performance so far this season. A pending UFA carrying a cap hit of only $3.1 million, there’s no question Pageau could be a quality deadline addition for contenders or teams on the playoff bubble.

Ottawa will surely ask for a decent haul in return, and rightfully so. Of course, the other option is re-signing the 27-year-old, who’s spent his whole career with his hometown team since they drafted him in 2011. But according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, as of earlier this month, negotiations on such an extension had yet to take place.

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