One of these years the Ottawa Senators will approach a trade deadline with the goal of adding a key player for a potential playoff run.
Once again, this is not that time. Not yet. Sitting among the bottom five teams in the league ahead of Monday’s deadline, the Senators are in their familiar role as a seller.
With losses and injuries piling up (Thomas Chabot is the latest long-term injury), the Senators and their fan base could use a diversion. A few smart deals or a judicious signing could help improve the mood in the community as fans look onward to the trade deadline and beyond that to another lottery pick in July.
Projected deadline cap space: $54.9 million
Salary committed to 2022-23: $50 million
2022: Ten – 1st, 2nd, 2nd (TB), 3rd, 3rd (BOS), 3rd (VAN), 5th, 6th, 7th, 7th (NYI)
2023: Eight – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 7th (NAS)
At his pre-deadline media availability, Senators GM Pierre Dorion said that it is “no secret” his team is looking to bring in a top-six forward and top-four defenceman. He quickly added that these additions “don’t grow on trees” and are more likely to be addressed with a draft time deal or free agency signing, as opposed to the trade deadline.
Fair enough. But with Ottawa, it is worth adding that its revenues don’t grow on trees, either. So the question has to be asked: will the Senators have the resources to spend on a legitimate forward and defenceman? A more likely fit would be for Dorion to package picks and a prospect for a player who can step into an important role right away, but also fall within the Senators' budget. That’s where things get tricky.
Also, a week after Dorion spoke, it was revealed that goaltender Matt Murray may not return to action this season, after being largely unavailable for most of his first two years of a four-year contract. Goaltending has become a major issue to address before next season.
G Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers
The Senators may have goalie prospects (see files under Sogaard, Merilainen etc), but they are thin when it comes to experienced NHL goalies. Goaltending issues have crushed the Senators in the past two seasons and jobs will be lost if this continues.
Matt Murray, the $6.25-million man, cannot be counted on to stay healthy and behind him, only Anton Forsberg has legitimate NHL experience, and he could opt for free agency in the summer. Will Murray get bought out?
Georgiev, 26, is a pending RFA with an AAV of $2.4 million and is looking for more steady work now that Igor Shesterkin has seized the net in New York. Georgiev has more experience than Forsberg and is three years younger, with a career mark of 51-47-11, 2.98 goals against average and .908 save percentage.
Dorion went out of his way to express his willingness to move draft picks if needed. He has ten picks already for 2022, but could be looking to add for 2023, a solid draft class, for which he has just eight picks at the moment. With a lot of prospects in the system, the Sens won’t be adding castoff prospects teams are looking to dump, but will target players identified as being able to help Ottawa now.
ASSETS TO TRADE
They have seven pending UFAs, as well as a defenceman under contract in AHL Belleville (Michael Del Zotto) as potential trade chips. Chris Tierney, Zach Sanford, Nick Paul, Josh Brown, Tyler Ennis and Anton Forsberg are the pending UFAs on Ottawa’s roster. Dillon Heatherington is another veteran AHL player available. He played nine games with the Senators this season.
F Nick Paul, 27, C/LW
A consistent 20-point producer, Paul has a career-high 11 goals this season. Goals are not really the bread and butter of this versatile, two-way centre/wing who is big and works hard. An excellent penalty killer, Paul is the ultimate “team guy.” The Senators have said they would like to keep Paul, but unless there is a breakthrough in negotiations by the weekend, Paul is likely gone. As a potential top-ten trade board target, Paul could generate a decent return (a prospect and a pick?), depending on the market temperature by Monday.
It is looking like a seller’s market.
F Zack Sanford, 27, LW
Sanford has Stanley Cup championship experience with the St. Louis Blues and could bring a physical edge in a contending team’s bottom six.
F Tyler Ennis, 32, RW
The Senators have already traded Tyler Ennis once at the deadline, in 2020 to Edmonton for a fifth round pick. He could be on the move again.
Teams know they can count on Ennis for experience and hustle. He has chipped in 21 points with the Sens this season and scored his seventh of the campaign Wednesday vs Columbus.
D Josh Brown, 28
Teams never feel they have enough blue-line depth, and so a playoff team may feel the need to acquire Brown, a right-shot defenceman who brings size.
Another who would certainly be on the market is defenceman Nikita Zaitsev (fans would not mourn his departure), but his $4.5-million price tag for two more seasons is a stumbling block.
All in all, it could be a busy weekend and Monday for the Senators.