Matt Duchene Trade Shows Ottawa Senators Willing to Get Creative

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When the Chicago Blackhawks traded away Brandon Saad, Andrew Ladd, and Artemi Panarin, they were looked at as the unfortunate casualties of a team pressed against the cap. They were unfortunate, if necessary, consequences for a team that won the Stanley Cup twice, and secured it’s most valuable assets to long-term contracts. With the Matt Duchene trade Pierre Dorion is aiming to do exactly this for the Ottawa Senators.

Duchene Trade Shows Senators Willing to Get Creative

In replacing Kyle Turris with Duchene the Senators have delayed extending their number one centre until 2019-20 (both Brassard and Duchene will be unrestricted free agents at that point), leaving them with just a pair of big names RFA’s to re-sign at the end of the season: star winger Mark Stone, and former first round pick Cody Ceci.

The team will also have to find solutions for their other free agents, specifically Johnny Oduya, Chris Wideman, and Fredrik Claesson. According to CapFriendly the team currently has just under $2 million in projected cap space, will have roughly $9 million this summer to re-sign them. A quick look at comparable players to Stone and it’s not pretty.

Player AAV 5v5 P/60 5v5 Rel.CF% GS/60
Mark Stone 3.5M 2.11 5.53 2.44
Ryan Johansen 8.0M 1.72 3.12 1.88
Filip Forsberg 6.0M 2.08 5.35 3.07
TJ Oshie 5.75M 1.61 0.7 2.4
Mats Zuccarello 4.5M 1.5 2.98 2.09
Max Pacioretty 4.5M 2.08 3.35 2.92

All numbers adjusted aggregate 2014-15 to 2017-18. Stats via Corsica.Hockey

In a best case scenario the Senators overlook Stone’s ability to drive play and focus solely on his point scoring abilities, they acquiesce his defensive contributions merit reward and Stone signs a deal identical to Filip Forsberg. Unfortunately, this isn’t a likely outcome. Stone, like Pacioretty, is going to get paid on his next deal, and deservedly so. The bad news for the Senators is that it will likely leave them with about two million dollars for Ceci, and the aforementioned trio; which is an $800,000 pay cut for Ceci alone.

Add a $6 million dollar extension for Turris into the mix and the Senators are down four of their top seven defensemen, without the ability to bring in external players. The Duchene signing ensures the Senators can retain a number one centre, extend their most valuable forward and have cash available to re-sign some of those defencemen. How do they do this? By turning Clarke MacArthur into the next Stephane Robidas.

Building off the Robidas Blueprint

If the Senators use the roughly $2 million dollars that remain after the Stone extension to sign Claesson, and one of Wideman or Ben Harpur, they can then place MacArthur on long-term injury reserve. That would give the club most of MacArthur’s $4.65 million AAV to play with, more than enough to re-sign Ceci, should they choose to do so.

Outside of placing MacArthur on LTIR, Dorion’s only option is to make a trade to create space for Ceci, or to let the defender walk. Though there are a number of fans who would be more than happy to see the organization move on from the blueliner, let’s assume – to their chagrin – that isn’t going to happen. Who are the likely candidates to be traded?

Zack Smith

Signed through the 2020-21 season at $3.25 million, Smith is the most attractive candidate for opposing general managers. He can play centre as well as on the wing, and the past two seasons has demonstrated his ability to put the puck in the net, scoring 25 in 2015-16 and 16 last season. At 29-years-old Smith is good for 30-plus points a season and comes relatively cheap.

Alexandre Burrows

Burrows comes at a lower price, but offers less production. At 36 years old, Burrows is no longer the player he once was. In his final full season with Vancouver he notched just 22 points in 79 games, but improved to 31 in 75 split between the Canucks and Sens last season. His $2.5 million contract runs through next season. He could easily be a player the Sens ship at the deadline to a contending team, or a team looking to add a veteran presence in the off-season.

Dion Phaneuf/Bobby Ryan

It isn’t going to happen people. As valuable as it would be to shed one of these two albatross contracts, it’s unlikely either will be dealt. The duo occupies nearly one fifth of the teams cap, and there are a number of questions surrounding both players. At 32-years-old age has already caught up to Phaneuf, and his speed is a liability. On the other hand, Bobby Ryan’s health is a serious concern. Dealing one or both of these players should be something Dorion is constantly looking to do, but finding a buyer, and a deal worth making, won’t be easy.

The obvious drawback to making a trade is the possibility of weakening the Sens roster, and sending the wrong message to the players. Pierre Dorion made a point of mentioning the Duchene trade was a message to Karlsson and the rest of the locker room: “This team plans to contend for a Stanley Cup while we have you with us.”

Adding reason to avoid a trade is that there isn’t much to be gained by delaying a MacArthur move to LTIR. If the Sens plan to save that money for the 2018-19 off-season they’ll still be in a position where they will have to make a trade to accommodate extensions for Duchene, Brassard, Karlsson, and Marcus Hogberg. They’ll also have to consider walking from players like Tom Pyatt, Ryan Dzingel, and Nate Thompson.

In this perspective the trade seems shrewd. Yes the Sens paid a hefty price, but in return they upgraded their 1C, kept their best forward, and can re-sign a defenceman or two they would otherwise be unable to afford and have secured a place for Hogberg in the organization.

Of course come 2018-19 Dorion will have to do it all again. But if this trade shows anything it’s that the Seantors general manager is more than willing to get creative to solve his problems.

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