Since trading Mike Hoffman earlier this week and reportedly re-entering talks on captain Erik Karlsson, speculation has swirled up again around the Ottawa Senators and the fourth-overall pick. The Senators of course owe either this year or next year’s first-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for their acquisition of Matt Duchene earlier this year, and without Hoffman and Karlsson in the lineup many believe they’d be better to try for the first-overall selection a year from now. That pick could potentially be Jack Hughes, who is being regarded as a potential franchise-changing player at center, something the team may not be able to get at #4 this season.
That’s not to say they can’t get an excellent player where they sit this year, with more reports coming out that Filip Zadina may drop past the Montreal Canadiens and fall into Ottawa’s lap. Zadina is an excellent offensive prospect, capable of scoring from nearly anywhere on the ice. The team is also not guaranteed to finish anywhere near the bottom of the league next season, and even if they do could drop out of the top-3 with three bad results in the draft lottery. With that knowledge, the team is still planning on using the pick this season according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, meaning Colorado will acquire their 2019 first-round pick. Things can change right up until the moment they make the selection, meaning the Avalanche need to be ready, but all signs are pointing to GM Pierre Dorion selecting a player this Friday.
The Senators are in rough shape at the moment, dealing with off-ice incidents revolving around players and management, all while trying to prepare for an upcoming contract negotiation with Karlsson. The superstar defenseman has just one year left on his current contract, and is eligible for an extension on July 1st. While Dorion has been clear with the fact that he will make Karlsson’s camp an offer, there is growing speculation around whether the captain will even want to stay with the team long-term. If they can’t come to an agreement quickly, the Senators will have to see what the market is for him in trade, or risk losing him for nothing at the end of what could be another season outside of the playoff picture.
Zadina, Brady Tkachuk or whoever the team selects at fourth-overall will surely be an excellent player in the league and that isn’t something to throw away so easily. Even though Hughes is an attractive idea, the fact is that even the last place team has a relatively low chance of selecting first-overall. There’s also still a core of players like Mark Stone, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Thomas Chabot that will do everything they can to keep Ottawa out of the basement of the league, which could result in a much later draft pick in 2019. It’s not an easy situation for the Senators, but Dorion clearly believed that Duchene would help the team reach the playoffs again and the whole argument would be moot. Now he’s got an extremely difficult decision on his hands, one that could play out poorly no matter what he does.