While Mark Stone and Matt Duchene have garnered the majority of the attention among Ottawa’s pending unrestricted free agents, Ryan Dzingel’s situation is certainly worth monitoring as well. The 26-year-old is in the midst of a career year and already has 20 goals and 21 assists on the season in 53 games. His future with the team appears to be dependent on what happens with Stone and Duchene but as Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch notes, the asking price appears to be quite high, coming in between $5.5MM and $6MM on a long-term deal. Even though Dzingel has a chance to reach 30 goals this season, that price tag may very well be too rich for the Senators which should increase his odds of being dealt by the February 25th trade deadline.
The NHL Trade Deadline is right around the corner and no team is under more pressure to figure out what their position will be than the Ottawa Senators. The Senators are in the unenviable position of having to both work on extensions and field trade offers for three of the most prolific unrestricted free agents of the 2019 market. Forwards Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel are currently ranked No. 2, No. 3, and No. 8 respectively among all impending free agents in scoring and have all established themselves as elite players and core pieces. While Ottawa would prefer to keep the trio, the rebuilding team cannot afford to let any of them walk as a free agent because they were unable to come to terms on a new contract and too indecisive to make a move before the deadline.
During last night’s “Headlines” segment of Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman reported that it was his understanding that the Senators would have a decision made on the availability of Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel by “about 10 days out before the deadline hits” on February 25th. This hypothetically gives the Senators one more week to discuss new contracts, followed by one weeks to talk through trade scenarios. In other words, Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion should either be announcing extensions or reaching out to teams with asking prices by the end of the week.
It has long been expected that the Senators would talk through contracts with Stone and Duchene first and then work on Dzingel once they have more clarity on their long-term future. As the Sportsnet team expanded on the topic, Chris Johnston added that he feels Duchene could be the linchpin of the whole situation. Johnston believes that Duchene enjoys living and playing in Ottawa, near family and friends, and is open to staying with the Senators. In fact, Johnston even threw out the possibility that Duchene could be traded at the deadline, the return on which would help the Sens in the rebuilding process, and then re-sign with the team this summer. Colleague Nick Kypreos also notes that many expect Ottawa’s initial extension offer, rumored to be in the ballpark of eight years and $64MM, to be the largest total amount Duchene will receive in a contract offer. As the top free agent center, he may get an offer with an AAV higher than Ottawa’s $8MM per year, but it will be limited to seven years maximum, if that. Kypreos believes this could also point to Duchene staying with the Senators.
If Duchene really is committed to Ottawa long-term, and has bought in to the promises made by owner Eugene Melnyk earlier this week, it would help to convince Stone and Dzingel to stay as well. However, some are not as optimistic about the odds of the trio sticking around as the Sportsnet crew. The venerable Bob McKenzie stated on the latest episode of “The TSN Hockey Bobcast” that he does not expect Duchene or Stone to re-sign with Ottawa and believes they will both be dealt at the deadline. McKenzie notes that the promise of the open market is likely too much for the star forwards to ignore and that neither is convinced that Ottawa’s offers are the best they will get. While McKenzie doesn’t doubt that Dorion and company will continue to work on contract negotiations, he thinks that decisions are already close to being made, possibly even by tomorrow, which marks two weeks out from the deadline. If there’s a silver lining for Senators fans in McKenzie’s forecast, it’s that he admits the Senators will land substantial returns for both players and he did not speak to a Dzingel departure. That may have to do for the Senators faithful as their team navigates this tricky situation.
It’s a busy Saturday slate for the NHL, with 28 teams set to square off today. All seven Canadian clubs are set to play, as the nation celebrates Hockey Day in Canada, while in the U.S. ten teams will get an early start with 1:00pm ET puck drops. With several other games in the late afternoon, evening, and late night, it’s a true all-day affair for the league. While you enjoy all the action, keep up with what should be a busy day for transactions as well:
- Attached to the trade yesterday that saw Laurent Dauphin and Adam Helewka head to the Nashville Predators from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Emil Petterson was an AHL exchange as well. The Tuscon Roadrunners, affiliate of the ’Yotes, announced that they have acquired forward Jeremy Gregoire from the Preds’ affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, for future considerations. Gregoire, a former Montreal Canadiens prospect, was not qualified by the team after last season and signed with the Admirals as a free agent. The 23-year-old center has 12 points in 42 AHL games this year. Arizona GM John Chayka has shown in the past that he values a postseason run for his minor league team, adding pieces at each of the past few trade deadlines to help his top prospects experience the postseason even if the Coyotes don’t qualify.
- CapFriendly reports that the Anaheim Ducks have recalled goaltender Kevin Boyle from the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. This is not a positive sign for the status of starter John Gibson, who left Thursday night’s game with an injury and did not practice yesterday. It seems likely that Boyle will back up Chad Johnson today when the Ducks visit the Philadelphia Flyers. Boyle, 26, has been with the Ducks organization for the past three seasons after signing as a free agent out of UMass – Lowell, but is still looking for his first NHL appearance.
- The Ottawa Senators have called up veteran grinder Darren Archibald, the team announced. Archibald, who turns 29 years old today, was acquired alongside Anders Nilsson from the Vancouver Canucks earlier this season. The big winger has two points in ten NHL games this year, but was held scoreless in his Ottawa debut early last month and then sent back down. Yet, as Archibald continues to quietly put together a productive AHL campaign and brings a heavy, physical presence to any lineup, he has earned another shot with the Senators. The impending UFA is trying to prove to possible suitors this off-season that he is more than just a minimum salary, two-way player.
- After their victory over Winnipeg earlier today, the Ottawa Senators announced they have returned Archibald to Belleville. He did not appear in today’s win.
- The New Jersey Devils have made a flurry of moves, according to CapFriendly. They report that the team has officially placed forward Miles Wood on the injured reserve and activated rookie winger Joey Anderson. Wood left the Devils’ last game with an arm injury, but his injury status had been unclear. Obviously, this is an injury that will keep Wood sidelined for some time. Hopefully Anderson can make up for his absence; the collegiate product had two points through eleven games this season before breaking his ankle in November. New Jersey has called up additional reinforcements from AHL Binghamton as well in forward Nick Lappin and recently-acquired defenseman Ryan Murphy. Lappin has yet to play in the NHL this season after suiting up for 49 games with the Devils over the past two years, but brings some added experience to the table among the options to replace Wood. Murphy, who came over from the Minnesota Wild last week, will hope to show that he can still produce at the NHL level. The 2011 twelfth overall pick has failed to live up to his draft position so far in his pro career.
- CapFriendly also notes that the St. Louis Blues have called up defenseman Chris Butler from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. The 32-year-old veteran has over 400 NHL games to his credit, but only 12 this season and 24 total over the past four seasons with St. Louis. However, Butler – the Rampage captain – has continued to be effective in the minors. With the Blues suddenly surging toward a playoff berth, a recent report indicated that they might prefer to hold on to one or both of their impending free agent defenseman on the roster, Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson. If that is the case, the team could be using this opportunity to showcase Butler for a potential trade to a contender so that they might walk away with some kind of return at the deadline without moving an established NHLer.
- Haydn Fleury’s recent stretch of bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the minors continues. The Hurricanes announced that they have sent the defenseman back to AHL Charlotte. It’s the third time in less than three weeks that they’ve done so with recalls coming shortly after each time, something that will likely be the case again this time. Fleury isn’t getting much playing time in Carolina so this is allowing him to at least get some game action in to stay ready in case he’s called upon by the big club.
- It didn’t take long for the Pittsburgh Penguins to get their starting goaltender back as Matt Murray is expected to back up Casey DeSmith Saturday. Therefore the Penguins announced they have returned Tristan Jarry to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL. Jarry was recalled Thursday on an emergency basis while Murray was out, Jarry’s trip didn’t last long and he didn’t see any action with the club either.
- With Travis Hamonic officially back, the Calgary Flames opted to make a roster move with eight defenseman on their roster. The Flames announced they have assigned defenseman Rinat Valiev to the Stockton Heat of the AHL. The 23-year-old was recalled last Saturday as an emergency defenseman, but never saw the ice.
James van Riemsdyk has been fined $5,000 for his high-stick on Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez last night. That is the maximum allowable fine for the incident, which did not draw a penalty in the game. While van Riemsdyk will not face a suspension, fines like these are taken into account for any future discipline handed down from the Department of Player Safety.
- The Colorado Avalanche are about to have a wealth of right-handed defensemen available to them, and Mike Chambers of the Denver Post believes it might mean they end up trading Tyson Barrie. In fact, Chambers went so far as calling a Barrie trade “inevitable” in his latest mailbag, noting that Conor Timmins is close to a return from injury and Cale Makar is expected to sign after the NCAA season is completed. Barrie is having another outstanding offensive season with 40 points in 49 games and could likely bring back a substantial trade package for the Avalanche if they make him available. With another year on his current contract, a trade doesn’t necessarily need to be before this month’s deadline.
- Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet radio today to talk about the trade market, and he explained that “in the next three to five days” there should be a resolution one way or another with Mark Stone and Matt Duchene in Ottawa. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Senators will have signed or traded their two star free agents, but likely that their camps will have indicated to GM Pierre Dorion where negotiations are headed and whether he needs to move them. Friedman notes that those players are still holding up the market at large.
After an extremely busy night in the NHL the league is almost completely quiet this evening, with just one game between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers scheduled. Teams will surely use this day off to make slight tweaks to their roster, and we’ll be here keeping track of all the minor moves.
- Casey Nelson has been sent to the minor leagues on a conditioning loan. The Buffalo Sabres defenseman has missed more than two months with an upper-body injury, but is apparently healthy enough to get back on the ice. Nelson, 26, had six points in 22 games before suffering the injury.
- With Jayce Hawryluk heading to injured reserve, the Florida Panthers have recalled Bogdan Kiselevich from the minor leagues. Kiselevich hasn’t played nearly as much as expected when he signed out of the KHL, but could get another opportunity to show what he can do in order to entice a contender at the deadline.
- Christian Djoos has been recalled from his conditioning loan by the Washington Capitals, but has not yet been activated from long-term injured reserve. Djoos could be ready to get back into the lineup this weekend, but does not have to come off LTIR until deemed completely healthy. Jonas Siegenthaler has been sent down to the minor leagues, signalling even further that Djoos will be activated at some point.
- Cody Goloubef has been sent back down by the Ottawa Senators after playing in his first game of the season last night. The 29-year old defenseman was acquired by the Senators last month but is still expected to spend the majority of the year in the minor leagues.
- Matt Luff has been sent down to the minors by the Los Angeles Kings, as the team prepares to activate Trevor Lewis from injured reserve. Luff has played in 30 games this season and has ten points, but will have to wait for his next chance in the NHL.
- Malcolm Subban is healthy enough to resume playing for the Vegas Golden Knights, meaning Maxime Lagace has been sent back to the AHL. Lagace has been up with the team since the beginning of January, but only actually played in one game during that period.
- The Colorado Avalanche have recalled Ryan Graves from the AHL, a welcome sight for many fans of the team. Graves made quite an impression during an earlier call-up and has two goals in nine games this season.
- Egor Yakovlev has been sent back down to the minor leagues by the New Jersey Devils, who recently activated Ben Lovejoy off injured reserve. Yakovlev has played in 14 games this season for the Devils, providing five points.
The Ottawa Senators have been a train wreck for the past 18 months. Everything that possibly could have gone wrong has gone wrong, and now facing the decision to trade away the team’s best two (or perhaps three) forwards, things still aren’t looking up. That is, for many of the fans at least. Ownership, meaning Eugene Melnyk in particular, now see this season as a strong building block to a future window of success. Melnyk’s comments last night to a group of corporate sponsors and partners explain exactly how he sees the future for the Senators (via Ian Mendes of TSN):
The Senators will be all-in again for a five-year run of unparalleled success–where the team will plan to spend close to the NHL’s salary cap every year from 2021 to 2025. He reiterated that the Senators’ current rebuild is a blueprint on how to bring the Stanley Cup home to its rightful place in Ottawa.
According to CapFriendly the Senators are currently spending 91.2% of the NHL’s salary cap, putting them 24th in the league. More notably though is the lack of funding for the management, development and scouting departments, all which are some of the smallest in the league. Those expenses are not publicly available, but have been reported on thoroughly over the years. Melnyk himself has admitted to running the Senators on a tight budget, even suggesting before the team’s outdoor game in 2017 that the player salaries were the last place they could take any money from.
Pointing to a timeline several years out has obvious problems. For one, the development of young players like Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk and Alex Formenton while impressive so far, could easily stall or even reverse. Second, at this point there seems to be no clear decision on whether Matt Duchene and Mark Stone will be signing long-term. Third, and probably the one that fans will latch onto the most, is that the Senators still owe their first round pick this season to the Colorado Avalanche despite it being very high and potentially the first-overall selection. No team can guarantee success in two years, and saying that the team will spend close to the salary cap certainly does not mean they will experience it.
In fact, when looking at Pierre Dorion’s history as a general manager it seems unlikely for the Senators to even be spending very heavily at all. In the some 33 months that Dorion has been in charge, the Senators have handed out just three contracts that even totaled more than $10MM and one of those is a bonus-laden entry-level deal for Tkachuk. Mike Hoffman’s four-year, $20.75MM contract paces the list, but thanks to its back-loaded nature the Florida Panthers will be paying for more than half of it in the two years he plays there.
A Duchene or Stone extension could change all that, and signal that the ownership and front office is willing to invest in this team. But even after their strong performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night (albeit in an eventual loss) the club has still lost five straight games and remains in last place in the entire league. Starting a rebuild is fine, guaranteeing “unparalleled success” may be a little premature.
The Ottawa Senators are busy negotiating extensions with and listening to trade offers for several of their most important players. Yet, The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch writes that you can cross one prominent name off the list of deadline trade candidates. Garrioch, referring to comments made by GM Pierre Dorion, states definitively that starting goalie Craig Anderson will not be traded before the NHL Trade Deadline at the end of the month. Anderson, 37, has dealt with injuries this season and has only played in 34 games. While his performance has improved slightly over a forgettable 2017-18 season, Anderson’s .906 save percentage and 3.50 GAA are less than stellar. In fact, Anderson has not even been the Sens’ best keeper of late, as trade acquisition Anders Nilsson sports a .922 save percentage and 2.53 GAA in eight appearances. Despite these setbacks, there has been speculation all season that a team in need of help in net could look at the experienced veteran as an option. However, Dorion seems content to stick with Anderson, at least through the end of the season. Anderson is signed for one more year at $4.75MM and could hypothetically be moved this off-season, but with Nilsson heading toward free agency and a loaded free agent crop at the goalie position that should quell the trade market, it’s safe to assume that Anderson surviving the deadline this year means he will begin next season with the Senators.
- CapFriendly reported earlier today that the Senators have placed forward Mikkel Boedker on injured reserve. Garrioch additionally adds that Boedker is considered week-to-week with an undisclosed injury. While it seems like the Senators might not be too concerned about a brief absence for Boedker given their place in the standings, his injury could prove problematic in trade talks. While the bulk of the focus on Ottawa’s deadline dealings has fairly been on priority free agents Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, and Ryan Dzingel, Boedker has quietly had a strong season and could be of interest to suitors. Acquired from the San Jose Sharks as part of the Mike Hoffman return, Boedker has 28 points through 51 games thus far, which puts him on pace for 45 points; this would be the top mark by Boedker since he left the Arizona Coyotes organization years ago. Boedker has one more year left on his contract at $4MM and the cost-cutting Senators would jump at the chance to move his contract off the books – especially if it would help to retain any of the aforementioned trio – and also get a decent trade return this year. However, Boedker’s ability to help a team down the stretch and in the postseason this year would be a key part of his trade value. This injury could make it difficult to move Boedker after all.
- Another week closer to the trade deadline and the Senators still do not have an extension in place with Mark Stone. Despite Stone’s insistence that he would like to stay in Ottawa and the team’s determination to get a deal done, there have been no signs that a resolution is close. TSN has reflected this lack of change to the status quo by moving Stone up to No. 5 in their Trade Bait List, where he joins teammate Matt Duchene, who is currently No. 2. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman writes, it’s impossible to know where exactly Ottawa is in negotiations with Stone or Duchene, but as the days tick by, it becomes more likely that they are dealt. Friedman believes that the team will have to make a decision on the pair “very soon” so that they can move on to working with Ryan Dzingel on an extension.
The NHL is almost entirely quiet tonight, with just two games on the schedule for this evening. The battle of Ontario rages between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, while some original six foes do battle as the Boston Bruins travel to face the New York Rangers. With most of the league off we’ve already seen some trades go down, and we’ll keep track of all the other minor moves right here.
- The Arizona Coyotes have sent Adin Hill and Dakota Mermis back to the minor leagues for now, as they assess their injury situation and prepare for tomorrow night’s action. The Coyotes have been destroyed by injury this season, but it has at least allowed them to see what they have in some of their young prospects. Hill for instance has shown he could be in the running as a backup option moving forward, or at least as an injury fill-in should Darcy Kuemper or Antti Raanta continue to struggle with their health.
- After trading Cody McLeod away to the Nashville Predators, the New York Rangers have recalled Vinni Lettieri from the AHL. Lettieri has dominated for the Hartford Wolf Pack this season with 27 points in 29 games, but amazingly is scoreless in 16 contests with the Rangers. The 24-year old will look to change that if given the opportunity down the stretch.
- The Ottawa Senators have recalled both Jack Rodewald and Cody Goloubef from the AHL, giving them 22 players for tonight’s game against Toronto. Rodewald is an inspiring story, given that he played nearly a full season in the ECHL just a few years ago and is now playing big minutes for the Belleville Senators or spending time in the NHL.
McCormick, 26, was never really able to find his footing in Ottawa after signing out of Ohio State University in 2014. The sixth-round pick was known for his blend of feisty, physical hockey and offensive ability, but instead couldn’t bring the second part of that mix to the NHL. Recording just 10 points in 71 career games with Ottawa, McCormick will move on with just a few months before he becomes an unrestricted free agent once again. He had previously his Group VI free agency in 2017 and signed a two-year deal with the Senators that had guaranteed him a one-way salary of $650K this season.
Beaudin meanwhile is another lottery ticket for the Senators, given his struggles since making the jump from junior hockey. Originally selected in the third round of the 2015 draft, Beaudin was a big scoring threat in the QMJHL but has failed to bring that offense to the minor leagues. In 42 games for the Colorado Eagles this year, the 21-year old winger has 13 points.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that have a good chance to be dealt by February 25th.
Senators defenseman Cody Ceci is one of the more intriguing blueliners to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead. Although he’s technically not a true rental player in that he’s still under team control for one more season after this one, he’s at a salary level where it’s a toss-up as to whether or not he’ll be qualified this offseason. His play down the stretch might ultimately influence what happens so there will be a lot riding on these next couple of months.
Ceci is on a one-year, $4.3MM contract that was awarded in salary arbitration back in August. That amount will represent his qualifying offer this summer where he will once again be arbitration-eligible.
With the departure of Erik Karlsson to San Jose, Ceci entered the season as Ottawa’s undisputed top blueliner on the right side. He did not fare well in that role last year when Karlsson was out and the results have been similar this season. His possession numbers aren’t particularly impressive and while he leads the team in blocks by a significant margin, it also means that teams are getting a lot of shot opportunities when he’s on the ice.
On the plus side, his offensive numbers have boosted a little bit this season. He already has reached his goal output from last season and he’s on pace for the second-highest point total of his career; he’s done so while often facing the top competition as well. It’s certainly fair to wonder if he’d fare better in a spot where he isn’t expected to shoulder as much of the load as he currently is.
48 GP, 5 goals, 10 assists, 15 points, -19 rating, 6 PIMS, 82 shots, 22:39 ATOI, 42.2 CF%
The fact that Ceci could stick around beyond this season makes him a different case than a lot of the players that are going to be dealt over the next three weeks. The fact he’s not a guaranteed rental opens up some opportunities for selling teams to consider giving him a try as well.
In the East, Tampa Bay’s depth on the right side is a little shaky and Ceci would represent an upgrade. They have enough salary cap space this season to take on his contract entirely but knowing what’s on the horizon this summer, they would likely have to non-tender him in the summer. New Jersey isn’t likely to be a true buyer at the deadline but it wouldn’t be shocking to see them inquire about Ceci as their back end has been shaky for a while now and they haven’t had much success when they’ve tried to address that issue in recent years.
Given Ottawa’s preference to deal players out of the conference wherever possible, it’s likely that they will try to move Ceci to the West if presented with similar offers. He’d represent an upgrade on Nashville’s third pairing but like Tampa Bay, they’d likely have to treat him as a rental player given how much they have tied up in their defense corps already. Minnesota has added some depth players in recent weeks but someone like Ceci would be a considerable improvement and could even slide onto their second pairing. He’d help Edmonton but matching money might be a challenge for the Oilers while it’s unlikely that Ottawa would want to take back contracts beyond this season.
Likelihood Of A Trade
A lot of this will depend on how Ottawa views Ceci moving forward. Do they look at the Jake Muzzin trade and hope that they can elicit a similar return? If so, the odds of a move will be low. However, if they’ve decided they’re not going to qualify him (or run the risk of a $5M+ contract in arbitration) and price him as more of a depth player, they should have several suitors for his services and be able to make a trade.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.