While the result is not yet final, the Ottawa Senators are in the midst tonight of what will likely end as a big loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the only team in the Eastern Conference with a worse record (for now). The team is in free fall, losing four straight games and eleven of their past twelve, not including tonight’s result. At 9-12-7, the Senators hold the third worst record in the NHL and rumors are swirling that no one on the roster is safe.
Back on November 5th, things seemed to be trending upward for Ottawa as GM Pierre Dorion was finally able to swing a trade to bring in coveted center Matt Duchene. In the process, the Senators gave up another legitimate top six center in Kyle Turris, goalie Andrew Hammond, 2016 first-rounder Shane Bowers, a 2019 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 first-round pick. Duchene has just four points and a -11 rating in 14 games with Ottawa so far and it’s already safe to say that the trade hasn’t worked out as planned.
So what’s next? With the Senators struggling, the conditional first-round pick sent to the Avalanche becomes very interesting. The 2018 pick is “top-ten protected”, meaning – as is likely – if Ottawa finished in the bottom third of the league, they retain their first round pick. Colorado would then get the Senators’ 2019 first-rounder. However, there is significant risk associated with that scenario. While the 2017-18 Sens have been underwhelming, there is enough talent on the roster to avoid falling apart entirely. The 2019-18 Senators though are another story. Ottawa just recently requested no-trade lists from ten key players and a fire sale could begin this season. The result could be an even worse squad next season and an even better pick heading to Colorado, perhaps even a top pick like center Jack Hughes or defenseman Bowen Byram.
So what is the worst case scenario in Ottawa? The team continues to struggle this year and is even worse next season, missing out on a potential franchise-altering prospect. After two years of failure, the team loses, via trade or free agency, Duchene, Erik Karlsson, Derick Brassard, and more. It may seem like a stretch, but it is in fact very possible. These are dark days in Ottawa, but the truth is that this could just be the beginning.