Heading into this season, few would have expected the Ottawa Senators to be active buyers on the trade market. Few would have expected them to be a .500 team on November 23 as well, though. The Senators are playing well and their first substantial acquisition of the season, former New York Rangers forward Vladislav Namestnikov, has worked out nicely (although he’s currently injured). The team has been open about their desire to add more veteran pieces and, while previous reports indicated their preference was to acquire another forward, The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the team is now hoping to trade for a defenseman.
The Senators were not overly strong or deep on the blue line when the season began. Behind Thomas Chabot, it was mostly a unit composed of role players and unproven prospects. However, the situation has become even more dire due to injuries. Young Erik Brannstrom remains sidelined with a hand injury, depth defender Cody Goloubef left Friday night’s game with an undisclosed injury, Andreas Englund suffered an injury in the minors, and Christian Wolanin has yet to play this season as he returns from a shoulder injury. Nikita Zaitsev is also currently in his native Russia tending to personal matters. Garrioch writes that this left Ottawa no choice but to recall both Maxime Lajoie and Christian Jaros from the minors on Friday, leaving AHL Belleville with just two NHL prospects – first-year AHLers Lassi Thomson and Olle Alsing – and a defense corps otherwise composed of tryout players and ECHL call-ups. Clearly, Ottawa could use a blue line addition purely from a numbers perspective.
However, performance is also an issue on the blue line, particularly when it comes to scoring. Zaitsev, who is expected to return soon, has not contributed much offensively despite considerable ice time. Fellow former Maple Leaf Ron Hainsey and 2018-19 standout Dylan DeMelo have also been non-factors in the scoring department. This has left Chabot carrying the load and Mark Borowiecki contributing on offense, which has not typically been his strong suit. If the Senators are going to trade for a defenseman, they may as well target a player who can take on a regular role and assist the team offensively.
With that said, don’t expect Ottawa to target any of the big names on the rumor mill. While it would be comical for the Senators to add yet another former Toronto player, Tyson Barrie is likely not a target. Nor is New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen, Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz, or Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin. The Senators will likely target upside at a low cost. Unsigned RFA Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars seems like an intriguing option, so long as they can swing a deal before the December 1st signing deadline. An impending UFA, like Namestnikov, would also make sense for the Senators, who could flip that player at the trade deadline if need be. Chicago’s Erik Gustafsson, L.A.’s Ben Hutton, and San Jose’s Radim Simek are all interesting options. Detroit’s Mike Green, who has name value but disappointing numbers so far this season, could also be a potential buy low/sell high candidate if he could turn his game around. There are plenty of options available for the Senators to make a move, but the question remains when and who.