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Senators Defeat Habs; Major Trade Still Coming?

January 19, 2024, 3:53 PM ET [257 Comments]
Sens Writer
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By Ken Hawkins (a.k.a. khawk)

Thursday’s 6-2 win vs. Montreal was the most promising 60 minute effort we’ve seen from the Senators in quite some time, and included a goal from Tim Stutzle for the first time in the past 10GP. But despite recent glimpses of improvement, the Senators remain just 2-6-0 in January, including numerous games where they have blown significant leads throughout the game. It feels like every positive step forward is offset by a crippling mix of glaring defensive errors, bad bounces, and visible frustration. The team’s lack of performance continues to reveal poor on-ice habits, emotional immaturity, and significant roster deficiencies.

So where do you begin to address these issues if you’re GM Steve Staois? Well, the most important first step is to be realistic, and acknowledge that we’re now talking about making changes for the benefit of next season and beyond. There will almost certainly be another coaching change in the off-season, but there’s still a half-season to play and important work to be done before then. As such, the first order of business is to objectively evaluate who they feel are critical parts of the team going forward, and then make their changes with the goal of helping that core group develop in a more productive direction.

Most Likely Trade Candidates

Beyond the young core of elite talent like Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk, and Jake Sanderson, there are a good number of players on the team that are providing high cap-value or addressing critical team needs. For instance, it’s hard to see much benefit from trading the likes of Claude Giroux, Drake Batherson, or Artem Zub, and players like Mathieu Joseph, Ridley Greig, and Shane Pinto are both cap-friendly and the team’s best two-way forwards. There’s also a number of players with trade limits in their contracts, including Claude Giroux (NMC), Travis Hamonic (NMC), Vladimir Tarsenko (NTC), Artem Zub (M-NTC), Jakob Chychrun (M-NTC), and Joonas Korpisalo (M-NTC).

Who does that leave? Well, the most significant names are clearly Thomas Chabot and Josh Norris, but both have AAV at $8M so they would have to identify a trade partner looking to move a comparable amount of salary. Vladimir Tarasenko could be traded if he’s wanting to play on a team with good playoff chances, but there have been reports that he may actually have interest in re-signing. Jakob Chychrun would attract a lot of attention if a deal could be worked out within his M-NTC, but that could be a major limitation. Erik Brannstrom and Dominik Kubalik could be moved in smaller deals, but have less potential impact in terms of the expected return. There are also a number of quality secondary prospects in the system, but none that would yield a major return.

Potential Major Trade Partners

Assuming that the goal of a major trade is to meaningfully change the skill mix of the roster to help them address positional weaknesses, it will almost by definition require a change to their top-9 forwards and/or top-4 defence. In particular, they would be looking to target a RHD, and improve the speed, tenacity, and two-way ability of their forwards. Teams that could achieve both goals via a single trade could be of particular focus, both for the value of the return and given the fact that the Senators’ most significant trade assets have high-AAV implications.

Philadelphia Flyers
Key Targets: Laughton (3yrs x $3.0M), Ristolainen (4yrs x $5.5M)
Potential Return: Norris (7yrs x $7.9M)
Rationale: The Flyers are seriously lacking at C after Couturier, and Norris could help them improve upon their bottom-10 faceoff %. Laughton is the kind of two-way veteran forward the Senators would covet for their middle-6 forwards, and Ristolainen would add size and stability at RHD.

Los Angeles Kings
Key Targets: Dubois (8yrs x $8.5M), Roy (1yr x $3.2M)
Potential Return: Chabot (5yr x $8.0M), Tarasenko (1yr x $5.0M)
Rationale: Dubois has been a disaster in LA and has a full NMC that kicks in this summer, and other than Doughty no D-man in LA has more than 13pts. Chabot would improve their puck-moving on the back-end, and Tarasenko would balance the $$$ and give LA some veteran scoring. Dubois would provide an established two-way C to the top-6, and Roy would be a nice addition at RHD for OTT (assuming he re-signed).

Arizona Coyotes
Key Targets: Dumba (1yr x $3.9M), Kerfoot (2yrs x $3.5M)
Potential Return: Norris (7yr x $7.9M)
Rationale: ARI has struggled for years to find a #1C, are 2nd worst in the NHL in faceoff %, and Norris would potentially fit in well beside a quality playmaker like Keller. Dumba (assuming he re-signed) would be a good veteran addition at RHD, and Kerfoot is a solid all-round two-way forward to bolster their 3rd line.

Chicago Blackhawks
Key Targets: Murphy (3yrs x $4.4M), Beauvillier (1yr x $4.2M AAV)
Potential Return: Norris (7yr x $7.9M) OR Chabot (5yr x $8.0M)
Rationale: CHI has no D-man with more than 11pts, and are the worst face-off team in the NHL with virtually no established NHL centres. Chabot would add quality to a very thin group of LHD, and Norris could step in as a #2C to bolster their forwards. OTT would gain a steady RHD in Murphy, and Beauvillier (assuming he re-signed) would add speed and two-way depth to their forwards.

Those are just a few potential options that might be of interest to both sides, but it will be interesting to see what Staois targets if a significant trade is in the works. If nothing else, the imminent return of Shane Pinto is a welcome piece of good news for the team, and represents quite a substantial improvement to their current roster. But given how badly the team has failed to meet expectations this season, you have to think some kind of additional response is almost necessary to communicate the fact that the team's underachievement can't be allowed to repeat itself.

Do you think a major trade will be coming? Is there a player you think is realistically available they should be targeting? Share your comments below, and as always thanks for reading!
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