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DeBrincat hitting the trade market

June 9, 2023, 7:33 PM ET [243 Comments]
Sens Writer
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Guest Writer: Ken Hawkins (a.k.a. khawk)

Multiple reports have surfaced in the past week that the Senators are exploring the trade market for winger Alex DeBrincat. One of the centrepiece additions of the “Summer of Dorion”, DeBrincat was brought in to bolster the team’s scoring lines and help signal the transition away from a prolonged rebuild. The trade had an undeniable effect in terms of energizing the fan base, and helped to precipitate other significant moves including the UFA signing of Claude Giroux. However, despite having a decent year in terms of offensive production, DeBrincat never really delivered on the full upside of his potential. This was especially true at even-strength, where his line was among the worst in the NHL in terms of GF/GA differential.

Regardless of your interpretation of DeBrincat’s performance, it’s unclear whether he was ever interested in playing in Ottawa beyond the scope of his current deal. The Senators have a very good young core of American-born players, but DeBrincat arrived on the scene without the benefit of the kind of prior relationships that Tkachuk/Norris and Pinto/Sanderson enjoyed. The trade from the Blackhawks clearly affected him, and it took some time before he really looked comfortable in the lineup. And now it’s the Senators who are facing the uncomfortable reality of a $9.0M qualifying offer for a player that’s clearly not their best player, all with an uncertain ownership situation. It’s become hard to envision an outcome to the situation that doesn’t involve a trade.

Potential Trade Partners

The gap between DeBrincat’s salary expectations and his performance in Ottawa had quite a lot to do with the diminished 2nd line role he was given. It stands to reason that any team he would be looking to sign an RFA extension with is going to need to have a clear need for a top-line winger, more similar to the role he had in Chicago. The team would also need to be in a relevant American market and have a team salary structure that could accommodate a $9M AAV deal as part of a competitive mix of high-end talent. Based on these criteria, there are a few teams that stand out as possible trade partners.

Detroit would be a natural fit given that DeBrincat is originally from Michigan, and their team structure would certainly welcome a high-scoring offensive winger. They’re also one of the few teams going into the off-season with < $60M of existing contracts on the books, and a DeBrincat-Larkin pairing could provide a solid top-line structure for their team to build around.

Anaheim could also be a natural fit, given that they have two good young C in Zegras and McTavish but few scoring wingers on the roster. They also had the league’s 2nd worst PP last season, which is very much something DeBrincat could help improve. The Ducks also have tons of cap space, and will no doubt be looking to emerge from their rebuild in the near future.

Carolina is a potential dark horse. Another disappointing playoff outcome combined with quite a few expiring contracts after next year may result in a change in the player mix. The Hurricanes have a lot of cap space available and a track record of making opportunistic trades. If they view DeBrincat as an undervalued high-quality asset, don’t be surprised if they get involved.

The other team I wonder about is Seattle. They took major strides this year, but still feel like a team that’s lacking in structure. They have a high-end young C in Matt Beniers who could find another offensive level with a scoring winger of DeBrincat’s ability. And they have the kind of salary structure and market size that could make it an easy trade.

Potential Trade Return

Ideally, a DeBrincat trade would allow the Senators to address roster weakness at #1G, #3W, and possibly #2W if they don’t believe any of Sokolov, Greig, or Jarventie will be ready for the NHL next season. There are several G names out here like Hellebuyck, Gibson, Hart, etc., but a 3rd team would likely have to be involved in order to make a direct trade for one of those players. There are also several UFA goaltenders available, which could make it more favourable to target a quality middle-six forward who can upgrade the team’s ability to line-match and play at even strength.

Realistically, the Senators are now up against the clock with DeBrincat. They certainly don’t want any kind of prolonged RFA holdout scenario that might affect next season. In fact, they don’t even want this issue to go beyond July 1, when his $9M qualifying offer will come into play and other teams start to burn through cap space with UFA spending. Expect Dorion to try to wrap the situation up by the draft. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if they wound up taking back draft picks as an interim value, given the difficulty of pulling off a larger deal involving specific players of interest. But we’ll see what happens as we get further into June.

Do you have a favourite DeBrincat trade scenario? Be sure to post your thoughts below for discussion. Thanks for reading!
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