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It has only been a little over a year since Ottawa traded away Derick Brassard after having him for just one and a half seasons, but in that time, that trade has turned into one of the best deals for the Senators in a long time. In fact, it looks like one of the most lopsided deals around the league over the past few seasons.
At the time, Brassard was having a decent season with 38 points in 58 games (on pace for 54 points), and he had been a second line centre for some time. His reputation around the league was great, and he was turning 31 later in the year. For a contending team like Pittsburgh looking to add to their depth, Brassard was a perfect candidate at the trade deadline because his cap hit was only $5M for 2017-18 and 2018-19, but his actual salary was only $3.5M per season. The Penguins just needed him to be a 3rd line centre behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and whatever production he gave beyond a typical 3C was gravy for them.
The ask of a 1st round pick, a prospect, and another pick made sense just because he was a 50+ point centre who had a season and a half left on his contract. Still though, looking back, it is quite surprising that Ottawa was able to get that exact template in the return for him. Ottawa received Filip Gustavsson, Ian Cole, and a 1st round pick, plus they swapped 3rd round picks as well. They later flipped Cole for a 3rd round pick, and the 1st round pick was traded for a later 1st as well as a 2nd. In the end, the Senators essentially received Gustavsson, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, and Columbus’ 2020 3rd round pick just for Brassard.
I remember people being happy with that return in the summer after the draft happened, as the Senators had received three solid prospects (and potentially four) as a result of this move. Gustavsson had a rough season in the AHL, but he’s still just turning 21 and has a lot of upside. JBD had a solid freshman year at UND and looks like a possible long-term top-4 option on defense. Tychonick wasn’t trusted at UND nearly as much as JBD, but his offensive ability is still very intriguing and I like him as a long-term prospect. There’s a chance that none of them turn out, but I like the odds that at least one of them will end up being an impact player for the Senators.
The funny thing is that this trade looked good in the summer even with the expectation that Brassard was still a capable 2C who was going to be able to put up 50 points. But his 2018-19 season was an absolute trainwreck. He got traded to Florida and then to Colorado, and in 79 games between the regular season and playoffs, he scored a measly 24 points. Furthermore, he ranked 2nd last
amongst 868 skaters in Goals Above Replacement (-12.2), finishing ahead of only Ryan Kesler. Not only did he hardly score at all, he actively hurt his team while he was on the ice and was one of the biggest detriments to the teams he played for.
Does this mean that he is completely done as an NHL player? Not necessarily. He is turning 32 in September, and it’s rare for someone to simply cease to be good enough to play in the league after being a top-six player. At the same time, his best days are probably behind him, and it might even be tough for him to reach the 40-point mark. If we know anything about aging curves, I can’t imagine him ever being the impact player that the Senators thought he was going to be when they acquired him. I liked him while he was in Ottawa, but boy does it look like they traded him at the perfect time.
His most recent trade to Colorado cost the Avalanche a 3rd round pick, but Colorado also received a conditional 6th round pick as well, so the price they paid to acquire him was so minimal. Can you imagine how upset Senators fans would have been if Dorion waited until this past trade deadline to trade him and that was the return they got? It would have been another failure amongst a huge list of them. However, this looks like the rare instance (along with the Curtis Lazar trade) where the Senators actually traded a player at the perfect moment and maximized their value.
Now, giving up Mika Zibanejad and a 2nd round pick just to get Brassard in the first place was a mistake, and having Zibanejad right now would have been great for the rebuild. But at least Dorion was able to salvage that by selling high on Brassard right before he cratered. That doesn’t totally make up for giving up on Zibanejad, but it’s better than nothing. It will still be years from now until we can fully
evaluate the Brassard 2.0 deal, as the prospects and picks that Ottawa received will have to go through their development for us to make a 100% evaluation. Having said that, it looks like the Senators have easily won this one, as Brassard was legitimately one of the worst forwards to get lots of ice-time this season.
Even if none of the prospects pan out, I can’t imagine Ottawa being a “loser” in this trade just because I don’t see Brassard being a useful player. In the best case scenario though, the Senators might have two top-four defensemen, a starting goaltender, and another prospect on their team and all it cost was a rapidly declining centre over the age of 30. What will actually happen is probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, but it’s looking like this trade for Ottawa is amongst the league’s best steals over the past few years.