After coming within an overtime goal of reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the Ottawa Senators now find themselves the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Entering Tuesday's game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Senators had just one victory in their past 12 contests. They're in danger of falling completely out of the postseason race.
In early-November, the Senators were part of a rare early season, three-team blockbuster deal, shipping center Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators to acquire center Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche. With the season in jeopardy a month later, GM Pierre Dorion is reportedly shopping around for help.
If the Sens fail to snap out of its current funk soon, Dorion could be prepared to shake up his roster. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Ottawa GM intends to approach his players carrying no-trade clauses. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch said he'll be requesting 10-team “no-trade” lists. Among the notables carrying those clauses are forwards Bobby Ryan, Mike Hoffman and Derick Brassard, defenseman Dion Phaneuf and superstar blueliner Erik Karlsson. A two-time winner of the Norris Trophy and one of the league's elite rearguards, the 27-year-old Karlsson would attract consinderable attention if the Sens put him on the trade block.
Friedman said asking Karlsson for a no-trade list doesn't mean the Sens intend to move him, calling it merely an option at this point. Garrioch, meanwhile, considers a Karlsson trade “highly improbable,” citing two league sources claiming there's been no mention of the Senators captain being available.
While it's doubtful Karlsson is currently available, his future in Ottawa seems uncertain. He's eligible in July 2019 for unrestricted free agent status and publicly indicated he'll seek top dollar on his next contract. That could push his annual average value toward $12 million, making him a very expensive signing for the usually frugal Senators.
Friedman's colleague Nick Kypreos believes trading Karlsson should be a “no-brainer.” He feels it makes no sense for the Senators to pony up big bucks for a superstar if they can't afford to surround him with quality talent.
July is the earliest the Senators can open contract talks with Karlsson. Their performance over the remainder of this season and Dorion's moves between now and the Feb. 26 trade deadline could have a significant effect upon those negotiations. If the Senators were to move Karlsson, and that's a big “if” at this stage, it won't happen during this season. Given his UFA status in 2019, rival clubs will likely want an opportunity to discuss a contract extension first before agreeing to pursue a trade. Since the earliest that can happen is next July, that's likely the earliest when he could be dealt.
As for those Senators who could be moved this season, Garrioch suggests Hoffman, center Jean-Gabriel Pageau and defenseman Cody Ceci as the best trade chips. He also feels Brassard might be of interest to playoff contenders.
Teams lacking scoring punch, such as the Carolina Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks, could have interest in Hoffman or Brassard. Ceci, meanwhile, could be enticing to a club in need of blueline depth like the New York Islanders. The Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens could also come calling but Dorion could be reluctant to deal with a division rival right now.
PANTHERS AFTER CREASE UPGRADE
The Florida Panthers are also in danger of falling further behind in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Their postseason hopes were dealt a blow when starting goaltender Roberto Luongo suffered a groin injury last week, leaving him sidelined indefinitely.
TSN's Bob McKenzie last Tuesday reported the Panthers were in the market for a goalie. He said they'd prefer a younger netminder with NHL backup experience over a veteran stopgap measure. McKenzie suggested Winnipeg Jets' third-stringer Michael Hutchinson as an option, a view shared by NBC Sports' Scott Billeck. He pointed out the 25-year-old Hutchinson led the AHL in save percentage (.951) while his 1.73 goals-against average was second to Toronto Marlies goalie Garret Sparks.
The Panthers, however, aren't the only NHL club in need of goalie depth. The Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins could also be making inquiries.
McKenzie's colleague Darren Dreger reports Hutchinson suffered a groin injury on Saturday, which could affect his availability if it turns out to be serious.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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