Many fans want the Ottawa Senators to rebuild. But they don’t need one yet.
The Ottawa Senators have failed to build upon their Eastern Conference Finals run last season. But that doesn’t mean the team needs a full rebuild. The Senators have seen their season go down the drain ever since the club returned from Sweden. After back-to-back victories over the Colorado Avalanche overseas, Ottawa has struggled mightily, posting a 4-14-4 record since the middle of November.
While the Senators might not be returning to the playoffs this season, the franchise shouldn’t panic. A rebuild isn’t necessary to put the club back on track. The Senators have enough key pieces they can build upon while retooling the current roster in order to return to the postseason next year.
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One of the main reasons Ottawa doesn’t need a rebuild is because most of the team’s core is still in their mid-20’s. Players like Mark Stone, Cody Ceci, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ryan Dzingel, and Erik Karlsson are closer to entering the prime of their career than they are exiting it. Add in prospects like Thomas Chabot, Colin White, Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, and a potential top-five draft pick in the 2018 draft, and the Senators could receive a significant boost courtesy of their farm system.
With a core far from being old, it wouldn’t make much sense to start selling off players to the highest bidder. The franchise would be trading players they’d immediately need to replace in order to field a competitive team. Why would the club move a proven top-six winger like Hoffman or Stone when they’d need goal scorers? Why move a generational defenseman when it would create a massive hole through the lineup?
Instead, Ottawa should look to retool by moving veterans, such as Derrick Brassard, Johnny Oduya, and Alexandre Burrows. The return would be minimal at-best. However, any asset is better than nothing. Also, moving out veterans could open the door for younger players to take advantage of the extra ice time.
Ideally, the club would love to rid themselves of Dion Phaneuf and Bobby Ryan due to their expensive contracts. But they’ll likely never find takers. It’ll be a hurdle the club will have to overcome and it’ll likely be a major reason why the team won’t be able to afford to keep Matt Duchene following the 2018-19 season.
Moving Duchene as soon as possible would be a bold move but it could significantly jump-start Ottawa’s retooling. Since acquiring him, the team has been a disaster as the trade simply hasn’t worked.
Not much has worked in Ottawa over the past two months which is why it’s hard to imagine Duchene re-signing long-term with the Senators. When its factored in Stone, Ceci, and Karlsson will all need new contracts within the next two years, it’s hard to find money left over for Duchene.
If they do move him, Ottawa management would have to swallow their pride and admit the trade was a failure. General Manager Pierre Dorion would take a lot of heat in flipping Duchene so quickly. But it could give him a second chance to right his wrong. Keeping Duchene and losing him for nothing in free agency would be the worst case scenario given what Ottawa paid to acquire him. At least in this scenario, the Senators possess a major trade chip that could help salvage their roster.
In less than a year Ottawa has gone from being a goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals to the likelihood of being a lottery team in the draft. As awful as the previous months may seem, with a young enough core and quality prospects in the system, the path to returning to the playoffs doesn’t require a full rebuild.