The Ottawa Senators’ rebuild is entering Act 2.
Pierre Dorion must not have gotten what he wanted for Christmas this year, because he went on an absolute shopping spree on the Ottawa Senators‘ dime to try to improve his team in both the short and long-term.
Now at the time, the decision to surrender a premium pick for a 30-year-old center coming off his worst season as a pro was a confusing one. Sure, the Senators clearly want to get better, and pairing up a young, ascending winger like Brady Tkachuk with a veteran puck distributor is a fantastic way to do just that, but a second-round pick? Really? You can get pretty good players in that range, especially when the pick is on the lower side, numerically speaking.
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Well, as it turns out, Dorion mustn’t have been too concerned about surrendering a second originally belonging to the Columbus Blue Jackets because he knew he had another second-rounder coming his way – albeit a year later – from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That’s right, fast forward mere hours into the future, and the Senators had agreed to another deal that ships Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson – both of whom are expected to spend the 2020-21 season on Long-Term Injury Reserve with back and concussion issues, respectively – to the Lightning for left-handed center Cedric Paquette, left-handed defenseman Braydon Coburn, and a 2022 second-round pick.
Not exactly one-for-one value with what they gave away to acquire Stepan, but a pretty decent return, all things considered.
So, for those keeping track at home, the Senators kicked a second-round pick one year down the line, and in doing so, acquired three veteran players who could serve as valuable assets to their young core moving forward.
Yeah, I’d say Ottawa made out pretty darn well, especially if the players they brought in can fill an expanded role on a team with minutes to spare.
First and foremost comes Stephan, who will all but surely become a fixture of both the Senators’ top-six in 2021 and their special teams units in 2021. Seven years Colin White‘s senior, Stepan should serve as a calming presence up the center of the Senators’ line and provide the team with far more productivity than Chris Tierney, Logan Brown, and Artem Anisimov. Similar, though not the same, could be said for Paquette, who could suddenly go from being a part-time, depth piece with the Lightning on their championship run to a fixture of the Senators’ bottom-six, maybe even the team’s unquestioned third-line center if he plays his cards right.
Heck, even Coburn, who only appeared in 40 games for the Lightning last season, may find consistent playing time as one of the Senators’ third-line defensemen next to a player like Josh Brown.
Will any of these players make the Senators a contender in the All-Canada North Division next year when the season opens up on January 13th? Oh goodness no, Ottawa is still inarguably the weakest team in the entire conference and will be in the draft lottery once more when the season comes to an end, but they do help with the talent evaluation process, and in a way, that’s just as important.
And that’s not even including 2020 first-round pick Tim Stützle, who may join the team next year after being selected third overall in the draft. If he can provide some minutes and learn under Stepan and Paquette, it’ll be incredibly valuable.
For the Ottawa Senators to really view their roster through an objective lens, they need to surround their young core of players with enough baseline talent to make accurate evaluations. The additions of Derek Stepan, Cedric Paquette, and Braydon Coburn should go a long way in doing just that, even if they don’t affect the team’s overall win percentage – or place in the standings – all that much versus 2019-20. But for a rebuilding team like the Senators, this is a crucial step toward their ultimate goal of becoming indefinite title contenders. Now, if only someone would give Pierre Dorion what he really wanted for Christman, the top overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.