In a move on the first day of free agency, Ottawa elected to trade right-winger Evgeni Dadonov to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 3rd round pick in the 2022 NHL draft, and defenceman Nick Holden. On top of this, the Senators also inked Michael Del Zotto to a 2-year deal.
In a year packed with great free agents, these two moves came as a surprise, as fans and analysts alike predicted that Ottawa was targeting a Right-handed defenseman come free agency, when in fact they added two left-handed defensemen to a squad that seemed to be already set on that side of the ice. This begs the question why? Well, there could be many reasons for this, however, the question begs asking, is Eichel to Ottawa a possibility?
Are The Senators Trying To Bring Eichel To Ottawa?
Let’s set the scene here. As an organization that is known for penny-pinching, names like Jack Eichel are never tied to the Senators when it comes to trade talk. With the 10 million dollar AAV his contract carries, it would normally be safe to assume the Senators would want nothing to do with the young buck. However, it is starting to look like the Senators could be trying to put something together for Eichel, and I’m gonna tell you why.
As mentioned prior, Dadonov got sent out to Vegas early Saturday in exchange for Nick Holden and a 3rd round pick in the 2022 draft. Now, looking at this move from a purely financial standpoint, Dadonov is currently under a contract that carries an AAV of $5 million, while Holden’s current contract carries an AAV of $1.7 million. In making this move the Senators freed up an additional $3.3 million.
Now sure, this may seem like a typical cash saving move. However, this is the year that the Senators’ claimed they were going to start spending close to cap, and while it is unrealistic to hold them to their word, one would think that a money-saving move would be a weird way to kick of the 2021-2022 season unless there was a true purpose behind it.
Stocked Up Left-Side
Adding to my suspicion, the Holden acquisition was accompanied by the Michael Del Zotto signing just hours later. The strangest part about these acquisitions is that they are both left-handed defensemen, adding to a fully stocked left side. On the first pairing, NHL All-Star Thomas Chabot holds it down. Near the end of last season, the bottom two pairings consisted of coveted prospect Erik Brannstrom and Victor Mete on the left side of their respective pairings.
Now it’s always possible Ottawa is looking to generate some competition on the blue line come training camp, however having a blue line where only one left-handed defenseman has a cemented spot in the line-up (Chabot), and the other four battle it out for two spots seems a little strange.
Adding to the strange situation, head coach D.J. Smith was traditionally against guys like Mete and Brannstrom playing their offsides last year. This drives me to ask the question, why are the Senators stacking up on left-handed defensemen.
Possible Eichel Package
Now, once again, this is all speculation. However, I believe that there is a small chance that management over in Canada’s capital city is quietly piecing together a package that could entice Buffalo to consider moving Eichel to Ottawa. With multiple options at defence, specifically the left side, this frees Ottawa up to include a promising young player like Brannstrom in a trade package, without having to rush to fill his spot in the case a trade does occur.
As for the Dadonov trade, come the end of Saturday, the Senators had exactly 10 million dollars sitting between their current financial position and the cap floor. Now we know that Ottawa has restricted free agents to sign such as Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson, it almost seems too unrealistic to believe that Ottawa left 10 million dollars between them and the cap floor, and it just so happened that that was Eichel’s cap hit.
Looking at the position this leaves Ottawa in for a possible trade, it is safe to say Ottawa could put together a reasonable deal. Hockey News writer Ryan Kennedy sent out the following tweet Tuesday:
I’m hearing the Buffalo ask for Eichel from Vegas is Smith, Peyton Krebs, Nic Hague and a first-rounder.
— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) July 27, 2021
If this ask is true, this is most definitely something that the Senators would be in a position to match, if not better. With their current prospect pool being among the best in the league, and their plethora of left-handed defenseman, Ottawa could offer up a trade along the lines of Erik Brannstrom, Logan Brown, a 2022 first-round pick, and one of the many players in their current prospect pool in exchange for Jack Eichel.
Now I’m not here to speculate whether this move would be good or bad for either party, I am just here to say that it seems as if Ottawa is positioning itself to make a splash, and there would be no bigger splash than trading for a guy like Jack Eichel. People have mixed emotions about the young centre, but the fact remains, when Buffalo makes a player like him available, teams pay attention
In all honesty, I would guess that the chance this actually happens is very minimal, but the fact remains that I strongly believe Ottawa is positioning itself to make a big move. The organization has acknowledged the fact they need a top-two centre to continue their development as an organization, and when Jack Eichel is at 100%, he can play among the best in the league.
A secondary move the Senators could be preparing to make is a much-rumoured trade for Ryan Strome of the New York Rangers. While the asking price would not be nearly as high, the Senators would still want to clear some cap-space like they’re doing now.
Lastly, although Ottawa has garnered a reputation as an organization that doesn’t spend any money. This trend cannot continue if they are truly serious about becoming a winning organization. Good teams need great players, and great players cost a lot of money in today’s league.
If the Senators continue to spend to the cap floor, they won’t go anywhere. While we, as fans and analysts, can sit around and argue about the best fit, at the end of the day the best fit will cost money, and it is starting to look like the Senators may be trying to put themselves in a position to splurge.