Trade Thoughts: Could the Senators and Stars make a deal?

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This story was co-authored by FPC Senators Billy Morrison and FPC Stars Chris Bugajsky

Disclaimer: This trade scenario is purely speculative and for reader enjoyment only.

The Trade:

The Dallas Stars Acquire:Ryan Dzingel, LW
4th Round-Pick (OTT), 2019
The Ottawa Senators Acquire: Brett Ritchie, RW
1st Round-Pick (DAL), 2019
4th Round-Pick (MIN), 2019

Trade Rationale: Ottawa

It is no secret this season was the first of a multi-year rebuild of the Ottawa Senators. Team owner Eugene Melnyk made this clear last season, when he publicly announced the team was headed in this direction. Estimates are this process will take at least three years to complete.

Currently, there is a youth movement is underway in Ottawa. It is led by players like Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Christian Jaros, Maxime Lajoie, Ben Harpur, Christian Wolanin, Rudolfs Balcers, amongst others. While Ottawa is looking to the future, Ryan Dzingel’s payday is looming around the corner. The 26-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer for the first time on Jul. 1.

Ryan Dzingel

A seventh round pick (203rd overall) in 2011, Dzingel perfectly exemplifies the effectiveness of Ottawa’s player development system. After years of developing, the American native has become a speedy winger who can score and generate offence. This year with the Senators, he has shown his ability to play in a top-two line role.

Currently, Dzingel earns a modest $1.8 million. However, he is in line for a steep pay raise as he sets his sights on a career year. His previous career highs were set last season, when Dzingel notched 41 points (23G, 18A) in 79 games. This campaign, he is on target to smash those numbers. After 45 games, the winger has already recorded 35 points (19G, 16A).

Overall, Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion has his work cut out for him this off-season. There are 24 contracts set to expire this summer across the Senators organization. This includes the NHL club and their AHL affiliate, Belleville. Amongst expiring contracts are Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, who are top priorities to re-sign. However, both players will command significant cash. On a budget strapped team like the Senators, Dzingel looks like the odd man out.

As much as it would hurt losing in-house talent, this trade would be a success for Dorion and the Senators. The Sens would effectively turn a seventh-round pick in 2011 into a first-round selection in 2019. Another consideration is that Ottawa does not own a first-round selection in this year’s draft, and they are eager to secure one. Ottawa used their 2019 first-round pick in the Duchene trade last year with the Colorado Avalanche.

Brett Ritchie

Brett Ritchie’s development in Dallas has not turned out as planned. Drafted the same year as Dzingel, but much higher (in the second round, 44th overall), he only has four points (2G, 2A) in 25 games this year. Ritchie’s best season was in 2016-17, when he put up 24 points (16G, 8A) in 78 games. The native of Canada will become a restricted free agent this summer.

Ritchie could be Ottawa’s target type on the trade market, if the club desires to take this approach. He is a former high draft pick, who is only 25. At 6’4” and 220 pounds, he has size, and earns a similar salary as Dzingel this year at $1.75 million. On Jan. 17, Sean Shapiro reported over Twitter that the Senators had scouts present at the Stars-Kings game.

Ritchie would be a low risk, high reward type investment. Ottawa’s elite player development system could reform him into a useful asset. The Senators did this with Magnus Paajarvi, a former first-round pick (10th overall) of the Edmonton Oilers. The 27-year-old has since taken on an effective depth role with the team, and regularly contributes on the penalty kill.

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On top of all this, Dallas and Ottawa have also danced as trade partners before in 2014. This major deal involved the Senators shipping one of their previous captains, Jason Spezza and ex-prospect Ludwig Karlsson to Dallas. In exchange, Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill, and a second round pick (Mackenzie Blackwood) were acquired by Ottawa.

Trade Rationale: Dallas

One major issue over the years for the Dallas Stars that consistently gets brought up is depth scoring. It is no secret that Dallas can’t get the puck in the net. They currently sit 28th in the league with 122 goals on the year and are 29th in GF/GP with 2.54.

None of the Stars have hit the 20 goal mark yet this year. Only three players have at least 10 goals, while only six have 20 or more points. Meanwhile, the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov have combined for 49 of the teams 122 goals this year. That accounts for 40.2 per cent of the team’s goal generation. Stars defenseman have chipped in with 26 of the teams goals which accounts for 21.3% of the team’s goals. As a result, literally half the team contributes for less than 30% of the teams scoring. This is unacceptable, and is not a formula that will win a Stanley Cup.

The Dallas Goal Drought

The Dallas Stars desperately need to find someone who can put the puck in the net. They have tried to build a solid second line, but have fallen short on achieving success. It also does not help that their top line is underperforming this season. However, that is a whole other story.

The Stars need a top six forward who can immediately help in the goal scoring department. They are currently on a four-game losing skid, where they have a total of three goals in those four games. In their eight games played this month, the Stars are 3-5-0 and have scored just 14 goals. If one takes away the five goal game against New Jersey, then the Stars have just nine goals in seven games. Dallas desperately needs more goals.

Stars Seeking Change

More recently, Dallas head coach Jim Montgomery talked about the “Culture of Mediocrity” that has been plaguing the organization. General manager Jim Nill has taken notice, and already started making moves. The Stars acquired Andrew Cogliano last Monday from the Anaheim Ducks. The deal for Cogliano is definitely not going to be the last move the Stars make before the deadline.

Dzingel could be a great addition to Dallas. The pending unrestricted free agent has 19 goals and 16 assists this season. Shockingly, this would rank him first and fourth respectively on the team. He would also be third on the roster in points. His salary of $1.8 million is cap friendly, and if Ritchie is moved out as a piece to Ottawa in this trade, Dzingel would fit in comfortably. The Stars only have $1.6 million in cap space remaining this season.

Change of Scenery

In Ritchie, the Stars would give up a former 16 goal scorer back in the 2016-2017 season. However, he has struggled the past few years to find his stride with this Stars team. He may excel with a change of scenery. Where he falls short in offensive production, he makes up for in physicality. Ritchie finishes his checks hard and is aggressive on the forecheck.

While Dzingel is the superior player in proven ability to this point, the Sens would get a winger who could slot in a bottom six role for a fairly cheap price. Ritchie also has the potential to be more offensive, and perhaps Ottawa could squeeze that out of him.

If a trade was to happen, Dzingel would be a guy the Stars would try to re-sign in the off-season. Albeit his due for a big pay raise, but he could be worth it, if he solves the Dallas Stars goal drought of 2019.

With the NHL trade deadline just weeks away, the trade song is starting to play. It could be time for these two teams to dance, once again.

Billy Morrison is a NHL writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the Ottawa Senators. You can follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01.

Chris Bugajsky is a NHL writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the Dallas Stars. You can follow Chris on Twitter, @CBugajsky14.

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