On Thursday, Ottawa did not dress Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, or Ryan Dzingel in their 4-0 loss against the New Jersey Devils. On Friday morning, Duchene was the first of the Senators ‘Big 3’ to be traded ahead of fast-approaching Feb. 25 NHL Trade Deadline.
In an odd twist, the Senators are set to face-off against Duchene and their latest trade partners on the same day at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.
The Senators Return
First and foremost, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has more than likely returned a 2019 first-round pick to the Senators draft closet. That is unless it becomes a top three pick, in which case, the Senators will receive the Blue Jacket’s 2020 first-round selection instead.
Dorion dealt Ottawa’s original 2019 first-round pick last year to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the package to acquire Duchene in the first place. Now, that pick is poised to become the top overall selection this year in the highly-touted Jack Hughes sweepstakes.
After this trade with Columbus, the Senators have a much greater chance at participating in round one of this year’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. If that does not happen, they will wield at least two first-round selections next year, presuming both are kept. In addition to this pick, the Senators also receive a conditional first-round pick in 2020 if Duchene re-signs with Columbus prior to becoming an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1. In the unlikely scenario that Columbus’s former 2019 pick is lottery protected this year and Duchene re-signs, the conditional first-round selection would become Ottawa’s in 2021.
The next two drafts will be critical steps in the early stages for this franchise in what will be a long-term and painful rebuild process.
Also included in Ottawa’s return are prospects Abramov and Davidsson.
Abramov is a 20-year-old right winger who was drafted by Columbus in round-three (65th overall) in 2016. At 5’9″ and 171 pounds, he immediately becomes the first Russian native in the Senators organization at the NHL and AHL levels. He has been assigned to Belleville.
Despite his Russian roots, Abramov is familiar with the Ottawa area. From 2015 until 2018, he tore it up playing across the Ottawa River for the Gatineau Olympiques. In 185 regular season games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), which also included 40 games with the Victoriaville Tigres, the offensively gifted forward put up an incredible 301 points. This included 129 goals and 172 assists. His best season in the QMJHL was in 2017-2018 when he put up 104 points in just 56 games.
His offensive ability doesn’t shy in the playoffs, either. In 30 QMJHL playoff games, Abramov was above a point-per-game average, registering 36 points. Most recently, he played for Columbus’s affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters. This season, he has 22 points (12G, 10A) in 52 AHL games.
Davidsson is the second prospect Ottawa receives in this trade. He is a 21-year-old right winger who was drafted by Columbus in round-six (170th overall) in 2017. The Swedish native has spent his entire career playing overseas in his homeland. Since 2016-17, he has played for Djurgårdens of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), registering 63 points in 143 games. According to the Senators press release, Davidsson will remain with Djurgårdens. The 5’11”, 185-pound forward is described by Dorion as “a 200-foot player with excellent speed” who is “an intense, character player that has non-stop hockey drive and great hockey sense“.
The Senators have a history of working with former players from this team. Since 2011, Ottawa has drafted four players from Djurgårdens, including Mika Zibanejad, Fredrik Claesson, Tobias Lindberg, and Andreas Englund.
The Blue Jackets Return
Columbus acquires a bonafide, elite centreman in Duchene. Drafted in the first-round (3rd overall) in 2009 by the Colorado Avalanche, the Haliburton, Ontario native has recorded 535 points in 704 games. This amounts to .76 points per game and includes 228 goals and 307 assists. As an Ottawa Senator, Duchene played in 118 games and was nearly a point per game. In total, he put up 107 points, including 50 goals and 57 assists.
On top of his offensive prowess, the speedy Duchene is effective in the face-off circle. In his career, he wins his face-offs 53 percent of the time. The 28-year-old bests all Columbus centers, a long list that includes Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alexander Wennberg, Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky, Riley Nash, and Lukas Sedlak.
The Blue Jackets also receive Bergman in the trade. The Swedish native is a minor league player who was drafted in round two (46th overall) by the San Jose Sharks in 2014. In 33 AHL games with the Belleville Senators, Bergman has just six assists.
This trade involves two teams heading in polar opposite directions.
Ottawa currently sits dead last in the NHL and has occupied this position for some time now this season. Columbus on the other hand is battling hard to make the 2019 playoffs. They are just one point out of the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. In addition, the future of this franchise faces uncertainty after this year. Star forward Artemi Panarin and Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky have both signaled the intent to move on from the team this summer. Depending if Columbus makes another big splash involving either of these two players before Monday’s trade deadline, general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen appears all-in to win now.
These circumstances make determining the immediate winner and loser of this trade difficult. Only time will tell. For now, both teams received what they need and desire.
Ottawa, unable to reach a contract extension with Duchene, was unwilling to take a risk like the New York Islanders did with John Tavares last summer. The Senators are rebuilding, and one first-round pick, possibly two, in addition to two quality prospects, helps them achieve their objective of rebuilding from the ground-up.
Columbus receives a bonafide, elite, first-line centreman. There is no question the Blue Jackets are better off with Duchene in their line-up than without. If they decide to keep Panarin and Bobrovsky for their playoff run, there is no doubt their overall competitiveness for Lord Stanley is significantly better.
Implications for Mark Stone
Trading Duchene signals at least three factors to consider moving forward. First, it confirms Ottawa is in rebuild mode for the long-term. Second, it unloads significant cash. Duchene’s contract carried six million dollars per year against the salary cap. Furthermore, he is in line to receive a significant raise this summer. Third, this trade reveals the price Ottawa has set on their prized players, and what a team is willing to pay for these players.
All of these factors and considerations can have implications on what happens next for this franchise. In particular, how it impacts Stone and Dzingel, and by a lesser extent, defenseman Cody Ceci. Stone, who is arguably the best player of the former ‘Big 3’, will be expected to bring in a better return than Duchene if he is traded. On the other hand, this newfound cash may create an opportunity to re-sign the fan favorite. The franchise desperately needs to retain the confidence of their remaining fan base. Fans on social media were disheartened and irate about Stone sitting out Thursday’s match against the Devils.
What happens next in Canada’s Capital is anyone’s guess, even though everyone knows it will be franchise-altering.
Cover Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01.