It was business as usual for the Ottawa Senators. General Manager Pierre Dorion dealt away three defensemen in separate trades while acquiring another in a waiver claim.
Dorion’s moves included trading LD Mike Reilly to Boston for a 2022 third-round pick; LD Braydon Coburn to the Islanders for a 2022 seventh-round selection; RD Erik Gudbranson to Nashville for minor league d-man Brandon Fortunato and a 2023 seventh-rounder, in addition to plucking 22-year old blue-liner Victor Mete off waivers from the Canadiens.
The Senators’ GM gave a pair of media availabilities post-deadline.
Below are five takeaways from Dorion’s Q and A.
1. Last season Dorion acquired Mike Reilly down the stretch from Montreal for a 2021 fifth-rounder. During the offseason, the GM has signed free agent forward Alex Galchenyuk, traded for Coburn and Cedric Paquette, Josh Brown, Erik Gudbranson, and Derek Stepan.
Only Brown remains in a reduced role on the back end. While Stepan has an injured shoulder and is gone for the season, had he been healthy, he would’ve likely been dealt away too.
The trading of Reilly, Coburn, Gudbranson makes it possible to finally hand legitimate playing time to d-man Erik Brannstrom, and open space for recently-signed Jacob Bernard-Docker to step in at some point in the near future, possibly Wednesday or Saturday, one of the two Senators’ upcoming games.
“Without a doubt, for us, this trade deadline was about moving some of the quality veterans that we’ve acquired over the past two seasons to let some of our younger players have a bigger role. For us, it went according to our plan,” Dorion said in his post-deadline Zoom video call.
“I think all of our young players exceeded our expectations. I think all of them took a huge step in their development, in their output as far as production in their play. They’re not perfect. Young players still make mistakes, but they never quit. They play hard. They’re learning what the NHL grind is all about, especially in a 56-game schedule where you pack in more games than in other years. Now some of them will be given even bigger roles. We look forward how they rise to those challenges.”
2. Claimed off waivers from Montreal, it was a surreal day for Victor Mete. The Canadiens 2016 fourth-rounder practiced with a handful of players at the Bell Centre prior to being told he was an Ottawa Senator at noon. Mete spoke to Dorion and Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith and almost immediately made the two-hour-plus drive to Kanata to face the Winnipeg Jets.
Mete who’s had his share of critics in the past, was actually finding his game under new head coach Dominik Ducharme prior to being waived. A restricted free agent at the season’s conclusion, the Senators get a free look to see if the former OHL London Knight fits in on their back end moving forward.
“We just felt as a group here, you have a 22-year old that’s played that’s played 185 games. From everything that we were told, he’s a good character person, wants to get better at his craft. He skates well. He moves the puck. He’s the new generation type of NHL defensemen. He might not be the biggest. He’s definitely not afraid. We look forward to having him in our lineup.”
3. With the Ontario League season still in disarray and the remaining CHL leagues playing minimum schedules, not to mention Covid protocols reducing travel, the 2021 Entry Draft is basically a crapshoot. There’s no true consensus at which players are given to be the top three-five players eligible for this year’s big day.
For this reason alone Dorion is loading up assets for the 2022 Draft. The Senators now possess 11 selections in 2022, including two second and two third-round picks.
In his availability, Dorion also discussed moving some of these particular picks to acquire assets from others when the time is right.
“Obviously, we haven’t been able to scout as much as in previous years due to the situation with COVID-19. We feel with that our scouts are some of the best in the league. We feel the players we scout are very good selections and are assets to our organization. Right about now I always talk to (Chief Amateur Scout) Trent (Mann) about the Draft. He’s always got a handle on what’s going on this year, next year, three years from now – he feels the 2022 Draft will be a very strong Draft top to bottom, lots of depth. So I’m acquiring those picks. Also we can always use those picks next year if we feel that we’re missing a piece to be a better team. And the 2023 Draft looks like a good one too, so we’re just adding a pick in that situation.”
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4. Re-acquired February 13 from the Hurricanes, Ryan Dzingel hasn’t missed a beat. The Chicago area native has potted six goals, two assists in 17 games in his second stint with the Senators. His eight goals in 28 games total already equals his output in 64 games from his previous campaign with Carolina. Since returning to Canada’s Capital, has expressed his desire to remain in the city.
Full Press NHL asked the Senator’s GM if would behoove the club to retain the speedy forward, “Ryan has been a great edition to our team. He’s comfortable in Ottawa. He likes Ottawa. When I told him that he was not going to be traded today, I think you saw some relief. I think there’s something to be said for players that want to be in Ottawa and have success in Ottawa. At a certain point in time, I’m sure we’ll sit down with his representatives.”
5. One player that teams may have kicked tires on was Belleville centre, Logan Brown. The six-foot-six Brown last played March 6 due to a back injury, and has played only five American League games this season.
Often-injured, Brown is yet to skate in a full season at any level since being selected 11th overall in the 2016 Entry Draft. Dorion himself steered the topic of Brown when asked the question in a TSN1200 radio interview Monday afternoon.
The GM spun the question into a glowing review of another youngster, 21-year old Angus Crookshank who after signing an entry-level contract upon leaving the University of New Hampshire, has six points (one goal, five assists) in his first five games played on an amateur try-out with the BSens.
“I’m not exactly sure. I was told last Wednesday that he was going to play. It looked like he was going to play. But when we talk about the BSens, I have to talk about one guy – at the start of the year, I think I spoke about (Egor) Sokolov – how he impressed me at camp – Angus Crookshank is a guy who’s going about it the right way. As soon as we talked about getting in bonus games this year for his progression to get the NHL as quickest as possible, he was ready. He did a 14-day quarantine because of the rules. He put the time in. Sometimes you always talk about the higher-end prospects and the first rounders and the guys who always get all the attention, but I’ve really been impressed with my discussions with him. We have someone who’ll be in the NHL in future with Angus Crookshank.”