February 21, 2018 | 11:50pm ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period



TORONTO, ON -- By now, I’m sure you’ve read the multiple articles out there on Erik Karlsson’s cloudy future with the Ottawa Senators. Surprised? A little? You can be sure the fans in Ottawa are absolutely loving every minute of all this. (Borat voice:) NAWT!

The writing almost seemed to be on the wall earlier this month when the Senators, in the evening on Feb. 9, announced a three-year extension for GM Pierre Dorion. There were a number of takeaways from that press release announcement that caught some attention:

  • First, the release was sent out on a Friday evening. That’s usually reserved for bad news.
  • This quote from owner Eugene Melnyk, broken up with brief, expert commentary:
    “Today's announcement reflects a renewed commitment to scouting, drafting and development.” (Oh, okay, well that’s good)
    It may require changes to our lineup. (Wait, what?)
    Rest assured, (REST ASSURED, he says) 
    we will only tolerate pain with an endgame in mind: building an organization that wins - at all levels - year in and year out.” (This could be painful)
  • Oh, by the way, Tom Anselmi is out as President and CEO. I’m sorry, wanna repeat that? Suddenly, the Friday evening announcement makes more sense.

Anselmi leaving has just about been swept under the rug, so I supposed that part of the goal was achieved. You see, Anselmi was out prior to Feb. 9, but after some in the media started poking around, and rightfully so, earlier in the day about those whispers, the team decided to tuck it away in Dorion’s extension release – they supposedly weren’t planning on announcing his new deal that day, but at this point, and for the purpose of the rest of this article, who cares?

The Sens, in New York Rangers fashion from the day prior, let it be known “changes” were on the way. How big? Well, it turns out the whole team could be overhauled, at this point.

A year after making the Eastern Conference Final – some close to the team believe Melnyk pressured Dorion into doing whatever it took to make the playoffs; had he not, it would have cost him his job – the Senators are pulling a 180 and are open for business. If the right deal presents itself, just about anybody can be dealt.

Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson are now in Los Angeles, saving the Senators over $5 million in real dollars. Buying out Marian Gaborik this summer will save them another $3.6 million, if they go down that road, like many expect them to.

For a franchise and an owner in need of saving some green, that trade made sense. But what about the other ones?

Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Zack Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ryan Dzingel, Bobby Ryan and Johnny Oduya are all being talked about. Cody Ceci’s name has been out there, too, but he’s not going anywhere until Karlsson’s picture becomes clearer. Craig Anderson’s name was quietly circulating, too. There aren’t too many safe bodies in Ottawa, and that has most of the players on edge.

If you’re a ticked off fan, imagine how the players actually on the team are feeling. The uncertainty surrounding the guys who put on the jerseys is painful. The players aren’t too happy, and who can blame them.

The only silver lining is Dorion doesn’t have a mandate to give these players away. Do the Senators want to save a few extra bucks? Certainly. But most of these potential, upcoming trades are going to fall under the “hockey trade” category, even if some are dealt for prospects and draft picks.

Which brings us to Karlsson.

The return on Karlsson is going to be huge. If he’s dealt by Monday’s 3pm ET deadline, it’s going to be for a very large ransom. A top defensive prospect, a top forward prospect, a young NHL player, a first-round draft pick, and another asset. Perhaps more, or the equivalent load based on how good the players/prospects coming back actually are. If a team – like the Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning or Philadelphia Flyers – wants at least two playoff runs with Karlsson on their blueline, they’re going to have to pay up.

But you know what? If a team wants one playoff run with Karlsson back there, they’re going to have to pay up this summer, too.

I’m with the majority. I don’t anticipate a team forking over enough, right now, to make the Senators pull the trigger on a deal this month. That certainly doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and if it does, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But I suspect a trade is better suited for the off-season.

Moving Karlsson signals a full rebuild. Even with Matt Duchene, whom the club will try to sign to an extension, Mark Stone and Ceci leading the charge, plus whomever isn’t shipped out of town, dealing away your captain and arguably one of the top-five players in the entire NHL is a pretty big giveaway that you’re not retooling, like your roster, on paper, might suggest is the better approach.

These next five days are going to take even longer for the players in Ottawa’s dressing room. Some fans may share that same timeline. But that nervousness will return in June around the NHL Draft when Dorion finishes up what he’s started this month. 

Come July 3rd, by all accounts, we’ll have a pretty good idea what the makeup of the Senators will be for the 2018-19 campaign and how different they actually look. One unexpected factor could change it all up, though, and that’s the NHL Draft Lottery. Winning that thing can expedite the process. Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.


They’ve got the salary cap space. They’ve got the young talent. They’ve got the draft picks. The Winnipeg Jets have all the tools necessary for adding one or two significant pieces by next week’s trade deadline. Whether they agree to making such a move remains to be seen.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would like to better his team’s chances at the division title and making a run for the Stanley Cup, but it’ll all come down to what price he’s willing to pay.

The Jets have interest in Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Grabner of the New York Rangers. They certainly won’t be dealing for all three of them, and two might be a stretch, but the Jets definitely have the pieces Rangers GM Jeff Gorton is looking for, for any of those players.

Winnipeg’s time might be now. The window is finally opening and an already deep team can get even better by Monday late-afternoon. 

Cheveldayoff and his staff have done a tremendous job stockpiling quality prospects and young NHLers over the years. With so many at the NHL level and more on the horizon, the Jets can afford to take a chance and move some of them for an impact player over the next few days. 

I’m not overly convinced the Jets are willing to make a big splash in the rental market, though they may dabble. The sense I’ve gotten, thus far, is the team prefers to add a player with term on his contract.

That could mean ponying up for McDonagh or paying the big asking price for Montreal’s Max Pacioretty or Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman. It’s not exactly Cheveldayoff’s style, but when he goes big, he goes big.


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period.
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