Welcome to Oilersnation’s Deadline Targets series. Over the next few weeks heading into the trade deadline, I’ll be walking through the teams expected to unload at the deadline and the players who could be fits on the Oilers for their playoff push. Today, we have the Ottawa Senators.
Given the amount of parity in the NHL, it’s difficult to say which teams will be selling or buying until right before the trade deadline. One team we’ve all known is going to be in the selling category since before the season even began is the Ottawa Senators.
The Sens have been tearing down over the past couple of years and are in a full-on tank for Alexis Lafreniere, who would be a massive addition to their strong core of young players and prospects. They currently sit in a tie for second-last in the league and a deadline blow-up will help them increase their lottery odds and add even more depth to their farm system.
The interesting thing about the Sens is they feature a wealth of not just rental options who could help the Oilers, but longer-term players who could play a role on this team beyond this season. Very few players on this roster are untouchable right now, so there are plenty of options to target.
We’ll go through the rentals first.
The biggest name the Sens have to offer is Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who’s set to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career this summer. Pageau really is a perfect fit for the Oilers. He’s a defensively-responsible centre who can also chip in offensively with a history of scoring clutch goals in the playoffs.
Pageau is having the best season of his career this year. He has 19 goals, which is already tied for a career-high, and 30 points in 43 games, and he’s got a +14 rating despite the team having a -31 goal differential. With Taylor Hall already off the market, I think Pageau is the best name out there. Acquiring him isn’t going to come cheap.
Ottawa’s other two rental players who would come at a much cheaper cost are Tyler Ennis and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Namestnikov was acquired by the Sens back in October as a cap dump from the New York Rangers. The plan here always seemed to be a pump and dump, as Namestnikov was a struggling impending UFA who could play a bigger role on the Sens and net Ottawa something at the deadline. He has eight goals and 18 points in 38 games so far and has the added value of playing all three forward positions.
Ennis was signed as a free agent over the summer after resurrecting his career in Toronto. He scored 12 goals in 51 games in an injury-shortened season with the Leafs and has 11 goals in 43 games playing in a much bigger role with the Sens. The Edmonton native can play up and down the lineup and brings quite a bit of energy to the table. Like Namestnikov, he would be a much cheaper addition than Pageau.
With Ken Holland at the helm, we know that the Oilers will be skeptical of using draft picks and prospects to acquire rental players. Thankfully, Ottawa boasts a wealth of longer-term options who could help the Oilers this year and beyond.
At the top of that list is Anthony Duclair. Despite being kind of a throw-in in last year’s trade that sent Ryan Dzingel to the Blue Jackets, Duclair scored eight goals down the stretch for the Sens and earned himself another contract in Ottawa. This year, he’s already hit a new career-high with 21 goals and is finally looking like the star power forward who broke into the league with a 20-goal rookie season in Arizona five years ago.
Duclair, who turns 25 years old in August, will be an RFA this summer and has one more year left of control before he can hit the open market. It’ll be interesting to see if Ottawa decides to cash-in on his breakout season or if they decide to ink him to a long-term deal. He would be a great addition to Edmonton’s top-six.
There’s also impending-RFAs Chris Tierney and Connor Brown who would be nice fits on the Oilers roster this year and beyond.
Tierney was one of the players who came back to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade. In San Jose, Tierney established himself as a reliable middle-six centre who could play in the defensive zone while also chipping in a bit offensively. Like Duclair, he has one more year of team control before he can hit unrestricted free agency.
Brown makes all kinds of sense given the fact he was Connor McDavid’s teammate back in Junior with the Erie Otters. Brown was shipped to Ottawa from the Leafs in a mid-summer salary cap dump and is on pace to shatter his career in points playing in a larger role with the Sens. He’s a consistent depth winger who can score and play a gritty, two-way game and could possibly rekindle chemistry with McDavid in Edmonton’s top-six.
The Oilers have two glaring needs: a third-line centre and a top-six winger. Both of these needs can be filled in one swoop by getting in on Ottawa’s fire sale. Getting J.G. Pageau might be a pipedream as Holland stays clear of pricey rentals, but adding any of Anthony Duclair, Chris Tierney, or Connor Brown would make the Oilers a better team this year and next.