Thoughts Post-Deadline and Post-Melnyk

I started writing this a week ago after the trade deadline, but the news of Eugene Melnyk’s unexpected passing has pushed me to complete it. My only interest in commenting on him here is wondering what this means for the future–will the family take over the team, or will the NHL manage as it seeks a new owner? I think even if the team remains in the family, Pierre Dorion’s days as GM are nearing an end–whatever one thinks of Dorion, a new person will want to inject ‘their guy’ in charge of the operation. Time will tell, but if I was going to guess Dorion will manage the draft and off-season, but 2022-23 will be his last as Ottawa’s GM.

Here are my scattered thoughts on the Sens with another season down the drain. Let’s state the obvious: this team was always going to sit near the bottom of the league (cf and cf). And now, trade deadline stuff:
—I’m happy the team got rid of Josh Brown. As per usual they overpaid for him in the first place and he failed to pan out, but at least they moved him.
—I’m also happy with moving Nick Paul, if for different reasons. He’s always been a nice enough support player, but the team needed him to do too much and, at 27, he is what he is (I’d rather have him off the books to make space for someone else).
—Is the ‘someone else’ Mathieu Joesph? I have my doubts, but it’s less of a risk and commitment (RFA) should they keep him (and at least they got a pick with him, even if it will be a 4th in 2024).
—Getting rid of Zach Sanford also made sense–an unimpressive veteran they weren’t going to keep.
—I don’t think much of Zach Senyshyn or Michael McNiven, but there’s no commitment to either and I assume they will be out the door at the end of the season.
—The big move is overpaying for Travis Hamonic. This is a classic Pierre Dorion trade–pick up a declining, gritty veteran that no one else wants. What I think this means is they’ve realized they have to move or buy out Nikita Zaitsev and I suspect that’s truly who Hamonic is replacing. In that sense, he is both cheaper and an improvement, but whether Melnyk’s successor will eat the former’s salary remains to be seen. I think the Pierre’s are also realizing Jacob Bernard-Docker won’t be ready next year and that Lassi Thomson (if he’s ready) will have to be protected stepping in.
—What does re-signing Anton Forsberg mean (and three years)? Either that they are giving up on Matt Murray (a very expensive idea, but sensible), or more likely Filip Gustavsson. Gus, who has slipped back to his expected erratic performance, I think has been put on the funeral pyre for the more reliable Mads Sogaard and the team will simply wait out Murray‘s contract for him.

To move beyond the trade deadline, the continued inability to assess talent remains front and center. Let’s note that Victor Mete hasn’t performed as advertised and Michael Del Zotto is a problem they seem unable to figure out. Adding marginal players like Gaudette and Gambrel, scrambling to get rid of Colin White (someone I predicted would cause them issues years ago), being unable to move Chris Tierney–it’s the flailing of a man in Pierre Dorion who thinks he knows what he’s doing, but spends most of his time trying to put out the fires he started. Who could have guessed these moves wouldn’t turn out? As it happens, virtually everyone. Speaking of Dorion….

Let’s quickly review his asset management post-2021 draft. We’ll start with draft pick management:
2022 3rd Vancouver (Dadonov trade, subsequently moved back to Vancouver in the Hamonic trade)
2022 5th Boston (Josh Brown trade)
2022 5th Winnipeg (Zack Sanford trade)
2024 4th Tampa (Nick Paul trade)
2022 3rd Vancouver (Hamonic trade)
2022 4th Ottawa (Logan Brown trade)
2022 7th San Jose (Gambrell trade)

The net result is the Sens gave up higher assets than they received (3rd, 4th, and a 7th vs a future 4th and two 5ths).

Bodies in/out:
Nick Holden (Vegas)
Zack Sanford (St. Louis–subsequently traded to Winnipeg)
Adam Gaudette (Chicago–waivers)
Dylan Gambrell (San Jose)
Travis Hamonic (Vancouver)
Mathieu Joseph (Tampa)
Evgeni Dadonov (Vegas)
Logan Brown (St. Louis)
Kole Sherwood (Nashville)
Nick Paul (Tampa)
Josh Brown (Boston)
Zack Sanford (Winnipeg)

The Sanford rental is a failure and the Sens ultimately turned Logan Brown into a 5th-round pick (not good asset management for your former first-rounder). Josh Brown and Kole Sherwood were problems they imposed on themselves, although collectively getting a 5th for them is probably the best one could do. What really stands out is how marginal all the assets involved here are–with the exception of the outgoing Dadonov, these are all bottom-nine forwards and depth defensemen (although admittedly the Pierre’s likely believe Hamonic is a top-four).

There’s nothing in terms of players or picks that are going to solve Ottawa’s problems going forward, meaning an entire season’s worth of work hasn’t changed the Sens dependence on the draft. Instead, all of these moves are fires Dorion is trying to put out–Dadonov’s salary, Logan Brown wants out, Sherwood didn’t pan out, Paul can’t be resigned, Josh Brown didn’t pan out, and Sanford won’t resign. There’s nothing here that’s a straight hockey trade to improve the team. None of this is a surprise to those of us who have followed Dorion over the years, but maybe (just maybe) the fanbase has finally caught on.

I have thoughts on how Belleville has performed as well as the various prospects in the system, but I’d rather get this out now and wait for the AHL season to end before doing that. Any thoughts, corrections, and comments are welcome.

This article was written by Peter Levi