Under Pressure: Pierre Dorion

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Ottawa Senators.

There aren’t many teams in a more difficult spot heading into the 2018-19 season than they Ottawa Senators. Not only were they one of the worst teams in the NHL last season, they also have this whole Erik Karlsson trade thing they have to deal with.

Karlsson is entering the final year of his contract, and it doesn’t sound like the relationship between player and team will continue beyond this upcoming season. Naturally, general manager Pierre Dorion, who submitted an offer to his franchise defenseman this summer, will have the unenviable task of trying to bring him back or he’ll have to land the best possible return for the Swede.

Making a trade won’t be easy. As we mentioned, Karlsson has one year left on his contract, which definitely brings down his value. Maybe they get a better return if the allow a team to negotiate an extension with him ahead of time, but those kinds of things don’t usually happen for in-season deals. That means that Dorion has to pull the trigger quickly, too. Yikes. That’s not an ideal situation for the Sens GM to be in.

To make things even more complicated, many reports have suggested that owner Eugene Melnyk wants any team trading for Karlsson to also take on Bobby Ryan‘s massive contract, which has four years remaining with a cap hit of $7.25 million. Again, that’s another thing that could hamper Karlsson’s trade value.

In the end, no matter what they get back for Karlsson, there’s no way the Senators will be a better team after that trade is completed. How do you replace a defenseman that has scored 74, 66, 82, 71 and 62 points over the last five seasons? Easy, you don’t.

It’s a lose-lose situation for Dorion.

[2017-18 review | Breakthrough: Thomas Chabot | Three Questions]

As if finding a solution to this Karlsson situation wasn’t difficult enough, he’ll also have to work out contract extensions with pending unrestricted free agents Mark Stone and Matt Duchene.

Stone and the organization avoided salary arbitration at the last minute by agreeing to a one-year, $7.35 million. You’d have to believe that another strong season from the winger would mean that he’d get a long-term extension for significant dollars.

The 26-year-old has found the back of the net between 20 and 26 times over his first four seasons in the NHL and he’s managed to surpass the 60-point mark in three of those years.

Dorion also made a bold move when he traded for Duchene during the 2017-18 campaign. Unfortunately for the Sens, that didn’t end up working out the way they had hoped. Colorado got better after the deal, Ottawa fell apart.

Duchene still managed to put up a respectable 49 points in 68 games as a Senator, but how will he feel about being part of another rebuild? One of the reasons he wanted out of Colorado was because he was tired of losing. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s willing to commit to this organization long term.

Somehow, Dorion will have to convince Stone and Duchene that staying with the Senators is the best move for each players’ career. That’ll be easier said than done, especially if Melnyk refuses to fork out the money necessary to keep them in the fold.

Even though Ottawa has some young talent coming through their pipeline, no team can survive if they lose Karlsson, Duchene and Stone, even if they get a respectable return in a trade.

Oh, and by the way, Dorion will have to make all this work without his first-round draft pick at his disposal.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.