Mike Reilly

Biggest surprises, disappointments for 2019-20 Senators

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Ottawa Senators.

Sharks’ staggering disappointments become big, positive surprises for Senators

The fallout of the Erik Karlsson trade remains hard to believe.

Sure, many of us expected the Sharks to eventually suffer with an aging group starring Karlsson and Brent Burns. But for that to happen in such a dramatic way in 2019-20? Few of us saw that coming.

So, remarkably, the Senators have almost as good of a chance to find the next face of their franchise with the Sharks’ 2020 first-round pick as Ottawa does with its own selection. Pretty mind-blowing stuff.

Senators resist the urge to buy high — so far

There were real fears that the Senators wouldn’t be able to resist the siren call with Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s explosive contract year.

We see it plenty of times in the NHL. Whether it’s a contender or a team just trying to save face, a GM gets convinced to ignore red flags and sign a cap-clogging contract extension. Luckily, the Senators shook off such self-destructive instincts.

Now, one can wonder how much the Pageau trade has to do with, erm, “budgetary constraints.” But the result is what matters. Instead of possibly paying a good player too much money — one who, at 27, might be in decline by the time the Senators really can compete — Ottawa landed a bushel of quality picks from the Islanders.

Disappointments around the margins by Senators management

Trading away Pageau was a pretty progressive move, but beyond that, I wonder if GM Pierre Dorion left opportunities on the table.

Look, Anthony Duclair ended up being a great story this season, making an All-Star appearance. As someone who believed that Duclair could be a helpful player for some NHL team, it was nice to see that play out.

Frankly, I believe the Senators would have been wiser to try to sell high with a Duclair trade much like they did with Pageau. Sure, savvy teams likely saw through Duclair’s strong offensive numbers and noted that his defensive shortcomings push him closer to neutral …

Senators disappointments surprises GAR
Visualization by Charting Hockey; data via Evolving Hockey

… but someone probably would have coughed up a decent set of assets for a speedy, 24-year-old winger with just a $1.65M cap hit. Right?

Such moves aren’t the end of the world, especially if the Senators don’t go too wild with Duclair’s next contract. Making bigger calls with Karlsson and Pageau move the needle much more.

I do wonder if the Senators missed out on the margins, though, and have for a while.

Selling Tyler Ennis, Vladislav Namestnikov, and to a lesser extent Dylan DeMelo is pretty smart. Most of those assets merely making up for acquiring Namestnikov and Mike Reilly? A little bit curious for a team that’s in an obvious rebuild.

Ottawa’s season wasn’t pretty, but wasn’t the disaster many expected

Yes, the Senators ended up almost where we expected: near the bottom. Maybe credit first-year head coach D.J. Smith for keeping them hungry.

The “could have been worse” theme continues because, unlike some other teams that avoided total humiliation, the Senators didn’t ride on sheer luck. Their goalies were a bit below average, as was their shooting luck. Ottawa’s special teams were putrid, likely the most obvious sign of a glaring lack of talent.

Senators surprises disappointments xG
Visualization by Charting Hockey; data via Evolving Hockey

Falling a bit below average by various metrics? Not so bad.

No doubt about it, you’re grading on a curve when it comes to the Senators. When you adjust your expectations, you’d say Ottawa passed many of its tests. The question is, can the Senators graduate from the more remedial parts of this rebuild, or are these small surprises setting the stage for devastating disappointments?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Looking at the 2019-20 Ottawa Senators

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the 2019-20 Ottawa Senators.

2019-20 Ottawa Senators

Record: 25-34-12 (62 points in 71 games), second-worst in the East and in the NHL.
Leading Scorer: Brady Tkachuk – 44 points (21 goals and 23 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

Season Overview

Heading into 2019-20, the question wasn’t if the Senators would be good or bad. It was how bad? Would the season be an eternal slog mixed with more groan-worthy headlines regarding owner Eugene Melnyk?

The answers: pretty bad, but maybe could have been worse, and … sure, there were bad Melnyk moments, yet 2019-20 wasn’t as drama-loaded as previous seasons.

Instead of the Senators being the kings of the cellar, the Red Wings were the ones who stunk up the joint quite royally. Sure, Ottawa sits second-worst in both the East and the NHL. They still showed some fight here and there, as the Sharks (63 points in 70 games) and Kings (64 in 70) weren’t that far ahead of the Sens.

Maybe most importantly, they didn’t overreact to, say, Jean-Gabriel Pageau playing over his head. As much as trading Pageau might have stung, Ottawa made the right decision.

With the Senators, you can’t always assume that they’ll make the correct judgments. As a franchise-altering 2020 NHL Draft looms, they’ll need to pair wise choices with lottery luck to make the light at the end of the tunnel shine brighter.

Highlight of the Season for 2019-20 Senators

Let’s be honest. It’s probably that the Sharks ended up almost as bad as the Senators.

It’s not yet clear how the 2020 NHL Draft’s lottery will work, but under the old parameters, the Senators hold the second and third-highest odds to land the top pick. Both of those picks have more than one-in-three odds of at least landing in the top three, according to Tankathon.

So, yeah, the biggest highlight or lowlight will probably boil down to whether or not Senators fans see their team’s logo on those prime real estate picks. That doesn’t mean that it’s a disaster if they don’t get the chance to pick Alexis Lafreniere, but the future would look far more promising if they did.

For a more immediate highlight, you won’t beat Bobby Ryan netting a hat trick in his return from dealing with alcohol issues.

MORE ON THE SENATORS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Looking at the 2019-20 Montreal Canadiens

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the 2019-20 Montreal Canadiens.

2019-20 Montreal Canadiens

Record: 31-31-9 (71 points in 71 games), fifth in the Atlantic Division, 12th in East
Leading Scorer: Tomas Tatar – 61 points (22 goals and 39 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

Season Overview

It’s tempting to summarize the Habs’ last two seasons by making a parallel with Max Domi‘s past two years.

Heading into 2018-19, people mocked Domi for his previous season’s goals total (nine) following the Alex Galchenyuk trade. They made fun of Marc Bergevin as his moves looked, at that moment, quite regrettable. Then Domi and the Canadiens played really well, and almost made the playoffs.

Of course, almost everything went right for Domi (easily career-highs in goals [28] and points [72]) and the Canadiens in 2018-19 … yet they didn’t make the playoffs.

Both Domi and the Habs performed reasonably well in 2019-20, but they also cooled off. Domi was fine, really (17 goals, 44 points falling in line with the strong start to his Coyotes career), yet people were likely let down after he set expectations higher.

Naturally, boiling things down to a Domi comparison simplifies things too much.

Really, if you’re going to gripe about any top Habs player, it might be Carey Price — or more accurately, the goaltending overall. Or maybe luck?

The Canadiens looked strong by just about every five-on-five measure, from sheer shot shares to controlling high-danger chances. They simply couldn’t finish (8.6 shooting percentage), get enough saves (.900 save percentage as a team), and continued to struggle on the power play (17.74 percent success rate).

This all leaves the Canadiens in a strange place. Bergevin isn’t quite as worthy of ridicule as before — even the Shea Weber/P.K. Subban trade looked better with time — but he also couldn’t capitalize on Price’s prime.

Now what? The Habs haven’t been tanking, making their long-term future look good (thanks to some smart picks and maneuvering) but maybe not great. In the short term, any path to postseasons seems bumpy as long as the Bruins, Lightning, and Maple Leafs already seem primed to hog the Atlantic’s top three spots most years.

(Honestly? As often as the Panthers shoot themselves in the foot, many would still take their foundation over Montreal’s thanks to Florida’s value-heavy, impressive forward group.)

Highlight of the Season for 2019-20 Canadiens

Is it too crass to argue that it was Bergevin turning a fourth-rounder into a second-rounder and conditional fourth-rounder via the Scandella trades?

Maybe zoom out and ponder the bucket of picks Montreal landed by moving out inessential parts in Cousins, Thompson, Reilly, and Kovalchuk? There was a lot of “something from nothing” in Bergevin’s work once it was clearer that Montreal’s 2019-20 ceiling was fairly low. Cap Friendly’s chart of Canadiens picks tells the story of a team that landed a lot of volume:

2019-20 Canadiens draft picks and beyond

Sure, you could argue that the Canadiens lack the “premium” picks of, say, their division rivals in Ottawa. But such a bulk of picks opens up options for Bergevin. He can try to trade up, or maybe shake loose some talent by moving his picks for roster players.

For all we know, not trading Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry could end up being a highlight, too.

If you want a more hockey-related highlight, try the Canadiens’ early-season run.

After starting 1-1-2, the Canadiens rumbled their way to an 11-5-3 record by mid-November. Unfortunately for the Habs, it was not a sign of a larger rise, as they entered the pause at 31-31-9.

MORE ON THE CANADIENS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

The Pro Hockey Talk 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for all completed deals. The 2020 NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.

NHL Trade Deadline candidates
Non-UFAs who could move
Teams that need to be most active at trade deadline
• Trade Deadline live blog

Feb. 24, 2020
San Jose Sharks: Brandon Davidson
Calgary Flames: Future consideration

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Joel Persson
Edmonton Oilers: 2022 conditional seventh-round pick, Angus Redmond

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Christian Djoos
Washington Capitals: Daniel Sprong

Feb. 24, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Lorito
New York Islanders: Jordan Schmaltz

Feb. 24, 2020
Philadelphia Flyers: Nathan Noel
Chicago Blackhawks: T.J. Brennan

Feb. 24, 2020
Columbus Blue Jackets: Conditional 2020 seventh-round pick ( If Hannikainen plays 10 games for Coyotes the rest of this season, Columbus will receive the pick.)
Arizona Coyotes: Markus Hannikainen

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Matt Irwin, 2022 sixth-round pick
Nashville Predators: Korbianian Holzer

Feb. 24, 2020
Vegas Golden Knights: Nick Cousins
Montreal Canadiens: 2021 fourth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Brady Skjei
New York Rangers: 2020 first-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020
San Jose Sharks: 2020 first-round pick, Anthony Greco
Tampa Bay Lightning: Barclay Goodrow, 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020
Vancouver Canucks: Louis Domingue
New Jersey Devils: Zane McIntyre

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Vegas Golden Knights: Robin Lehner, Martins Dzierkals (Vegas retains 22% of Lehner’s salary)
Chicago Blackhawks: Malcolm Subban, Slava Demin
Toronto Maple Leafs: 2020 fifth-round pick (Maple Leafs retain 50% of Lehner’s salary)

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Sonny Milano
Columbus Blue Jackets: Devin Shore

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Sami Vatanen
New Jersey Devils: Fredrik Claesson, Janne Kuokkanen, 2020 conditional fourth round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Dominik Kahun
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evan Rodrigues, Conor Sheary

Feb. 24, 2020
Dallas Stars: 2020 sixth-round pick
Florida Panthers: Emil Djuse

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Calgary Flames: Erik Gustafsson
Chicago Blackhawks: 2020 conditional third-round pick (Chicago will receive the earlier of Calgary’s two third-round picks in 2020.)

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Tyler Ennis
Ottawa Senators: 2021 fifth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Calgary Flames: Derek Forbort (Kings retain 25% of Forbort’s salary)
Los Angeles Kings: 2021 conditional fourth-round pick (If Flames make Western Conference Final and Forbort plays half the games or if they re-sign Forbort, it becomes a 2022 third rounder.)

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Detroit Red Wings: 2020 and 2021 second-round picks, Sam Gagner
Edmonton Oilers: Andreas Athanasiou, Ryan Kuffner (Oilers retain 10% of Gagner’s salary.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 seventh-round pick, Aaron Luchuk
Ottawa Senators: Matthew Peca

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Danton Heinen
Boston Bruins: Nick Ritchie

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: Conditional 2021 fifth-round pick (Turns into a fourth if Sabres make the playoffs and Simmonds plays 10 games)
Buffalo Sabres: Wayne Simmonds (Devils retain 50% of Simmonds’ salary.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Kyle Criscuolo, 2020 fourth-round pick
Philadelphia Flyers: Derek Grant

Feb. 24, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Calle Rosen
Colorado Avalanche: Michael Hutchinson

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Patrick Marleau
San Jose Sharks: 2020 conditional third-round pick (Pick becomes a second if Penguins win the Cup.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Philadelphia Flyers: Nate Thompson
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 fifth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Vincent Trocheck
Florida Panthers: Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie, Eetu Luostarinen

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Ottawa Senators: Conditional 2020 first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2022 third-round pick. (If the 2020 first-rounder is top three, it moves to 2021. Ottawa only receives the 2022 pick if the Islanders win the 2020 Stanley Cup.)
New York Islanders: Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Ottawa Senators: 2021 fourth-round pick
Colorado Avalanche: Vladislav Namestnikov

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Mike Green (Red Wings retain 50% of Green’s salary)
Detroit Red Wings: Kyle Brodziak, 2020 or 2021 conditional pick (Detroit gets a fourth-round pick in 2020. It turns into a third-rounder in 2021 if Edmonton reaches Western Conference Final, and he plays in half of their games.)

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Washington Capitals: Ilya Kovalchuk (Canadiens retain 50% of Kovalchuk’s salary)
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Mike Green (Red Wings retain 50% of Kovalchuk’s salary)
Detroit Red Wings: 2020 or 2021 conditional fourth-round pick

Feb. 22, 2020
Nashville Predators: Ben Harpur
Toronto Maple Leafs: Miikka Salomaki

Feb. 21, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Winnipeg Jets: Cody Eakin
Vegas Golden Knights: Conditional 2021 fourth-round pick (becomes third-rounder if Eakin re-signs or Jets make playoffs)

Feb. 21, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Anaheim Ducks: Axel Andersson, David Backes (Bruins retain 25% of Backes’ salary)
Boston Bruins: Ondrej Kase, 2020 first-round pick

Feb. 20, 2020
Florida Panthers: Danick Martel
Tampa Bay Lightning: Anthony Greco

Feb. 20, 2020
Pittsburgh Penguins: Riley Barber, Phil Varone
Montreal Canadiens: Joseph Blandisi, Jake Lucchini

Feb. 19, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Max Veronneau
Ottawa Senators: Aaron Luchuk, conditional 2021 sixth-round pick

Feb. 19, 2020
New York Rangers: Jean-Francois Berube
Philadelphia Flyers: future considerations

Feb. 19, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Los Angeles Kings: 2020 second-round pick, 2021 second-round pick
Vegas Golden Knights: Alec Martinez

Feb. 19, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Denis Malgin
Florida Panthers: Mason Marchment

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Washington Capitals: Brenden Dillon (Sharks retain 50% of Dillon’s salary)
San Jose Sharks: 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2021 third-round pick

Feb. 18, 2020
New York Rangers: Julien Gauthier
Carolina Hurricanes: Joey Keane

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
St. Louis Blues: Marco Scandella
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2021 fourth-round pick

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Winnipeg Jets: Dylan DeMelo
Ottawa Senators: 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 17, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Los Angeles Kings: Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, 2020 second-round pick, 2022 conditional fourth-round pick (if Toffoli re-signs)
Vancouver Canucks: Tyler Toffoli

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2020 first-round pick, Nolan Foote
Tampa Bay Lightning: Blake Coleman

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2021 second-round pick, David Quenneville
New York Islanders: Andy Greene

Feb. 10, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild: Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, conditional 2020 or 2021 first-round pick

Feb. 5, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Toronto Maple Leafs
: Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Moore, 2020 third-round pick, conditional third-round pick in 2021

Jan. 17, 2020
Dallas Stars:
Oula Palve
Pittsburgh Penguins: 
John Nyberg

Jan. 7, 2020
Nashville Predators: Michael McCarron
Montreal Canadiens: Laurent Dauphin

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Michael Frolik
Calgary Flames: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Montreal Canadiens: Marco Scandella
Buffalo Sabres: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020
Ottawa Senators: Mike Reilly
Montreal Canadiens: Andrew Sturtz, 2021 fifth-round pick

Sabres trade Scandella to Canadiens, acquire Frolik from Flames

Sabres
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The Buffalo Sabres have had a logjam on their blue line all season and it has long been assumed they would deal from that depth to try and address their forward situation.

They finally did that on Thursday night in two separate deals.

First, they sent defenseman Marco Scandella to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. That pick originally belonged to the San Jose Sharks.

They followed that deal by trading that same fourth-round pick to the Calgary Flames for forward Michael Frolik.

Let’s break all of this down team-by-team.

The Canadiens side

This is a pretty easy one to figure out. Scandella is a pretty significant upgrade to their top-six on defense and it cost them next to nothing to get him. Even after trading a fourth-round pick to Buffalo for him they still have 11 picks in the 2020 class including three in the fourth-round alone. They had the picks to spare, and Scandella, 29, should be a nice addition. He has three goals and six assists in 31 games this season and was one of Buffalo’s best players when it came to driving possession. His 52.8 Corsi mark was second-best on the team and tops among the team’s defenders. He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.

The Canadiens made another smaller move on Thursday, trading defenseman Mike Reilly to the Ottawa Senators for forward Andrew Sturtz and a 2021 fifth-round draft pick.

The Sabres side

The Scandella trade seemed a little weird at first glance. Yes, they needed to move a defenseman, and given his contract Scandella seemed to be a likely candidate. But trading him for a fourth-round pick this far ahead of the trade deadline seemed premature.

There had to be a corresponding move coming for it to make sense. That is where Frolik comes in. And once the dust settled they essentially traded Scandella for Frolik, which seems about right. Both players are unrestricted free agents after the season, the Sabres had too many defenders, and they badly needed help at forward, especially with Jeff Skinner sidelined.

Frolik is having a down year offensively (just five goals and five assists in 38 games), but he has been a safe bet for around 15 goals, 30 points, and great possession numbers throughout his career. There is a chance he can help them more than Scandella could in the short-term. Will that be enough to stop their slide and get back into a playoff spot? That remains to be seen.

The Flames side

The name of the game here is simply dumping salary and clearing salary cap space. They had been shopping Frolik for a while now and it was only a matter of time until they moved him. By doing so they shed some valuable salary cap space that could enable to make a more significant addition before the trade deadline. The trade also gives them a fourth-round pick, something they had been lacking. They now have seven draft picks this year.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.