Don’t be fooled by the Ottawa Senators’ quiet trade deadline day.
You could say their hockey operations staff earned it after all the heavy lifting leading up to it.
The Senators made their splash on Wednesday, acquiring top-four defenceman Jakob Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes for three draft picks.
If that bold move was a statement to the dressing room by general manager Pierre Dorion, so was Friday’s quiet deadline day. In the first instance, Dorion was saying the team earned an upgrade on the blueline. In the second, Dorion was conceding that the group was playing so well he didn’t want to mess with a good thing.
Dorion did make one minor move, adding depth forward Patrick Brown from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. Brown, 30, a pending unrestricted free agent, has two goals and five assists with 17 penalty minutes this season. Also of note - Brown has an impressive faceoff winning percentage of 53.8.
A colourful personal item: Brown’s late grandfather, Wellington Mara, was the longtime owner of the NFL New York Giants until his death in 2005. Patrick’s father, Doug Brown, won two Stanley Cups with Detroit in 1997 and 1998, making Patrick Brown the latest in a long list of Senators players with pro bloodlines.
“Our goal today was to add depth down the middle, a depth forward,” Dorion said. “Someone who could play a penalty killing role or character role.
“He’s someone we know will fit in with our dressing room well. He’s a high-character individual. And he got some playoff experience a few years ago with Vegas.”
Brown scored three goals for the Knights in 14 playoff games in 2020 and 2021.
And that was it for Senators' moves on the day.
The Senators did have unrestricted free agents they could have moved for draft picks, from goaltender Cam Talbot to defencemen Travis Hamonic or Nick Holden to forwards Derick Brassard and Austin Watson. But with all of them contributing to Ottawa’s recent four-game winning streak, which has the Sens in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild-card race, Dorion opted to stand pat with his current group.
“The room is as good as it’s been since I’ve been here,” Dorion said. “D.J. (Smith, head coach) can speak more about that, but the way Austin Watson’s played of late, he’s been a big factor in us winning games. I’ve said I wouldn’t move Travis Hamonic or Nick Holden . . . they’ve got families, I think it’s the right thing to do.
Brassard, who will be honoured on Saturday at the Canadian Tire Centre for playing NHL game No. 1,000 on Thursday in New York, was not going to move – nor any of the UFA players, added Dorion, unless some offer came in that he couldn’t refuse.
As for Talbot, Dorion is bullish on the way the veteran goaltender has played and likes the idea of going down the stretch with Talbot as a partner and mentor for young goalie prospect Mads Sogaard. An interesting tidbit on Sogaard – Dorion says he wrote in his notebook on Feb. 2 about the 22-year-old Dane: “NHL ready.”
Dorion admitted “it’s nice to be a buyer at the deadline, and at the draft.”
Good riddance to the days of Ottawa being a seller. They’re not likely to be seen again for a very long time, given the Senators' young core locked into long-term deals.
Asked at what point he determined the team would not be selling off assets this year, Dorion pointed back to a loss in Boston on Feb. 20. Despite losing to the top-rated team in the NHL, the Senators played the Bruins hard in a 3-1 game.
“How we played in that game told me a lot about our team,” Dorion said.
Though the Senators don’t have a pick in the first three rounds of this year’s draft, Dorion notes that they do have a lot of picks in the subsequent two years.
“That’s OK,” Dorion said, about not being as draft rich as during the rebuilding years.
“It’s not the end of the world,” he added. “There’s teams that have done this in the past, franchises that have had success. Our scouting staff, if you ask them if you have a chance to make a playoff push or have picks I know what they would tell you.”
About that playoff push – Dorion sounds very relaxed regarding expectations, despite his team being within reach of the wild card teams.
“You know what? The players are having fun right now,” Dorion said. “You can tell this group never had this kind of buzz before the Detroit games (consecutive wins Feb. 27 and 28). So, let’s let them have fun. Let’s let them grow. Let’s see what happens.
“You know, the teams we’re chasing can get hit with three of four major injuries and it gives us a better chance. But right now let’s just take it game by game. We’ve got a big game against Columbus (Saturday). We were in that position where Columbus is . . . we can’t take anything for granted.
“But am I ever impressed with how this team has played. It’s a pleasure to come to the rink to watch us play. I would pay just to watch (centre) Timmy Stützle play every night . . . he’s going to be a superstar in this league. But to watch the whole team play is something really special.”
Spoken like the proud papa, the guy who put much of this group together.
Lest we forget, Dorion did make earlier, pre-deadline trades. He moved defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and his burdensome contract, along with two draft picks, to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Also, forward Tyler Motte returned to the New York Rangers for forward Julien Gauthier and a conditional seventh-round pick.