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Five + Years Later: Assessing Ottawa Senators Trades

Now that the 2021 NHL trade deadline has come and gone, it is common for Sens Nation and media alike to try to assign winners and losers to each trade almost immediately. It makes for great banter and costs absolutely nothing. However, how does one know who won a trade and who lost? What are the criteria?

There is also a theory that determining the winner of a trade can take as many as 5 to 10 years. It is also possible for neither team to win or lose a trade.

Would it surprise you to know that, in the last 10 years, the Senators have made over 70 trades? It is worth noting that, all of the trades from April 2011 to April 2016 were made by the late Bryan Murray. Not all of them are particularly noteworthy of course. So let's examine the biggest 12 trades that took place during that period, their impact on the Sens and put that 5 to 10 year theory to the test.

Before we do that, it is important to define winning and losing. Here are some criteria that I will use and my rationale.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BLING – Stanley Cup wins are like the right bower in euchre. They trump everything. The team with the most Stanley Cup wins with the players involved in the trade wins the trade. I do not care how well the cap was managed or how many points their players got. This is a results-oriented business.

Consider the Gretzky trade to Edmonton. It would be easy to say the Kings won the deal based on the impact to hockey in LA. However, the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1990 with Martin Gelinas playing a role in that win and they beat Gretzky and the Kings out of the playoffs in the process. The Kings made the Cup final in 1993 with Gretzky and company. They did not win the Cup before he was traded to St. Louis. The Oilers would be the winner of that trade in my opinion.

PLAYER IMPACT – this can be a little more subjective. Regardless of how well the team may do, if there are no Stanley Cup wins or appearances to help break the tie, it will be an analysis of the player impact that will determine the winner. If Edmonton had not won that Cup in 1990, I might view the Gretzky trade differently.

WIN/LOSE/DRAW – Both teams cannot win or lose a trade. A trade can, however, end in a draw.

NO FUTURE TRADES – It is very common, when a player that was acquired gets traded away, to count the return on that trade when finalizing the outcome. Think of Derrick Brassard being acquired by Ottawa and then traded to Pittsburgh. Though that trade will not be analyzed here, secondary trades will not be considered. They may potentially take the sting out of a bad trade. They were not part of the rationale for the trade when it happened.

TRADE EXPIRY DATES – The trade is over when neither player is playing for teams involved and are no longer counting against the cap.

BEST PLAYER FALLACY – Harkening back to the Gretzky trade to Los Angeles, he was clearly the best player in the trade. However, by my criteria, Edmonton wins that trade. Teams win trades and the victory is in the results. The team who gets the best player may win the trade. It is just not a given. That is just conventional wisdom.

DECEMBER 17, 2011

Sens trade David Rundblad and a 2012 2nd RD pick to Phoenix for Kyle Turris

Turris played 358 regular season and 35 playoff games recording 245 pts and 21 points respectively. He was a big part of the run to the conference finals in 2017. Rundblad only played 26 games for Phoenix recording 5 points as a defenseman. This one does not need 10 years to rule on. Outcome: SENATORS WIN

FEBRUARY 26, 2012

Sens trade 2013 2nd RD pick for Ben Bishop

St. Louis used that 2nd round pick to select defenseman Tommy Vannelli who never played a game in the NHL. Bishop only started 23 games with the Senators before being traded to Tampa Bay posting 11 wins and 8 losses. Again, you do not need 10 years to analyze this outcome.


JULY 1, 2012

Sens trade Nick Foligno to Columbus for Marc Methot

This is a tough one to analyze. Marc Methot was an integral part of the success of Erik Karlsson and played a meaningful roll in the 2017 run to the conference finals. Thanks to the expansion process, Methot (304 regular season & 34 playoff games) did not play nearly as long with the Senators as Foligno (599 regular season & 34 playoff games) did for the Blue Jackets. Foligno played 405 of those regular season games and 32 of the playoff games as the captain. It would not be fair to compare points obviously. The Senators came closer to winning a Cup than Columbus ever did. If Foligno had not been traded to Toronto recently, this trade, after nearly a decade, would still be up for debate. Too close to call IMO.

Outcome: DRAW

APRIL 3, 2013

Sens trade Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay for Cory Conacher & a 4th RD 2013 pick

This one is going to sting a bit. Bishop played 3 full seasons with the Lightning and 2 partials. He never had a save % lower than 91.6% and he backstopped the Lightning to the Cup final where they lost to Chicago in 6 games in 2015. Cory Conacher played 72 regular season games (25 points) and 8 playoff games (3 points). He had a catchy song named after him but even the 4th round pick the Sens received, Tobias Lindberg, never played for them. Ouch!

Outcome: BOLTS WIN

JUNE 7, 2013

Sens trade Sergei Gonchar to Dallas for a 6th RD pick in 2013

Gonchar was towards the end of his career and he played one full season for the Stars recording 22 points in 76 regular season games and 0 points in 6 playoffs games. Chris Leblanc was that 6th round pick and he never played in the NHL or in the Senators organization. The Senators had missed the playoffs and Gonchar was going to be a UFA July 1st. Getting anything for him was something considering the season was over. The Senators did not lose anything in the trade and Dallas enjoyed no playoff success and they paid heavy money for it and traded him after year 1 of the contract to the Habs. I think I am going to give this one to Ottawa.


JULY 5, 2013

Sens trade Jacob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen & a 1st RD pick 2014 for Bobby Ryan

The late Bryan Murray was criticized heavily for this one. Bobby Ryan’s inner demons became the focus of his final year in Ottawa where he took leave under the substance abuse program available to players. High level, it is not all bad. Ryan played 455 regular season (107 goals & 266 points) and 25 playoff games (8 goals & 17 points) and was a big part of the 2017 Cup run where he played his best hockey as a Senator. Silfverberg has played 556 regular season (136 goals & 288 points) and 52 playoff games (16 goals & 36 points). He has had two conference final playoff runs and he has played well in all playoff appearances. Straight up, Anaheim won this deal and this was not straight up. Stefan Noesen is a suitcase. Nick Ritchie was that 1st round pick for the Ducks which represents the salt in the wound so to speak. He played 287 regular season (43 goals & 109 points) and 4 playoff games in the 2017 run before going to Boston. Only a Stanley Cup in 2017 for the Senators would have vindicated this trade.

Outcome: DUCKS WIN

MARCH 5, 2014

Sens trade 2015 3rd RD & 2014 5th RD picks to Edmonton for Ales Hemsky

Hemsky was acquired for a playoff push and recorded 17 points in 20 games. By all accounts, the Senators were pleased with his performance. He was a UFA at the end of the season and the Senators did not qualify for the playoffs. Liam Coughlin was the 2014 5th round pick and he played 2 AHL games and the 2015 3rd pick was dealt by the Oilers. Even though the Senators missed the playoffs and he left town that offseason, Hemsky was worth both of those picks.


JULY 1, 2014

Sens trade Jason Spezza & Ludwig Karlsson to Dallas for Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, Nick Paul & a 2015 2nd RD pick

This one puts the 5 to 10 theory to the test. Spezza played 5 full seasons for the Stars. He played 379 regular season (81 goals & 228 points) and 24 playoff games (8 goals & 18 points). Spezza had one year left on his Ottawa deal when he was acquired and signed a $30 million extension for the next 4 years. Ludwig Karlsson never played in the NHL. The Stars never got past the 2nd round with Spezza in the lineup. Chiasson played 2 full seasons for the Senators. He played 153 regular season (19 goals & 40 points) and 4 playoff games (0 points). Guptill never came close to playing in Ottawa. Nick Paul has taken the scenic route to the NHL. However, at 26, the Senators may have finally found something. Will he ever score at Spezza’s level? No. He will not make over $30 million either. That 2015 3rd round pick was traded to move up and pick Gabriel Gagne who never panned out. On the surface, the Stars won this trade. They did not, however, win the Stanley Cup and Nick Paul is still playing for the Senators. If Paul continues to develop and the Senators go on to win a Cup with him down the road, this outcome changes.


JUNE 26, 2015

Sens trade Robin Lehner & David Legwand to Buffalo for a 2015 1st RD pick

Lehner played 133 regular season games for Buffalo and his save % was above 92 in two seasons and never below 90. However, there was no playoff success. David Legwand played his last season in the league for Buffalo with 79 regular season games played (5 goals & 14 points). The 1st round pick was by way of the Islanders and Colin White was the result. Again, this one may be too soon to call. Colin White has yet to fulfill his potential and his been injury prone. However, if he plays out his remaining 5 years of his contract and the Senators enjoy playoff success with White in the lineup, this will be a slam dunk for the Senators. For now, it is hard for a team in 30th place having missed the playoffs for what will be 4 straight seasons to claim victory in a trade.


JUNE 27, 2015

Sens Eric Gryba to Edmonton for Travis Ewanyk & a 2015 4th RD pick

Gryba played 114 regular season (3 goals & 14 points) and 3 playoff games (0 points) for the Oilers. Ewaynk never played for Ottawa and the 2015 4th round pick turned out to be Christian Wolanin. Between injury and declining play, Wolanin never lived up to the early promise and played only 58 games with the Senators (5 goals & 18 points). When Wolanin first came up to the league after finishing at North Dakota, everyone thought we had a real prospect and would have said we won this trade. As it is, I would have to give it to Edmonton as Gryba played longer and more effectively for the Oilers and they made the playoffs.


FEBRUARY 9, 2016

Sens trade Jared Cowen, Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Tobias Lindberg & a 2017 2nd RD pick to Toronto. In return they got Dion Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert & Cody Donaghey.

This one was a lot more about the money being moved around between Cowen, Greening, Michalek and Phaneuf than players coming back to Toronto. Cowen never played a game for the Leafs due to injury, nor do I believe he was ever intended to play. Greening played 30 regular season games recording 7 goals and 15 points before playing out the string in the AHL. Michalek played 18 regular season games between two seasons recording 2 goals and 8 points. The 2nd round pick, defenseman Eemeli Rasanen, never played for the Leafs and never will. The Leafs were in tank mode and were after Auston Matthews. Phaneuf had signed a 7 year deal worth $7 million AAV. By the time the Senators acquired Phaneuf, he had been paid $5.5 million in signing bonuses and nearly 2 seasons of the deal. He was a warrior in that 2017 playoff run and only played 3 seasons before leaving in a trade to Los Angeles. Casey Bailey played 7 regular season games for the Senators and none of the others came close. The Leafs got Phaneuf off the books and the Senators nearly made the Stanley Cup final. The Leafs enjoyed no team success from this trade. The Senators did. That is where the edge goes.


FEBRUARY 29, 2016

Sens trade Shane Prince to the Islanders for a 2016 3rd RD pick

Prince had already broken into the Senators lineup and went on to play for one full season and playoff and struggled with injury. The 3rd round pick that came back was packaged to New Jersey to help the Senators move up to the 11th pick and choose Logan Brown. With Brown’s future still unclear, this one cannot be awarded yet. If Brown does not materialize in the Ottawa system, this one will go to the Islanders.


So those are the 12 deals that would qualify as significant. Based on my criteria, where team results dictate the winner, the Sens checked in with 5 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw and 3 trades still undecided.

More importantly, the 5 to 10 year theory seems to have been confirmed. Of the 12 trades we looked at, only 25% have no clear outcome. You can also bet that every one of those trades has been awarded, retracted and awarded again dozens of times over the years by fans and media. Fittingly, April 10, 2016, Pierre Dorion assumed the role of GM for the Senators. He is only 5 years in. Let us give it another 5 and see how history treats him.

By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey


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