The Ottawa Senators are expected to be sellers at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, but with many teams still in the playoffs race, general manager Pierre Dorion said Thursday he's still waiting for the market to heat up.
“So far it’s really calm,” Dorion told TSN during the first intermission of the Senators 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. “Everybody is really kind of feeling each other out and seeing if they’re going to be in the playoffs or if they’re going to be buyers or sellers. There have been a lot of conversations, a lot about nothing.”
The Senators dropped to 18-25-11 with Thursday's loss and currently sit 17 points back of a playoff spot. Ottawa has a total 10 pending unrestricted free agents on their 23-man roster, which has led to no shortage of rumours surrounding the team.
Atop the list is centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who is in the midst of career year with 20 goals and 33 points through 52 games. Dorion refused to address Pageau's situation directly on Thursday, but said the team will attempt to re-sign at least some of their pending free agents.
“In previous years it got to be a bit of a circus, so we’re not negotiating in public,” Dorion said. “We know we have plan here and we know Jean-Gabriel is a really effective player, as are a lot of the UFAs, and we’re going to make sure we try to keep some of them.”
The Senators traded pending UFAs Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the deadline last year, after trading captain Erik Karlsson prior to the start of the season.
This year – in addition to Pageau – Mikkel Boedker, Vladislav Namestnikov, Tyler Ennis, Scott Sabourin, Mark Borowiecki, Ron Hainsey, Dylan DeMelo, Cody Goloubef and goaltender Craig Anderson are all scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in July.
Dorion vowed that the Senators would not simply be looking off to sell of their expiring contracts this season unless the return is worthwhile for the franchise.
“For us, we need to have the right mix,” said Dorion. “We’re really happy with the way we’re competing this year. We’re happy we’re in every game and part of that is because of the veteran players we have here. We’ve had a plan since day one and we do know want to keep some of them.
“At the same time, we do have a lot of picks already. We’ve got a lot of prospects coming (and) Belleville is in first place with one of the youngest teams in the minors, so getting picks and prospects just to make a trade this year isn’t something we’re probably going to look at. We’re going to make sure we’re going to get the right return if we’re going to move players.”
The Senators currently have a total of nine picks in the first two rounds of the next two NHL drafts, including two first-round picks this year (their own and that of the San Jose Sharks).