Free Agency Or Summer Trading: An Ottawa Senators’ Case Study


One month from now, the annual meat market that is NHL Free Agency will open up, and the big market teams will open their wallets and the players without a contract feel like the belle of the ball and go to the highest bidder (in most cases).

May 7, 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) is checked by Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot (3) in the second period in game four of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

In the case of the Ottawa Senators, they don’t very often get involved in the big name free agents.  They kick the tires and sometimes come up with a big steal, but generally they find pieces that may or may not fit.

Take last summer for example.  The Free Agents the Sens “landed” were Guillaume Latendresse and Mike Lundin. Neither had much impact overall on the team.  As you trace back over the years, the Summer shopping season hasn’t always been kind to the Senators, with few execptions:

While there were some hits, such as Gonchar, many of them were either misses or inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  Bringing Luke Richardson into the organization might be one of the best things they have done but more for what he has done with the club after his playing days were over.

But signing free agents is only one way to make your team better in the summer.  Trading is another method of improvement, but is often tricky because you usually have to give up an asset to get an asset.

Sometimes it works out.  For example the biggest impact from a newcomer to the organization this past season was defenseman Marc Methot, who came to Ottawa in a trade from Columbus.  the price tag was Nick Folligno, but I think almost everyone who watched the club would agree that it was worth the price they paid.

Looking back, the Senators got Dany Heatley through trade, and that worked for a couple of years until the milk spoiled.  Then they got Milan Michalek for Heatley, another solid move given the circumstances.  The Senators netted Filip Kuba and Alex Picard for Andrej Meszaros and Kuba was a solid contributor for a couple of years.

Trades don’t always work out, and sometimes they are not made out of want but out of need.  Ottawa had to dump Martin Havlat before he cashed in big time and they didn’t get a lot in return.

Sometimes you take a gamble on someone, like giving up a 3rd round pick for Nikita Filatov.  It didn’t work, but the Senators didn’t risk much to get him.

Some trades still need evaluating.  Ottawa traded their first round pick at the 2011 draft for David Rundblad.  The player St. Louis took with that pick was Vladimir Tarasenko.  Now the Senators eventually swapped Rundblad for Kyle Turris, so it looks like that one worked out fairly well for Ottawa.

Now heading into this off-season, there cold be a flurry of trades as there are a lot of teams in Salary Cap trouble.  According to, there are 12 teams with less than $2M per roster opening to play with, and some big names could be changing addresses.  Ottawa has loads of cap space and the asking price won’t be too high in most cases because teams’ hands are being forced.

It is obviously a gamble because it means waiting a little longer, and some teams will be left without a chair when the music stops.  It is no secret that the Senators need scoring help, but they might be better off to bide their time and find a trading partner to fill that void rather than severely overpay for one of the shallow pool of free agents that will be on the market in a month’s time.