The Ottawa Senators made a splash on Canada Day by acquiring Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Brown from bitter rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As part of the deal, the Senators also received AHL forward Michael Carcone in exchange for the rights to RFA Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 third-round pick, which originally belonged to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
What did the Sens get?
Zaitsev, a right-handed offensive defenceman, joins the Senators after seemingly being mismanaged in Canada’s largest city – often relied on playing a strong defensive game instead of being utilised in situations he is more comfortable with.
A fresh start in the Canadian capital could see the Russian blueliner regain the form he showed during his rookie campaign – where he earned four goals and 36 total points.
The 27-year-old is locked up over the next five seasons with a cap hit of $4.5 million, which helps the Senators significantly cut into the $11 million+ deficit they had at the start of the day.
David Morassutti, a freelance editor for Sportsnet and managing editor of FanSided’s very own Tip of the Tower, had the following to say about the Sens’ newest blueline addition:
“Zaitsev clearly wanted out of Toronto, part of it could be related to the lack of opportunity to play on the power play but you can tell he was not thrilled about the criticism he was receiving in the media. Sens fans should take comfort in that DJ Smith has coached and will know his strength and weaknesses.”
“He struggles on the breakout and has lapses in his own zone but if Ottawa pairs him with a stay at home like the Leafs did with Jake Muzzin rather than with a player like Jake Gardiner, expect a better version of Zaitsev. The contract might not be great in the long run but he is still a capable option if Ottawa uses him right.”
His fellow teammate, Brown, will now don the red of Ottawa after spending the first four years of his NHL career with the Maple Leafs.
Brown is in a somewhat similar situation to Zaitsev, having had a strong rookie season and see his offensive production drop over the next two seasons.
The 25-year-old winger has shown an ability to score goals when given a bigger role, scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.
He scored 14 and then eight goals in the following two seasons, seeing his playing time cut significantly as the Leafs added new faces to the line-up.
In Ottawa, Brown will have a chance to play more minutes and prove he is deserving of a larger role in the NHL.
The Etobicoke, Ontario native will cost the Senators $2.1 million in the 2019/20 season and is a restricted free agent next summer.
He plays a gritty, scrappy game and battles hard for the puck, earning more takeaways (120) than giveaways (68) across his career.
Tip of the Tower’s Morassutti had this to say on Brown:
“Brown simply got caught in a numbers game. He came into the league as a 3rd line player who can move up and play on the 2nd line. He is hard on the forecheck, which allows him to create offence for himself and his linemates. He clearly lacked confidence last season and should be a capable 15-goal scorer at least and be a great option on the PK.”
If the Senators feel he is not a long-term piece during this rebuild, they can simply let him walk in 2020 but should give him enough opportunities to prove himself in the meantime.
The Sens also acquired minor league forward Carcone in the deal, with the 23-year-old winger having impressed at times with the Utica Comets and Toronto Marlies last season – particularly in the latter’s run in the playoffs, where he registered ten points (six goals, four assists) in 13 appearances.
With spots on the NHL roster up for grabs, Carcone will have an opportunity to impress in training camp but is most likely going to start the season with the Belleville Senators.
What did they give up?
The biggest name leaving the Canadian capital is Ottawa-born defenceman Cody Ceci, who spent his entire junior career playing in his hometown before being drafted by the club he supported growing up.
Ceci found himself dropped down to the bottom pairing at times last season and seemingly had fallen out of favour in the organisation, with fans on social media calling for him to leave due to his lofty salary expectations.
With negotiations on an extension at a standstill, it made sense for the Ottawa Senators to move on from the former first rounder and take on the guaranteed contract of Zaitsev.
Ben Harpur is another player heading to Southern Ontario after making 92 regular season appearances with the Senators over the past two seasons.
Harpur appeared to be the odd-man out with regards to the Sens’ defensive corps this season, with the likes of Christian Wolanin and Christian Jaros surpassing him and locking down regular roles.
With the Leafs desperate for defencemen, he became an obvious piece to add to this ever-growing trade.
Minor leaguer Aaron Luchuk feels like a throwaway piece in this deal, spending time in both the AHL and ECHL last season and not projecting to have a future in the NHL.
The acquisition of Carcone could benefit the Senators in the near future, whereas Luchuk isn’t likely to see time in the major leagues unless he makes significant improvements.
Sending a third-round pick, albeit one that belonged to Columbus, is an unusual move for the Senators, with the players swapped with Toronto seemingly having similar value.
The argument could be made that the players heading to Ottawa are more likely to have an impact in the NHL and the cost of taking on the slightly better players required Dorion to ‘sweeten’ the pot, despite the Leafs benefiting significantly in terms of freeing up cap space.
What do you make of this trade Sens fans? Are you pleased with the return? What are your thoughts on offloading Ceci? How about the draft pick? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!