The Ottawa Senators enter the 2019-20 season with very little expectations but lots of hope. The Sens are rebuilding and part of that is moving on from the older players. One to already be moved was longtime player Zack Smith. The roster is pretty much set without too many free slots available. However, as the season progresses fans could see some more familiar faces moved out. One of those faces could be Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Pageau has been a very useful player for the Sens over his time in Ottawa. He is just 26-years-old so it is not a given they will trade him, but in this article, we will examine what the options are for Pageau and why this may be his final year as a Senator.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau Possible Final Season With Ottawa
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a fan favourite and has been for many years. A solid bottom-six centre, Pageau has created many memories for Sens fans. Like his insane 4-goal game against the New York Rangers in the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pageau also scored a hattrick against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has scored over 10 goals four times in his career and even hit the 40 point mark once. A very hard worker, Pageau is an excellent depth piece and his role to start the year with this team is undeniable.
However, Pageau is entering unrestricted free agency this season. He may not be able to command much more than his current 3.1 million dollar AAV but the Senators have some decisions to make. Let’s take a look at all the possible reasons Ottawa may need to move on.
Younger Centre Depth
The first reason to look at why Ottawa may move on is simply the number of centres they have in their system. It’s not that they have lots of centres but also the fact that so many of them are young. Colin White just signed a long-term extension and they see him being a guy of the future. Logan Brown should get a legit shot at playing this season and may take more of a role as the season progresses.
On top of this, the Sens also have guys like Filip Chlapik in the minors who want a shot. Another name that could play centre in a depth role is Nick Paul. You add these four names on to guys who are already on the Sens roster like Chris Tierney and Artem Anisimov and you get a bit of a log jam down the middle.
Now, Anisimov may also be traded. He also plays wing more than he plays centre. When it comes to Tierney, the Sens may have a tough decision on their hands. Tierney is a year younger and will also be a restricted free agent when his deal expires next year. On top of that, he has put up 40 points in back-to-back seasons. All of this suggests that Pageau may not have a spot. Going forward, the Senators have White, Brown, Tierney, Chlapik, or Paul down the middle. There just may not be any free slots for Pageau.
The other big factor is the return he would bring. Pageau would help the depth of any playoff team. Whether that be a team closer to a wildcard or a legit Stanley Cup threat. Pageau could help shore up the depth as a 3 or 4C for most teams. Because of this, there will likely be a decent trade market for him.
The Sens could very likely flip him for a mid-round pick or two. That or a mid-round pick and a prospect of some sort. Given that the team is rebuilding, acquiring picks, even if they’re not in the first round, is a solid way to go. We have seen Ottawa hit on so many players in late rounds. Guys like Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and the latest being Drake Batherson. Getting the scouting staff more picks like that to work with could be crucial to the future.
Future Cap Space
The last thing to keep in mind heading forward is the Sens cap situation. Pageau is an amazing player to be around but the Senators shouldn’t be paying their bottom-six players tons of money. The Sens have plenty of cap space going forward right now but need to keep their mind on the future.
RFA’s like Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Logan Brown, and Drake Batherson are on deals that expire in a year or two. The next wave of players, like Erik Brannstrom, Josh Norris, and Rudolfs Balcers, will need deals eventually too. Handicapping yourself to bottom guys hurts your ability to sign these players at times.
So, if Ottawa does re-sign Pageau it would have to be a short-term deal. Given that he is in his first UFA years and as a bottom-six player may not have tons of time left in the league, it feels reasonable that Pageau would want to look for a longer-term deal. This creates an issue in itself and could ultimately lead to Pageau being moved.
What Pageau and Ottawa will focus on to start the year is not a trade but rather growing. Pageau is entering his eighth NHL season, he is a veteran of this league at this point, as weird as it is to say. Pageau will be looked upon to be a leader for this young team to start the season. While he may not last all season, the Sens know that he has value no matter what.
Putting him in a spot to succeed will be beneficial to Ottawa. Either he shows that he is a valuable piece to keep around for a few seasons, or he boosts his value to move on from him. What can be said is, there is no certainty about Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s future with Ottawa.