The Zach Sanford trade saw the Ottawa Senators send former first-round pick Logan Brown, back to the St. Louis Blues. Brown has yet to find his way in the NHL despite promising seasons in the AHL. Lately, it felt like the relationship between the Sens and Brown was doomed with little to no fix. Because of that, it would have been understandable when the outcome of a trade is disappointing. However, a Zach Sanford trade shows promise in return for Ottawa, possibly making it the best scenario in an unfortunate situation.
Zach Sanford Trade Has High Potential for Senators
When Brown was selected 11th overall back in 2016, Sens fans had high hopes. Brown was a large centre who wasn’t horrible on his feet and had all the potential to become something special in the NHL. However, constant injuries have plagued his career up to this point. Combine that with the organization not always being thrilled with his effort, seemingly in some training camps especially, you have a situation that seems doomed. Factor in that Brown needs waivers this year and things really get interesting. If waived, some bottom-feeder would absolutely put a claim in for Brown. Those traits we just mentioned have shown at times in the AHL over the past three years. He has had 81 points in 94 games and was a pivotal part of the Binghamton Senators.
It was starting to feel like Ottawa was going to have to play him to start the year or lose him for nothing. However, the Blues, who also wanted to move some cap space, quickly entered the picture. Sanford is three years older than Brown and was drafted 61st overall back in 2013. His AHL numbers at the same age were similar to what Brown has shown, but there is now a legit NHL sample to go off of too.
So far, Sanford has been a guy who plays at a 30-point pace. In total, he has 74 points in 209 NHL games, with most of his production coming over the past three seasons with the Blues. However, let’s take a look at why there may be room for even more improvement for Sanford — and why, at the very least, this is a solid floor.
Sanford Underlying Numbers
Who is Zach Sanford? The numbers reveal he is a solid bottom-six guy who can chip in points as needed too. None of his stats in particular pop off the page. No, he won’t be a superstar. However, even the effective bottom-six guy who can score 30 points is super effective. Especially at just two million dollars, which he makes right now.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 25, 2021
As you can see, Sanford’s analytics have him as a solid defensive player. They also show he doesn’t drive play offensively. He won’t be someone who just dominates possession while on the ice, but that is OK. His clear impact to help put the puck in the net in a limited capacity helps with the fact that he doesn’t need to control play all of the time.
One pushback from Blues fans is that Sanford makes big defensive mistakes at the worst time. “Lack of effort” is another word too, but that seems like a more frustrated fanbase than anything else. Nothing in his numbers paints him like that, and even if it was the case this past season, it’s such a small sample for one year you can’t call him that kind of player definitively.
Room for Growth
Here is the biggest question when it comes to Sanford and his production. Can he grow? He wasn’t used in a huge role all the time with St. Louis and may see some more ice in Ottawa. He could even see some extra time on the second power-play unit. Sanford is a career 14.6% shooter. If he gets more chances to shoot in Ottawa, his base points may go up.
No one is suggesting he’ll be a 30 goal guy or anything like that. However, if he could be a consistent 15 goal guy, maybe even 20 who plays on your third line and is responsible defensively, what more can you ask for? Even if he is someone who scores 10-15 and puts up 15 assists while helping the fourth line, that is a very useful NHL player.
Reason for Excitement
The Zach Sanford trade symbolizes a high floor but lower ceiling deal for the Senators. At this point, we kind of know what he is. As outlined in the last paragraph, at best he is a middle-six type guy who can chip in here and there. With Brown, there is still untapped potential. Maybe he does become an effective top-six player. It seems pretty unlikely, but the talent is at least there.
However, that goes the other way too. Given what we have seen, Sanford just not being an NHL player doesn’t seem too likely. At worst, he shows to be a solid fourth-line guy who can score at a higher rate than most fourth-line players. Nothing wrong with that. Given we have seen close to nothing at the NHL level from Brown, it remains to be seen if he can be an effective player of any kind. It seems reasonable to expect he can be a bottom-six guy at the very least, but who knows? That is the risk each team takes in this trade.
Overall, considering that the writing was on the wall for Brown and Ottawa, this trade seems like a good thing for the organization. It does need to be pointed out that the original pick is clearly a failure, especially given some of the other players that went after. Still, moving on to get a solid NHL player to help this season feels like the best possible outcome.