The Ottawa Senators and the Detroit Red Wings made a trade swapping forwards Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik. Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion was able to pick up defenceman prospect Donovan Sebrango and a couple of picks as well. Sens fans may look at this as a loss, but given what it took to get DeBrincat, it isn’t. Let us explore how this trade impacts the Sens lineup and a couple of notes on Detroit as well.
The Ottawa Senators Needed to Trade Alex DeBrincat
The general consensus became more clear throughout the off-season that DeBrincat did not want to sign long-term with the Senators. Not only that, but the Sens really did not have the cap space to give the young sniper what he expected. DeBrincat is a two-time 41-goal man and well-deserving of his paycheque. Conversely, the Senators have recently signed Joonas Korpisalo to a five-year, $20 million deal. It was a priority for the Sens to shore up their goaltending. Furthermore, it did not seem like the dollars made sense to be able to re-sign the elite sniper DeBrincat.
Off-season Moves by Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators
When you dig into the numbers, if the Sens were to keep DeBrincat one of their earners had to go. Once they signed Korpisalo, it seemed even less likely. In addition, as insignificant as it may seem, re-upping Travis Hamonic was another indication that DeBrincat needed to be moved. Those two UFA moves alone added $5.1 million to the Sens 2023-24 (and the following season as well) salary cap(s). Also, they added tough guy Zack MacEwen. According to CapFriendly, that did bring the Senators to a roster size of 21, if we consider Joshua Norris and Anton Forsberg. Both those players are still listed under injured reserve from the end of the 2022-23 season. When you consider that the bare minimum of a roster size is around 20, they now only have slightly over $5 million in cap space. Some of that is reserved for Group 10.2(c) free agent Centre Shane Pinto. Note that this is considering Kubalik’s modest $2.5 million cap hit.
Why Was All This Necessary?
At the end of the day, there probably was just not enough money there to re-sign DeBrincat. The Sens could have got him on a one-year arbitration deal, around $7.5 million. This would be just to bide everyone’s time for the anticipated salary cap increase. In contrast, the Sens want to win now. Thus, they needed to bring in some security to the goaltending position. Kudos to Dorion for identifying one of the top free-agent tenders available, and based on that, not overpaying for him. He added depth pieces to ensure that when injuries come up, they will be more prepared than back in 2020-21. It just seems that the Sens have had, not a lot of quantity, but costly injuries. For example, Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg both spent lengthy periods on the injured reserve last year.
How Does This All Fit for the Senators Scheme?
Looking at Dominik Kubalik and some of the other players the Sens brought in, they should be improved year-over-year. They had a bit of a logjam on high-end offence already. Therefore, it was hard to fit DeBrincat in where he could be most successful. Bringing in Kubalik, you get a speedy, hard-nosed goal scorer. He’s tough to knock off-stride and has scored 30 goals once and 20 goals twice at the NHL level. A great fit on the second line. Who knows, maybe his skill set aligns with budding superstar Tim Stutzle. In net, Korpisalo is a proven, reliable force back there. Last year he posted a .914 SV% over a career-high 39 games. As a precautionary tale, as long as he is not overworked, there’s no reason to not plan for somewhat similar success. Finally, adding physical presence Zack MacEwen and veteran Travis Hamonic, are great depth pieces.
The Alex DeBrincat Trade From the Detroit Red Wings Angle
For the Red Wings and General Manager Steve Yzerman, they did end up getting their man. Yzerman has a reputation for being challenging to deal with as the time it took to get this done proved. It was thought a deal might be done on draft day, although the Sens scouting staff had identified the 2024 draft as deep. So, maybe it made sense. Yzerman was pleased with their two first-round selections, Nate Danielson and Axel Sandin Pellikka. Pellikka is regarded as one of the steals of the first round having dropped to 17, after being projected more like top-five. For Yzerman, he gave up slightly more than the Sens did in acquiring DeBrincat originally. Obtaining and signing DeBrincat to an extension, makes it seem like they came out all right.
Where Does Everyone Go From Here?
It is probably too early to declare both sides a winner, but this might be an example. Dorion was able to get a solid return for a player that could have walked and left nothing next off-season. The shrewd GM tactics of Yzerman have paid off again, obtaining one of the top off-season acquisitions. Now for the Senators, their work is not done. Case in point, they still need to re-sign Shane Pinto. By not keeping DeBrincat, they have plenty of available cap space to do this task. Moreover, there are still rumours swirling over Vladimir Tarasenko. In order to accomplish this feat, they need to move an earner, most likely Mathieu Joseph. Time will tell whether the Sens find the right move, or stand Pat to leave cap space for a depth upgrade.
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