Today’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade is the ultimate bittersweet experience for the Ottawa Senators. On one hand, they watch another homegrown star, presumably one who wanted to be there long-term, leave for greener pastures and a franchise that isn’t owned by Scrooge McPuck. On the other, if a deal was not going to get done for Pageau to stay in Ottawa, GM Pierre Dorion received a massive haul.
And let’s dispense right now with the notion that Pageau will come back and sign with the Senators as an unrestricted free agent this summer. He won’t. Guys who get traded at the deadline never do that. And if the Senators were going to come to terms with Pageau, they would have done it before today. They’ve had more than a year to get this deal done and they couldn’t. It’s not happening.
So let’s focus on what the Senators are getting back. With the trade, the Senators have 14 picks in this year’s draft, three in the first round and a total of seven in top two rounds. First, the Senators will have to parlay them into prospects who will become players. Second, all these young players they’re integrating into their lineup will need some legitimate NHL players to show them the way and the Senators have one fewer of those with the departure of Pageau.
For the Islanders, they’re getting a modern-day Butch Goring, and we all know how that turned out when the Islanders got Goring at the trade deadline in 1980. All right, that’s a bit of a stretch. Even with Pageau in the lineup it’s doubtful the Islanders will win the Stanley Cup, but don’t tell them that. They have a GM who’s used to winning Cups, a coach who has won one and a roster that was among the best in the league through the first quarter of the season. So there’s that.
Pageau brings to the Islanders some big-game playoff experience. He was one of the Sens’ top performers in their run to the Eastern Conference final in 2017, a playoff year in which they came within one overtime goal of going to the Stanley Cup final. He wins faceoffs, can produce offense, is a good playmaker and will improve the Islanders’ middle-of-the-road penalty kill.
It’s a high price for the Islanders to pay, which makes you think they’re going all-in this season. The first-round pick in 2020 is lottery protected only if the Islanders finish outside the post-season and win a top-three pick, and it becomes a first-rounder in 2021 if that happens, which it likely won’t.
Meanwhile, the Islanders are almost certain to have no picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. And if the almost impossible happens and the pick is pushed back to the 2021 draft, New York will be bereft of picks in the first two rounds of that draft. So this one is going to be felt down the line. Because without picks in the first two rounds, your odds of getting an NHL player is reduced to between 10 and 15 percent.
UPDATE: The Islanders have inked Pageau to a six-year, $30-million extension. It’s hard to argue with the price, particularly if what we’ve seen this season from the 27-year-old is the beginning of some productive prime years. Given his versatility, he can be a contributor in just about any spot on the lineup, his defensive acumen makes him effective even when he’s not finding the scoresheet and Pageau is a tenacious penalty killer.
Some Senators faithful will rightfully be upset about losing a player who clearly had interest in staying with the organization for a price that seems manageable, but perspective might be valuable. At no point in the next few seasons, which are sure to be Pageau’s best, will Ottawa be a Stanley Cup contender. The Islanders, however, intend on being in the post-season picture for the next few seasons, at the very least.
So, while the price would have been right anywhere, it makes far more sense for Ottawa to recoup the assets and avoid the payment. Maybe there’s a reunion down the line, after Pageau’s full no-trade turns into a modified no-trade clause come the 2022-23 season. – Jared Clinton
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