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Jean-Gabriel Pageau is key to Ottawa's future – whether he signs long-term or is traded

He's a Swiss Army-type player and part of the Senators' leadership group, but if there's no deal to be done with Pageau, a pending free-agent, Ottawa would be wise to explore the trade market.

There are probably a couple of details to get out of the way right away when it comes to Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The first one is that there have been no talks between him and the Ottawa Senators concerning a contract extension. The second is that Pageau’s current scoring pace is unsustainable, not because it’s Pageau, but because it would be unsustainable for any player. (But it is kind of fun to look at his “on pace for” stat line, which reads: 82 games, 50-18-68, plus-87.)

Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored a hat trick for the Senators Wednesday night in their win over the New Jersey Devils, giving him eight goals in his past six games and nine in his past 10. Only five players in the NHL have more goals than Pageau this season and no one has a better plus-minus. Say what you want about the much-maligned stat, but when you can be plus-19 after 18 games on one of the worst teams in the league, that says something. And here’s something even more remarkable. Of the 41 even-strength and shorthanded goals the Senators have surrendered this season, empty-netters excluded, Pageau has been on the ice for only six of them.

It has all the makings of a career season for Pageau, which is good for both the player and the team. It’s also never too early to start talking about rentals, which is why the Senators might want to start moving on Pageau one way or the other. Because if there is any chance they are going to trade Pageau, they are never going to be able to get more for him than they will right now. At the very least, if I’m Senators GM Pierre Dorion, I’m approaching Pageau and his representatives to see what he’s thinking about his future with the organization these days.

There’s nothing to suggest that Pageau would not want to stay with the Senators long-term. He’s a hometown boy who played his junior hockey in nearby Gatineau and his wife is from there. He’s a low-maintenance player who can play anywhere in the lineup and kills penalties, checks and chips in with timely offense. Even though the Senators are years away from seriously contending again, Pageau is only 27 and still has time to be around when the good times begin to materialize again. And there aren’t many better people to have in your organization if you’re going through the process of rebuilding and need someone to be in the leadership group and help show the way. The Senators have parted ways acrimoniously with the two greatest players in franchise history. They would certainly gain some currency with a skeptical fan base by staying loyal to one of their own.

So much of this is up to Pageau. Does he want to be part of a rebuild that will likely take him into his 30s? Does he want to play where he has a better chance of winning a Stanley Cup? Will Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, a.k.a. Scrooge McPuck, expect him to take a ridiculous hometown discount and drive him out of the only NHL home he has ever known over dollars and a lack of sense? If any of those previous scenarios are the case, the Senators could turn around and trade Pageau and get the bounty that comes with him. The Senators already have a stable of promising prospects and a whack of draft picks. What they need are NHL players who can contribute and Pageau is one of those. But if it’s clear a deal can’t be done, the Senators should find out and extract as much as they can get for him on the trade market.

There are certainly more high-profile players who will be available, such as Taylor Hall. But think of how many times teams have gone for the big fish at the trade deadline and ended up not winning. It happens all the time. Pageau, on the other hand, is one of those Swiss Army-type players a team gets at the deadline and when they go on to win the Cup, everyone is talking about that under-the-radar deal the team made at the deadline that put it over the top. Jean-Gabriel Pageau fits that profile perfectly. You want someone who can score at a crucial time? Well, in Game 2 of their second-round series against the New York Rangers, Pageau scored four goals in the Ottawa’s 6-5 win against the Rangers, including the tying goal with less than two minutes to go and the winner in double overtime.

As the Ottawa Senators continue their rebuild, they need what Jean-Gabriel Pageau gives them. But if that’s not going to happen, they could certainly put to good use what he would bring them in return.

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