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The Hockey News' 2018-19 Season Preview: Ottawa Senators

The Erik Karlsson situation has come to a close, but an ownership-mandated rebuild has the Senators on the path towards a basement finish.

The Hockey News' 2018-19 Season Preview series dives into off-season transactions, best- and worst-case scenarios and one burning question for each team in reverse order of Stanley Cup odds.

Stanley Cup odds: 100-1

Key Additions: Mikkel Boedker, RW; Dylan DeMelo, D; Chris Tierney, C; Rudolfs Balcers, LW

Key Departures: Erik Karlsson, D; Mike Hoffman, LW; Alexandre Burrows, RW; Frederik Claesson, D; Christopher DiDomenico, LW

OTT

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The best the Senators can hope for this season is they put an end to their seemingly never-ending off-ice drama and their young players give them hope the franchise is headed on a positive path and not into an oncoming train. The good news in this is when you’re as dysfunctional on all levels as the Sens were in 2017-18, there’s not much further you can fall.

Ottawa addressed one problem when it dealt Mike Hoffman, a talented offensive player who simply couldn’t be part of this group anymore. The Erik Karlsson situation has been resolved. That has allowed the Senators to move on from one of the darkest periods in their history and hopefully acquire the pieces they need to build a roster that can compete in the NHL.

The Senators do have young players who will get the opportunity to show their mettle. If they can work out a long-term deal with Mark Stone, one of the game’s best two-way forwards, that gives them a core player with whom to move forward. And if Matt Duchene and Bobby Ryan can produce, it will make for fewer long nights in Ottawa.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
Can it get any worse? The Senators finished 30th in the NHL in 2017-18, and their own GM acknowledged after the season that the dressing room was “broken.” They essentially went to war with the best player in franchise history, and their assistant GM was forced to resign amid an investigation into sexual misconduct. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

Actually, it might. The Karlsson trade didn’t net the haul that most expected, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau is sidelined indefinitely due to an Achilles injury. If Stone, with whom the Sens can negotiate an extension after Jan. 1, and Duchene decide they don’t want to be a part of a future that looks bleak in the short term, they may not be far behind Karlsson. A lack of talent and depth could throw young players Brady Tkachuk, Colin White and Logan Brown into roles they’re not ready to fill yet, which could hurt the team and stall their development.

In net, Craig Anderson and Mike Condon are coming off bad seasons, and Anderson enters the season as a 37-year-old with two more years left on his contract.

BURNING QUESTION
Will Matt Duchene and Mark Stone become deadline day trade chips?
The mandate from on high is a full-scale rebuild, the kind that will take several years to complete. The Karlsson trade was supposed to kickstart the process, though there are well-warranted questions about how effective the deal with the San Jose Sharks actually was in doing so. But the next-best options the Senators and Dorion have in their quest to return to competitiveness after falling one goal short of a Stanley Cup final appearance only two seasons ago is moving one or both of Duchene and Stone.

Duchene, who said last season he requested a trade from the Colorado Avalanche because of a desire to play post-season hockey, isn’t going to sniff the playoffs in Ottawa for a few seasons at best, and that would seem to suggest he’s a safe bet to at least test the open market when he becomes a free agent at season’s end. Likewise, Stone’s one-year deal gives little promise of a long-term future for the two-way dynamo with the Senators. He could jet as a free agent in the off-season, too. So, if Ottawa is going to ensure they recoup assets for inarguably their two most talented forwards, they need to do so by way of trades.

Come deadline day, Duchene and Stone could find themselves in new homes, while the Senators could have a handful of new assets with which to build towards a brighter future.

THE HOCKEY NEWS’ PREDICTION: 8th in the Atlantic Division. The Senators seem destined for a last-place finish and top odds in the draft lottery. Of course, that won't help Ottawa much in their rebuild. The Avalanche own the Senators’ first-round pick, making an already bad situation that much worse.

Want more Season Previews? The Hockey News has you covered. Click here.

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