Derick Brassard #19 of the Ottawa Senators tangles with Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the PPG PAINTS Arena on May 13, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 2-1 in overtime. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
The next shoe dropped for the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
After starting their makeover by dealing Dion Phaneuf to the Los Angeles Kings last week, the Senators sent No. 2 centre Derick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday in a deal so complicated that the two teams had to go back to the National Hockey League twice to try to get it approved.
It took until 9 p.m. ET for the deal to be official even though the basics had been completed in early afternoon. The problem was believed to be at the Penguins’ end because they didn’t have the salary-cap space to handle what remained of Brassard’s $5-million annual cap hit.
The deal sent Brassard to the Penguins with minor-league forward Vincent Dunn and a third-round pick in 2018 for a first-round draft pick in 2018, a third-round pick in 2019, goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson and defenceman Ian Cole, who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The Vegas Golden Knights had to be brought into the deal as well. They received winger Ryan Reaves and a fourth-round pick from Pittsburgh for prospect Tobias Lindberg, who had originally been drafted by Ottawa in 2013, but they also retained 40 per cent of Brassard’s salary.
The Senators will try to flip Cole to another team before Monday’s deadline. He could bring back a draft pick, but, if that doesn’t happen, he would finish the season with Ottawa.
The decision to move Brassard wasn’t surprising because he has been a hot commodity on the trade market since the Senators decided they would start listening to offers on all players in mid-December. The Winnipeg Jets also made a good pitch for Brassard and several other teams were involved, too.
If the Senators were in a playoff position, Brassard likely would have finished out his deal here, with one more season remaining before he can be an unrestricted free agent. He was productive for Ottawa last season and played a big role in the playoffs. That’s why the Penguins want him in a third-line role.
The Senators want to get back assets that will help them down the road and this trade will help general manager Pierre Dorion achieve that goal.
Part of the reason, the Senators liked this deal so much was Gustavsson. He was drafted 55th overall by the Penguins in 2016.
Gustavsson was voted top goalie at the most recent world junior championship in Buffalo, and the Senators have been watching him closely. He has also been playing in the Swedish Elite League as a 19-year-old and has an 8-9-0 record with a 2.16 goals against average and a .918-save percentage.
“We feel that Gustavsson is one of the game’s top goaltending prospects,” Dorion said in a statement. “Ian Cole is a hard-nosed veteran defenceman who has a long pedigree of success, which includes two Stanley Cups.”
The decision to trade Brassard means centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau is likely staying with the Senators. A lot of other teams have called about him, including the Penguins and Jets, but his role will likely expand for the rest of the season and into next year.
With the NHL trade deadline set for Monday at 3 p.m., not only are the Senators talking to teams about captain Erik Karlsson, but the future of forwards Mike Hoffman and Zack Smith and defenceman Johnny Oduya is also uncertain.
You’d have to think Dorion isn’t going to stop here.
There has been a lot of interest in Hoffman or Smith, so one of those two players could be on the move. League insiders believe Smith will be an attractive option because he plays with grit and has playoff experience.
The Senators, 29th in the overall standings and headed for a top-10 draft pick, have decided they need to go in a different direction. Trading Brassard is a big move, but it could end up being just one of many by Monday.