Thursday, July 18, 2024

Steve Staios open for business as Senators prepare for draft

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With the first round of the National Hockey League draft set for Friday night at The Sphere in Vegas, league executives told Postmedia on Sunday that Staios is trying to remake the club’s roster.

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The Ottawa Senators should post an “open for business” sign outside their draft headquarters on the Vegas strip this week.

Need him? Got him.

While it’s been well-documented in this space the Senators have been aggressive in their pursuit of Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark, that’s not the only piece of business Steve Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, is trying to do this week.

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With the first round of the National Hockey League draft set for Friday night at The Sphere in Vegas, league executives told Postmedia on Sunday that Staios is trying to remake the club’s roster and there are several players at the centre of trade discussions.

Though defenceman Jakob Chychrun’s name has been at the forefront of trade talks, he’s not the only blueliner the Senators are looking to move as the market heats up with qualifying offers due on June 30 and unrestricted free agency set to open on July 1 at noon.

League executives say the Senators are also scouring the market to see if there’s any interest in defencemen Erik Brannstrom and Jacob Bernard-Docker.

Veteran Travis Hamonic has a full no-move clause and will likely have his $1 million deal bought out once the Stanley Cup final ends Monday night. The club will carry a $366,000 cap hit for the next two seasons.

The Ottawa Senators have a decision to make on defenceman Erik Brannstrom.
The Ottawa Senators have a decision to make on defenceman Erik Brannstrom. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

Brannstrom, a restricted free agent, requires a $2-million qualifying offer to retain his rights for free agency and the Senators are torn on whether they want to go that route.

Yes, he’s an NHL player, but Tyler Kleven is ready to make the jump from Belleville and that likely knocks Brannstrom out of the picture. The club is trying to see if it can get something in return, but if that doesn’t happen then it may be best for both sides if they just walk away.

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But the list doesn’t stop there.

As Postmedia has reported, the Senators have spoken to teams regarding winger Mathieu Joseph. He has two years left at $2.95 million and they’d like to get his contract off the books to try to help propel a deal to acquire Seattle Kraken winger Brandon Tanev.

The Senators will qualify Belleville winger Egor Sokolov, but they’d told teams they want to give him a fresh start with another organization and would like to make a minor-league deal to get something in return. He wasn’t called up last season from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate.

The club would also like to upgrade its fourth line, and if they could find any takers for centre Mark Kastelic they’d make that move as well.

Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark
The Senators have talked to the Boston Bruins about goalie Linus Ullmark, but he isn’t the only goalie who is available. Photo by Michael Dwyer /AP

If that sounds like a lot, we haven’t dealt with the elephant in the room, which is goaltending.

The Senators were ranked No. 31 in the league last season with a combined .884 save percentage. That has left the organization looking to upgrade its net because newcomer Joonas Korpisalo and backup Anton Forsberg didn’t get the job done with any kind of consistency.

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Signed to a five-year, $20-million deal on July 1, 2023, Korpisalo finished with a 21-26-4 record, an .890 save percentage and a 3.27 goals-against average. Forsberg wasn’t much better and, as a result, the club is trying to make an upgrade.

To make matters worse, the Senators gave up 22 goals on the first or second shot of the game, and though people like to blame the system, that statistic has nothing to do with the way the team is playing in front of you.

That’s why the Senators have held talks with pretty much every team that has a goalie available, including Boston (Ullmark), the Nashville Predators regarding Juuse Saros and the Calgary Flames before Jacob Markstrom was dealt to the New Jersey Devils.

Ottawa has also been linked to Anaheim’s John Gibson.

The club has turned its attention to Ullmark because the Senators have been chasing him since the trade deadline last March. He has one year left at $5 million and has a $1-million bonus due on July 1 so the Bruins would like to deal him before they have to cut the 30-year-old a cheque.

The Vegas Golden Knights and Detroit Red Wings are reportedly also involved in talks to acquire Ullmark.

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While the Senators offered Korpisalo in return to the Bruins when the two sides spoke in March, Boston is in need of a centre.

The Senators would like to have a contract extension in place with Ullmark before they make the deal and there’s been speculation that’s what has been holding this trade up. We’re not sure that’s the case and it’s believed a big factor has been the asking price by the Bruins.

And if Ullmark is brought to Ottawa, what does that mean for the future of Korpisalo? The Senators may be able to find a taker if they retain salary or keep him as part of a duo with Ullmark.

The Senators have the No. 7 and No. 25 overall picks in the first round of the draft. Staios is studying a scenario in which he’d be willing to move back with the No. 7 selection, and league executives believe he’d like to get a tangible asset that can help right away at No. 25.

There will be lots on the table for Staios this week and the goal is come away with a winner.

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