NHL: What’s Next for the Ottawa Senators?

Some hockey fans may still be nursing their hangovers after the Washington Capitals’ historic Stanley Cup victory parade. But for the rest of the league, it’s time to prep for the 2018 Entry Draft. And you know what that means — there are going to be trades a-plenty ahead of the big event at American Airlines Center on June 22.

Enter the Ottawa Senators, just one team making noise ahead of the this year’s draft. They head into this summer’s festivities after finishing 30th in their 2018 campaign and their off-season hasn’t given them any relief. Assistant coach Randy Lee was charged with harassing a hotel shuttle driver in Buffalo and has been suspended indefinitely. Little red onesies baring the team’s emblem were recalled after being deemed a choking hazard. And then there was the order of protection filed by captain Erik Karlsson’s wife, alleging that forward Mike Hoffman’s fiancee, Monika Caryk, started a cyberbullying attack against her family.

Hoffman was traded twice on Tuesday ahead of the draft. In a telling statement from the Senators, general manager Pierre Dorion said of the trade: “Today’s trade… showcases our determination to strengthen the future of the team by improving chemistry, leadership, and character in the locker room and on the ice.”

With issues both on and off the ice ahead of a crucial part of the off-season everyone waits and wonders: What’s next for the Ottawa Senators?

First off, are the off-ice issues gone?

TJ Brodie of the Calgary Flames goes down on a knee to successfully block a pass from Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.
TJ Brodie of the Calgary Flames goes down on a knee to successfully block a pass from Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. | Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Judging by Dorion’s statement, the Mike Hoffman trade was a step toward alleviating off-ice stressors. Although Hoffman and Caryk deny any involvement in cyber threats made against the Karlssons — including remarks about the couple’s stillborn child and threats against Erik Karlsson’s playing career — other players’ wives came to the Karlsson’s defense. The Senators themselves even opened up an investigation into Caryk’s behavior. So while the Hoffman trade doesn’t rid the team of all of their off-ice issues, it does hopefully help remove a chunk of the issues.

Speaking of the Karlssons …

Could the captain still be on the move?

Trading a goal-scorer like Hoffman amid off-ice shows Ottawa is making moves that keep their franchise face happy. But the question still remains if the former Norris Trophy winner, who could become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, will be with the team next year. The Senators entertained offers for Karlsson before the trade deadline in February 2018. (Stanley Cup Final participants Washington and Las Vegas were reportedly among the teams connected to Karlsson at the time.) And while Karlsson said at the end of the Sens’ season that he would like to stay in Ottawa, teams including Las Vegas and Edmonton have expressed interest in the highly-coveted defenseman.  The Ottawa Sun aptly points out that, if a Karlsson does go to another team, it signals the franchise “will undergo a complete rebuild.”

As far as the draft goes …

Of course, talks about Karlsson’s status will heat up even more in the days leading up to the 2018 draft. Ottawa currently has the fourth and 22nd overall picks in Round 1, and it’s unlikely they will trade out of a top-five pick. Prospects Brady Tkachuk and Filip Zadina are certainly on Ottawa’s radar, as well as defensemen like University of Michigan product Quintin Hughes and Swedish d-man Adam Boqvist. (If Karlsson is in fact out the door, Ottawa may choose to start looking for his replacement, even if said replacement takes a couple years to develop.) Whatever choices Dorion makes, expect to see the Senators make plenty of headlines over draft weekend.