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Next seven games will determine Senators GM Dorion’s trade-deadline approach

Given the deep troughs and glorious highs, Senators fans have had a difficult time assessing their mercurial team this season. 

It’s no different for general manager Pierre Dorion. With 53 games played and two weeks until the trade deadline, Dorion still isn’t sure if he will be a buyer or seller. 

He might even be both. 

“Let’s see where these next seven games take us,” Dorion said, in a scrum with Ottawa media Thursday morning.  “We have a plan in place, if we’re going to be a buyer, if we’re going to be a seller. We might just be standing pat, also.”

A few moments later, Dorion added: “We could be a buyer at certain positions and a seller at certain positions. Right now there’s a lot of balls in play – as a GM this is the most fun time of the year, there’s no doubt about that.”

In other words, just about anything is possible at the moment. Except this. Dorion was emphatic that winger Alex DeBrincat, a pending restricted free agent, will NOT be traded at the deadline. 

As for Cam Talbot, the veteran goaltender could be in play, although, as is the case with other pending unrestricted free agents, it depends on the level of interest around the league. 

Talbot, coming off a suspected groin injury, skated today and could be cleared for team practice this weekend. Ottawa’s goaltending situation has been a fluid situation, with co-starter Anton Forsberg out for the year with double MCL tears and AHL callups Mads Sogaard and Kevin Mandolese playing exceptionally in their starts this week, both victories. 

“It’s always a thing on offer and demand,” Dorion said, of the Talbot question. “People think that you’re getting a million calls – and I’m not just talking about Cam specifically, but in general, a lot of people think you get calls about a certain player and you never get a call.”

If teams have interest in UFAs like Talbot and forwards Austin Watson, Tyler Motte and defenceman Nick Holden, etc., Dorion is all ears. 

He did say that Travis Hamonic, though a pending UFA, “is probably someone we’re not going to move at the deadline.” Dorion has not just been impressed with Hamonic’s play, but also his mentorship of star rookie defenceman Jake Sanderson

“We’ll see at the end of the season where that takes us,” Dorion said, of a potential contract for Hamonic.

Dorion added that forward Derick Brassard, who earned a job out of camp as a PTO, will reach game No. 1,000 as an Ottawa Senator, barring something unforeseen. Brassard, who was a healthy scratch in Long Island Tuesday, is expected back in the lineup Friday versus Chicago. That will be career game No. 994 for Brassard. 

“I would put it at 99.9 per cent,” Dorion said, that Brassard is a Senator when he hits that milestone. Technically, Brassard could reach 1,000 and then get traded, if he’s in the lineup consistently. 

The next two weeks will tell a lot. 

With 29 games left in the regular season, the Senators are seven games out of a playoff position, with four other clubs between them and the Washington Capitals for the second wild card spot. 

Dorion wants to see where his team sits seven games from now, around the time Ottawa prepares to meet the New York Rangers on March 2. The trade deadline follows the next day. 

“I wish we could have gone 20 to 25 games somewhat healthy, because I think it would give you the best indication of where we are as an organization,” Dorion said. “There are teams that are on the rebuild that have rarely had any injuries, I wish that could have happened to us. 

“I have a good idea that this is a team moving forward that will be in the playoffs, contend for the playoffs . . . I know this nucleus is one of the best in the NHL. Most of the guys are signed long term. And I think our fans know, that’s why they’re behind us.”

Is the pending sale of the franchise impacting Dorion and his decision-making? He says not. 

“I’ve communicated regularly with the board (of directors) about this year, and I’ve always told them we’re going to do what’s best for the organization, best for the team,” Dorion said. 

“And at that point in time, when new owners come in, whenever that will be, I’ll sit down with them and give them what the plan is and move forward.”

Norris recovering from surgery

Dorion reported that centre Josh Norris had his shoulder surgery a few weeks ago and is expected to be with the team as soon as this weekend, as he continues his rehabilitation toward a return to action next fall. Regarding other injuries, defenceman Nick Holden has an upper body injury that is not expected to be long term, but he is on the IR. Jake Sanderson, also upper body, could be back as early as the Feb. 24-25 weekend, and if not, then probably for the back-to-back games with Detroit on Feb. 27-28. 

Might open a Chipotle franchise

Regarding DeBrincat, Dorion quipped that “I maybe bought a Chipotle franchise.” The reference is to a comment earlier this season by DeBrincat that while he is enjoying his time in Ottawa, he finds it hard to get a Chipotle meal here (there is one at the Rideau Centre). In other words, whatever it takes to keep DeBrincat. 

Change for ‘betterment’ in Belleville

This was Dorion’s first media availability since Troy Mann was fired as coach of the Belleville Senators. Assistant GM Ryan Bowness was the one who commented publicly on the decision when it was announced a couple of weeks ago. 

“I think Ryan spoke very well about it,” Dorion said. “He and I made that decision and it was for the betterment of the organization. We move on and I don’t know if I can add anything more to it.”

Asked about the report of a trust issue between Mann and the club, Dorion replied: “I don’t talk about rumours. I talk about facts.”

Dorion added that Bowness had similar experiences as far as organizational change when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins, dealing with AHL Wilkes-Barre.


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