NHL trade notes: Senators pay Blackhawks to remove Nikita Zaitsev

The exchange

Blackhawks get: Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, 2023 second-round pick, 2026 fourth-round pick.

Senators Get: Future Considerations

Sean Kind: The price Ottawa paid to dump a year and change Nikita Zaitsev’s $4.5 million AAV probably doesn’t bode well for the rest of the league – the exchange rate (second pick and fourth round) is high, and teams that might be interested in trading out of cape hell should be a little scared of it.

The Senators, however, can get away with it, even though they’ve already retired their first-rounder of 2022 as part of the deal with Alex DeBrincat. Their core is young, talented and in most cases – Tim Stützle, Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Jake Sanderson – either locked in long term or at the start of their contracts. Ottawa’s lead pipeline isn’t spectacular (24th in Scott Wheeler’s rankings), but it’s as strong as it should be, with contributors projected at the top. It’s easy to use a few choices to make dirty money disappear when you’re in a situation like this.

Above all, the space created is truly worth more than Ottawa’s picks. Next season, the last in which Zaitsev would be on the books, Stützle’s extension kicks in and DeBrincat, a pending RFA, will likely be back on the books. The Senators need the cash to account for that, build the rest of the roster, and maybe have some room to work in the next 10 days.

As for the Blackhawks, they may need Zaitsev’s help to reach the cap next season. Whether it does or not, his blow will be of no concern. They bought picks for $5 million. Tidy things.

Ranking of senators:B
Blackhawks standings: A

Shayne Goldman: Zaitsev has been a drag for the Senators, an area they need to improve on, so it’s an addition by subtraction. Although he had a positive impact on the team’s expected goal suppression in 2020-21, he hurt the team defensively in the past two seasons. Right now, Ottawa allows the 10th-highest 5-on-5 shooting rate and is in the bottom half of the league in expected goals. This year, in his 28 games played, he’s increased his shooting rate against about five of 60 attempts (second-worst on the team) and expected goals against by 0.23 (third-worst).

So it all looks like the Senators have to pay to get his contract out, and it makes even more sense that the Blackhawks are willing to absorb him. They already have one of the worst blue lines in the league, and that only adds to it. Anything to sink them to Connor Bedard, and next year bring them closer to the ceiling. Since Chicago literally doesn’t care about the end result this year or next year, the on-ice aspect of this move doesn’t matter, adding draft picks does. It’s even more important now that they’ve lost a trade chip in Jonathan Toews, and who knows what leverage they have in a Patrick Kane situation.

It helps the Senators add to their salary flexibility — they have growing costs and should be looking for more available defensemen — and it’s a cost they can afford given they’ve been sellers for a while. time and have accumulated their pool of prospects. But if that sets the bar for the rest of the contenders to match when they move the salary in order to add, it will be difficult for some managers to navigate.

Blackhawks standings: A
Ranking of senators:B

(Photo: Eric Bolte / USA Today)

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