Golden Knights win Mark Stone trade derby as Senators clean house
Winnipeg native had 28 goals, 62 points in 59 games with Senators this season
The Vegas Golden Knights responded to division rival San Jose's addition of Gustav Nyquist with their own skilled forward, winning the Mark Stone sweepstakes ahead of Monday's trade deadline.
Vegas general manager George McPhee is said to have outbid no fewer than seven teams for the former Ottawa Senators' star two-way winger. The Senators also sent forward prospect Tobias Lindberg to the Golden Knights and acquired highly touted Swedish defence prospect Erik Brannstrom, centre Oscar Lindberg and Dallas' 2020 second-round draft pick.
Stone, who amassed 28 goals and 62 points in 59 games this season with Ottawa, was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and was the last big trade piece for Senators GM Pierre Dorion, who moved fellow forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel to Columbus in recent days.
Stone, Duchene and Dzingel had accounted for 41 per cent of Ottawa's goals this season.
Stone confirmed in an interview with TSN that he had agreed to a long-term extension with Las Vegas, and TSN's Bob McKenzie reported it will be an eight-year, $76-million US deal.
"It's the players' right if they want to stay or not stay," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. "We've made it clear through this process to these four players that we're in a rebuild.
"It's their choice, we tried to sign all four of them. All four of them were offered contract extensions."
The framework of a long-term contract reportedly was close in August when Ottawa signed the Winnipeg native to a one-year contract extension worth $7.35 million US to avoid salary arbitration. According to the Ottawa Sun, the Senators made an eight-year offer on Feb. 21.
"Obviously, there's some mixed feelings," Stone said in an interview on TSN. "I'm so excited to be joining the team. Just seeing what they did in the playoffs was unbelievable. But I enjoyed my time in Ottawa. I love the city. So many great people here."
Stone, in the midst of his second consecutive point-per-game season, will likely reach the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.
Erik Brannstrom is the top defence prospect in the game; simply a dynamic talent who will be a a major component of our future.— Senators GM Pierre Dorion
The 26-year-old is a proven sniper with five straight 20-plus goal seasons but also considered the best defensive forward in the NHL.
Drafted 15th overall in 2017 by the Golden Knights, the 19-year-old Brannstrom is the key piece in the deal for Ottawa. The five-foot-10, 173-pounder had seven goals and 28 points in 41 games this season for the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
"Erik Brannstrom is the top defence prospect in the game; simply a dynamic talent who will be a major component of our future," Dorion said. "He was undoubtedly the best prospect available at the trade deadline and in addition to his talent, he is a natural born leader.
"We could not be more excited to look at the future of having Erik join the other young prospects in the Senators organization. He'll be a cornerstone player of our rebuild."
Lindberg, 27, had four goals and 12 points in 35 contests this season for the Golden Knights. He has 71 points (34 goals, 37 assists) in 232 NHL regular-season games with Vegas and New York Rangers.
The six-foot-one, 202-pound Swede was taken by the Golden Knights in their expansion draft back in June 2017.
Players were resigned to deal
Players seemed resigned to the fact that Stone would be traded as they spoke of him in the past tense after Monday's morning skate.
"He's been kind of the consummate professional through all this," said Mark Borowiecki. "I was talking to Marc Crawford about it this morning and (Crawford) made a great point saying Stoner's come in here and worked his ass off and done everything that's been asked of him every day, regardless of what's been swirling around him and I think he deserves to be commended for that."
Stone's departure will be significant for rookie Brady Tkachuk, who was welcomed into Stone's home at the start of the season.
"For me he was a huge impact for me this year both on and off the ice," said Tkachuk. "I was lucky enough to be able to play with him all year. If he goes it will be real tough on me because I've gotten to be really close with him living with him and playing alongside all year. It was a real honour for me to play with him.
"He welcomed me into his home when he didn't have to and kind of took me under his wing and it means so much to me. He didn't have to, that's just the kind of guy he is. For this team he was our leader. He brought it everyday, he works his hardest, he wants to win all the time."
As difficult as the situation was for all the players, Dorion admitted it was just as challenging for head coach Guy Boucher.
"I don't think anyone will disagree with me on this one that I've made his job pretty difficult in the last few weeks and we're going to support him."
Season marred by poor play, negativity off ice
Ottawa was a goal away from making it to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, but has been dogged by poor play on the ice and negativity off it ever since, including a since-rescinded threat to move the team by owner Eugene Melnyk, dressing room drama, the trade of captain Erik Karlsson and the potential collapse of an arena deal that would see the Senators move from suburban Kanata to a new downtown home.
The Senators have stripped the roster down to its studs, but don't have their first-round pick this June because of the deal to acquire Duchene in a three-team trade with the Colorado Avalanche in November 2017, meaning that Ottawa could potentially miss out on presumptive No. 1 overall selection Jack Hughes.
With files from The Canadian Press