Senators GM Dorion risks losing quality talent at expansion draft
Dion Pheneuf's refusal to waive no-movement clause means another defender exposed
It's only fitting Pierre Dorion is headed to Las Vegas. The Ottawa Senators general manager may have to do some gambling as he prepares for the upcoming expansion draft.
Dorion discussed his plans for the draft Thursday, confirming reports that the Senators had asked defenceman Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause and allow Ottawa to expose him. But the veteran declined, leaving the Senators and Dorion with some rather big decisions prior to Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline for teams to submit their protected lists.
Had Phaneuf agreed to be exposed the Senators could have protected Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot and Cody Ceci and seven forwards. Now that Phaneuf has to be protected the Senators could lose Methot or Ceci.
"It was explained very well to him, our request and why we were making this request," said Dorion. "It wasn't that we felt he was our fourth best defenceman, it was the fact that we'd like to keep our top four together. At your age and salary (he told Phaneuf) the likelihood of maybe Vegas not taking you was a possibility, but who knows? Maybe Las Vegas would have taken him...
"At the same time my respect for Dion hasn't changed, it's still the same. I still think he's a big part of this team and the fact that he wants to be here tells me a lot about him."
Dorion's other option would be to protect eight players allowing him to keep his four defenceman, but then he risks losing a quality forward.
Trade route one possible option for Senators
Ottawa could also look to trade one of its defencemen, including Phaneuf who had to submit a list of 12 teams where he would accept a trade, but Dorion seemed somewhat hesitant on that front.
"If you make a trade with a team then you risk the fact of losing another asset so maybe just accept that you're going to lose one asset. They can't take two players. Maybe as an organization we lose that player, we move forward. Whatever position I feel our depth is very good.
"We feel comfortable with what we've got as far as depth."
Despite things being a little more difficult than he would like Dorion feels confident things will work themselves out.
"We've been preparing for this for over a year so we've looked at every possible scenario," said Dorion. "We haven't had a surprise yet."
'No hard feelings' for Chris Neil
Dorion also confirmed that the team has agreed to part ways with veteran Chris Neil.
Neil, drafted 161st overall in 1998, played all of his 1,026 games with the Senators, but saw a diminished role under new head coach Guy Boucher and as a result will test the free agent market.
"Chris still feels that he can probably play more minutes than he was given here and we have to respect that," said Dorion. "One thing about Chris Neil is he's going to try to prove everyone wrong in this organization and that's OK.
"There were no hard feelings. It was mutual from both sides that this probably wouldn't work out moving forward for next year."
Talks with other free agents ongoing
Dorion added that he has held talks with unrestricted free agents Mike Condon, Viktor Stalberg, Tom Pyatt and Tommy Wingels, but no signings are imminent.
"Everything is progressing probably better than expected, but no one wants to sign right now," said Dorion. "I think a lot has to do with expansion because I told all of them that none of you are protected if you were to sign and they're waiting and I'm hoping to continue conversations with all four of them."
The Senators also held discussions with veteran Chris Kelly, who rejoined the team last season on a one-year deal.
"We're not completely turning the page on Chris Kelly," Dorion said. "Our biggest addition this year was Chris Kelly as far as changing our culture in the room, leadership, character, accountability. Chris brought all those intangibles that we were looking for."
With Derick Brassard undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this month the Senators could opt to re-sign Kelly later this summer as a form of insurance should Brassard not be ready.
Dorion is heading to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, where he's a nominee for GM of the Year, but is also hopeful to come to an agreement on a new contract for Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
"Last time (player agent) Craig (Oster) and I got to Vegas we were able to do Mark Stone and Mika Zibanejad so I have a lot of faith that over a craps table we'll be able to get a deal done," joked Dorion.