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Trade deadline coming up fast as Dorion works phones

The clock is ticking on the Ottawa Senators.

The first step in general manager Pierre Dorion’s master plan to get the club back to respectability is about to be put into action with the NHL trade deadline set for two weeks from today on Monday, Feb. 26th at 3 p.m. EST.

While the Senators spent Sunday night at the Casino Lac Leamy for the annual charity event for the Senators Foundation before heading to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins Tuesday, Dorion is turning up his efforts to play let’s make a deal with the league’s other 30 general managers.

Armed with a three-year contract extension he agreed to Friday with owner Eugene Melnyk, Dorion is open to whatever changes are necessary to make this team better, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to tear it completely apart and there are players on the Ottawa roster that aren’t going to be moved at the deadline.

It’s believed the Senators won’t be dealing captain Erik Karlsson, winger Mark Stone or defenceman Thomas Chabot. Teams that have called about forward Colin White have also been rebuffed while centre Matt Duchene isn’t going anywhere and it would likely take an offer the club couldn’t refuse on centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Other than those names, you have to think Dorion is open for business.

That doesn’t mean everybody is going to be moved, but the club has received genuine interest in forwards Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith, Ryan Dzingel and centre Derick Brassard. It would be surprising to see Brassard traded because the Senators know the difficultly of finding a centre.

On defence, the club has gotten calls on blueliner Cody Ceci along with veterans Dion Phaneuf and Johnny Oduya. The Los Angeles Kings were interested in Phaneuf at the draft last June and it’s believed they’ve circled back again while Oduya, a UFA on July 1, is going to be able to help a contender improve its depth down the stretch.

Moving Ceci wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture. The Senators don’t know what route Karlsson is going to take when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019 and they need to get a handle on whether he wants to sign a new deal. If Karlsson doesn’t, then he’s going to have to be dealt this summer.

The Senators felt they were close to competing for a Stanley Cup this season after making it to the East final last spring against the Penguins. That’s not the case anymore and Dorion needs to know if Karlsson will buy into whatever the plan is here to get this team back on the right track after a deplorable step backwards this season.

League sources insist the Tampa Bay Lightning have called the Senators about Karlsson or Ceci, but the Senators can’t decide on the latter until the former make a determination on his future with the organization.

Ceci and Chabot are both good insurance policies to have around to play bigger roles if Karlsson gets dealt, but that’s a big if because the first priority of the Senators is to keep him.

The most interesting decisions will be made up front.

Hoffman, who has 15 goals and 37 points in 54 games, has been inconsistent this season, but so has everybody else on the Senators. He’s a skilled player which is why the St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres are all believed to have shown varying degrees of interest.

The Senators are torn on this one because they can get good return. However, they do have to play again next season and it’s difficult to find anybody with as good a shot as Hoffman to act a replacement. Plus, in recent weeks, he’s shown that perhaps with Duchene the organization has a combination that can work.

Then there’s Smith. He brings the same effort every night by putting his nose to the grindstone, however, he’s got a cap hit of $3.25 million through the 2020-21 season and that may have to come off the books. It’s believed the Calgary Flames, Vegas Golden Knights and Sharks have shown interest in Smith.

The Senators don’t want to trade Dzingel who reached a career high with his 15th goal of the season in the club’s 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night, but teams are knocking on the door. This move shouldn’t be ruled out, either.

It shouldn’t have come to this for the Senators but it has and that’s why Dorion is going to spend the next 14 days listening to what other teams have to offer.

At this time of year, you can’t leave any stone unturned and Dorion will have to keep that phone charged because the next two weeks are pivotal in this plan to make the Senators right again.

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