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Senators will keep 'stars of tomorrow,' GM says

Dorion discusses Stone trade, Ottawa rebuild in talk with NHL.com

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- When the Ottawa Senators traded Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, it meant they had lost each of their top five scorers from last season.

Stone was traded to the Golden Knights with forward Tobias Lindberg for forward Oscar Lindberg, defenseman prospect Erik Brannstrom and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Stone tied defenseman Erik Karlsson for the team lead in points in 2017-18 with 62, followed by Mike Hoffman (56), Matt Duchene (49) and Ryan Dzingel (41).

 

[RELATED: Stone traded to Golden Knights by Senators | 2018-19 NHL Trade Tracker]

 

Hoffman was traded to the San Jose Sharks on June 19, 2018, before being acquired by the Florida Panthers in a trade with San Jose, and Karlsson was also traded to the Sharks on Sept. 13, 2018. Duchene and Dzingel were each traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Now with a young, inexperienced roster and an unsettled fan base, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion sat down with NHL.com on Monday evening to talk about the state of his team.

 

It's almost unprecedented from a general manager's standpoint to have traded away a team's top five scorers from the previous season, but you done that with Hoffman, Karlsson, Duchene, Dzingel and now Stone. Could you have ever prepared for something like this?

I think as a general manager you prepare for every scenario. This is no different. Eight months ago, we knew we were in a rebuild, so trading away older assets is something we were going to look at. It was part of our plan. We feel now with the assets we've acquired in all these deals that we've taken a significant step forward in the rebuild.

 

That may be true from a hockey point of view, but how do you sell that to a skeptical public?

I think we sell it with the quality and quantity of picks we've acquired. We now have 17 picks in the first three rounds over the next three NHL Drafts (2019-2021). Our fans have seen some roster players we acquired in those deals -- specifically the Erik Karlsson one -- in, for example, forward Chris Tierney and defenseman Dylan DeMelo. They've had seen some prospects coming in in Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris. There are up-and-comers on our Belleville [American Hockey League] farm team in Drake Batherson and Logan Brown. And there are the young guys we have up here in Colin White and, of course, what can you say about Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot? We feel they are going to be stars.

Video: What the Senator's outlook is from the trade deadline

 

Having said that, there seems to be a school of thought in this community that you cannot keep your star players in the mix. You are on record as saying you made what you thought were fair offers to all four -- Karlsson, Duchene, Dzingel and Stone. How do you respond to that?

We don't believe that. The players who left are in the primes of their careers and they want to be with contenders. We have to respect that. At the same time, we're building a culture we feel that will cause players to grow together and win together.

We feel as far as rebuilds go, it's a process. We are going to keep our stars of tomorrow. We are going to grow with our stars of tomorrow. But at this part of the rebuild, we're not at the stage where we are going to keep older players who might not be as productive. 

Hoffman was a different situation, but in the cases of Karlsson, Stone, Duchene and Dzingel, we made it clear that we were in rebuild mode. They decided they'd rather be in more competitive situations and that's their right. They earned the positions that they're in.

We understand there are difficult times ahead, but we're really excited about some of our younger players and the path we're taking.

 

At any point, did you ever think you had a legitimate shot of re-signing Duchene, Dzingel and/or Stone?

Obviously, we did. All three are pending [unrestricted] free agents. With all three we felt at a certain time there was optimism. But when it became apparent they weren't going to re-sign, we had to get the best quality/quantity additions we could get so we could make sure this rebuild goes the right way.

 

One of the players you said you are "elated" about acquiring is Brannstrom. What do you like most about him?

Of all the moves we've made, the one today to get Brannstrom easily is the one that excites me the most. We saw him a couple of weeks ago in Winnipeg with the Chicago Wolves and he just continued to impress us. He is one of the top prospects around and someone we targeted in this deal. To get a young defenseman like this who already is playing this well in the AHL, well, he's one of the building blocks we've been talking about.

 

With so many veterans gone, does that put more pressure on Chabot, 22, and Tkachuk, 19? Or do you consider it more of an opportunity?

It's an opportunity. Besides their tremendous talent, they're high character people. Moving forward, they're going to be two great young leaders on our team. But it's not just about them, it's about every single person in that dressing room.

Video: The crew discusses the Golden Knights adding Stone

 

How do you respond to critics who claim ownership is an issue with the team you ice?

This is a hockey department thing. I can tell you that we did not talk to ownership (Eugene Melnyk) until after the [Stone] trade had already been consummated today. 

What we're trying to do in this rebuild is rebuild our culture, rebuild our environment, rebuild with players who want to grow with us. So this is just about the rebuild.

 

As someone who normally is so upbeat, how do you stay that way given all the white noise surrounding this franchise?

This is a great job. There's only 31 of these jobs in the world. I'm fortunate to be part of it. I'm fortunate to be living my hometown. To me, you don't let any outside noise, if there is any, affect what you do. But we really believe in what we've done in the past 12 months as far as making sure that this team is on the right path in the rebuild.

 

What is your message to the fan base?

We've told fans to please be patient. Rebuilds aren't always easy but please believe in what we are doing. Please have faith. We have confidence as a hockey group that we are on the right path. We've acquired the type of assets that we believe will be a Stanley Cup contending team down the road. We're excited. 

 

In closing, are you satisfied as a group with the returns you received from your various trades since last June?

Every one of these trades we are extremely happy with. And like I said, today we got the biggest and best piece in Brannstrom for the future success of our rebuild.

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