Most eyes in Ottawa Wednesday were on Parliament Hill and the speech from the throne.
But, down the street at the Canadian Tire Centre, there were no shortage of ears listening to the Zoom conference call Ottawa Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion held with the local media to discuss the preparations for one of the biggest NHL drafts in franchise history that will be held virtually Oct. 6-7.
And, while there’s a lot of balls in the air with the club holding three first round picks, including the No. 3 and No. 5 selections along with the No. 28 they acquired from the New York Islanders for Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Dorion has been busy working the phones because Ottawa has nine selections in first three rounds and 13 overall.
Dorion noted this is the busiest he’s been taking calls since he took over the club’s GM role and he’s been “popular among” his counterparts because of all the picks the organization has in a strong draft.
“We’re going to look at every possible scenario,” Dorion said Wednesday morning. “There’s a lot of chatter going on amongst the GM’s. A lot of teams are building competitive teams for next year, as we’re trying to do, and we’ll look at possible trades for picks if it makes sense for us.
“But, it has to make sense for us. It has to make sense as to what we’re trying to do with our rebuild, our plan and not trying to jump steps that will make us a better team in the long-term.”
Of course, there’s no shortage of focus on those No. 3 and No. 5 selections. It doesn’t sound like they’ll be moved, but it does make sense for Dorion to at least listen if somebody’s wiling to give him an offer he can’t refuse for the No. 5 selection to move back, although, its highly unlikely.
Dorion is playing his cards close to his vest because he’s not sure wha will happen in front of him with the Los Angeles Kings at No. 2, but he made it clear the Senators would be happy to get either Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves or Tim Stuetzle of Mannheim in the Deutsch Elite League at No. 3.
Yes, the organization would have liked to get the No. 1 overall pick to take Alexis Lafreniere, however, the New York Rangers won the modified lottery and they’ll have that honour. That hasn’t hurt the excitement owner Eugene Melnyk and Dorion have about the prospects the Senators are going to obtain in this draft.
“I don’t think the Ottawa Senators have ever had two picks in the top five and with it being such a great draft we’re looking forward to picking No. 3 and No. 5,” Dorion said. “I don’t think we’d be misleading our fans, everyone knows what we’re going to do at No. 3, depending on what L.A. does at No. 2.
“At No. 5, we’re still having great discussions because there’s so many players that are going to be impact players and those two players are going to be cornerstones of our franchise with the likes of Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk. We feel Colin White is going to get back on tract to the player he was a few years ago.
“That’s what we’re really excited about. I can’t wait for Oct. 6th to come along.”
Dorion said Lafreniere, Byfield and Stuetzle are all high-end talent. The club’s third selection was the one it acquired as part of the trade that sent Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks in Sept., 2018.
“There are three top forwards at the top of the draft. It’s no secret here and we feel that we’re going to get one of those guys and that player can play for us as soon as the 2020-21 season starts,” Dorion said. “That, in a nutshell, you’re getting a cornerstone of our franchise that our fans can identify as early as Dec. 1 and before that.
“That’s such an opportunity and how we got that player through a massive trade of seven pieces and that says a lot about where we’re headed with the future of our franchise.”
Yes, the Senators may use some of those second round picks to get roster players for next season, but at this point Dorion hasn’t been made an offer he’s willing to move on. He said most teams are engaged in trade talks.
“We got calls as soon as teams left the bubble,” Dorion said. “There were certain teams that lost, and you could tell they weren’t happy about losing, so there’s been lots of chatter. There’s been nothing done so far so there’s been nothing that’s been worth it but as we go on we’re always look at our options.
“We want to make sure we follow the plan and don’t take any shortcuts. We have to make sure we have long-term success and, at the same time, make sure we bring our young players into the lineup and make sure they’re well-surrounded. Whether that’s a trade or free agency, we’ll make sure to do that once the season starts.”
At this point, Dorion is keeping his options open, and judging by his answers Wednesday he has a lot on the table.
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