The Ottawa Senators ramped up their rebuilding effort Thursday, making a significant trade that will give them a second first-round draft pick in the summer.
They’re about to meet their chief competition for the draft’s No. 1 overall pick.
The NHL’s two worst teams square off Saturday, with the Senators looking to avoid a 12th straight defeat and hand the Edmonton Oilers their 10th loss in 11 home games.
Ottawa (17-30-8) has seen little go right a season after finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference, with a minus-59 goal differential that’s the worst in the NHL.
With a trip back to the playoffs out of reach and top scorer Daniel Alfredsson(notes) out indefinitely with a lower back injury, Ottawa got a head start on rebuilding for next season on Thursday. The Senators dealt 11-year veteran Mike Fisher(notes), who has never played for anyone else, to Nashville for a 2011 first-round pick and a conditional pick in 2012.
“This team has not performed very well, to say the least,” general manager Bryan Murray told the team’s official website. “If we’re going to get ourselves to the stage where we’re more than just a competitive team in the future and have a chance to draw deep into the playoffs, we need (younger) assets, and have to do a good job in the draft.”
The Predators’ pick will likely fall somewhere in the late teens to early 20s, but the Senators’ own pick will be much higher. Only Edmonton (16-30-8) - at 40 - has fewer points than Ottawa’s 42.
The Senators haven’t picked up any points in five games in February and haven’t earned two in nearly a month, last winning Jan. 13 against the New York Islanders. The most recent loss in that 0-9-2 drought was a 5-2 defeat at Calgary on Wednesday night.
The only longer losing streak in franchise history was a 14-game skid from March 2-April 7, 1993.
While the Senators will have two first-round picks in the summer, the youth movement has started. Forwards Bobby Butler(notes) and Jim O’Brien(notes) - the latter a first-rounder in 2007 - were recalled from AHL Binghamton after the Fisher trade.
The young Oilers were expected to struggle as they build around No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall(notes), and that’s certainly been the case lately at home. Edmonton is 1-7-2 in its last 10 games at Rexall Place including five straight defeats, the latest a 4-1 loss to Chicago on Wednesday.
The Oilers were especially disappointed with their performance after they had wrapped up a three-game road trip with a 4-0 win at Nashville two days earlier.
“We just came out really flat,” center Sam Gagner(notes) told the NHL’s official website. “The difference between Nashville and tonight is that we took penalties while we were trying to find our way.”
The Senators and Oilers are two of the league’s worst defensive clubs, but an equally troubling issue for Edmonton has been its power play. The Oilers are 3 for 75 with the man advantage since Christmas.