With the NHL trade deadline getting close (February 24, 3 p.m. ET) the Pro Hockey Talk crew will be taking a closer look at some individual players that could be on the move. Today we focus on Ottawa Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Player: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Current team: Ottawa Senators
Contract Situation: Unrestricted free agent after this season with a salary cap hit of $3.1 million.
Why the Senators might trade him: He is one of the final remaining pieces of their 2017 Eastern Conference Final team and, like everyone before him, is destined to be sold off to the highest bidder at the trade deadline as the scorched earth rebuild rolls on. Like the overwhelming majority of the Senators’ current roster, he has no contract beyond this season. Unlike the majority of the Senators’ roster, he can bring back a strong return in a trade even as a rental. If he will not re-sign (what incentive would there be for him to want to?) they have to trade him. The Senators already have five picks in the first rounds of the 2020 draft (including two first-round picks) and there is no reason to believe Pageau will not bring back another first-round pick (and probably something else).
What he provides: For most of Pageau’s career his value has always centered around his defensive play, especially on the penalty kill where he is a constant threat to score a shorthanded goal. His defensive metrics aren’t as good as you might expect given his reputation as a shutdown center, but the Senators absolutely bury him with defensive zone starts on a rebuilding team that is lacking in talent around him. That is going to hurt any player’s defensive numbers no matter how good they are.
What is standing out about him this year is the offense.
He is on track for a career year offensively and is scoring at a 32-goal pace. His career high in goals entering this season was only 19 goals. He has already topped that mark. That boost comes from a 17.4 percent shooting percentage that is driven by a bonkers run in November where he scored 11 goals in 13 games on only 31 shots. None of that will continue long-term, but sometimes a player just has a year where everything clicks for them. This is that year for Pageau.
In a normal year he is a 15-20 goal third-line center, and a darn good one.
The Oilers are in desperate need for scoring depth after the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl duo and are actually in a position where adding someone like Pageau might make sense. The playoffs are within reach, and their path through the first two rounds in the Pacific Division (provided they can stay in the top-three of that division) is manageable where no potential opponent is clearly better than them. They also have the advantage of having the two best players on the ice in any given matchup. Getting him would also keep him away from their chief rival — and another team that should have interest in him — the Calgary Flames.
Predicted Destination: Having said all of that the Colorado Avalanche are still the team that stands out here. Adding Pageau as a third-line center behind Nathan MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri would make this already loaded roster a monster for teams in the Western Conference to deal with. The Avalanche spent the offseason boosting their forward depth with the additions of Kadri, Joonas Donskoi, Valeri Nichushkin, and Andre Burakovsky. Adding Pageau down the middle could really help put them over the top. The Avalanche are swimming in salary cap space (more than every team in the league other than the Columbus Blue Jackets) and giving up what should be a late first-round pick and a prospect for a chance at the Stanley Cup is worth the price.