Sens GM Dorion happy to be in a position to add assets for a playoff push

OTTAWA — Being in a position to add assets, rather than part with them, felt pretty good for Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion.

Dorion was able to add an impact defenceman in Jakob Chychrun on Wednesday to help with Ottawa's playoff push, and continued tweaking his lineup Friday with the acquisition of forward Patrick Brown from Philadelphia.

"It’s great to be a buyer," Dorion said Friday after the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline passed. “It was great to be a buyer at the draft this year and it was great to be a buyer in the last week or so.”

Dorion found himself, for the first time in six years, looking to add to his roster as his team prepared to play meaningful hockey down the stretch.

As of Friday, the Senators (31-26-4) sat four points back of the New York Islanders (31-25-8), who hold the final wild-card spot. Ottawa has three games in hand.

The Senators are also fighting with the Buffalo Sabres (31-25-4), who also have 66 points and have a game in hand on Ottawa, as well as Florida, Washington and Detroit, who are all looking to make it to the post-season.

“The most important thing this year for us was to play meaningful games around the trade deadline,” Dorion said. "Our young core is growing so much through that…to me the best growth this team can have for future success is to play meaningful games this year."

Dorion began tinkering with his lineup when he traded Tyler Motte to the New York Rangers for Julien Gauthier two weeks ago. He then moved Nikita Zaitsev and two draft picks to Chicago to free up salary, setting the stage for a bigger move.

That move came early Wednesday evening when the Senators acquired Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a conditional first-round draft pick in 2023, a conditional second-round selection in 2024 and a second-round pick in 2026.

The Senators had coveted Chychrun for months, but the asking price had always been too high, speculated to be two first-round picks and a high-end prospect.

The fact Dorion didn’t have to part with anyone off his roster or a high-end prospect was seen as a win for Ottawa.

"It was just adding someone who can play top four minutes and we know he can definitely do that," Dorion said. "We’re really happy with this acquisition."

Chychrun, who had been held out of the Coyotes lineup since Feb. 11, took the red eye to New York to join the Senators and made his debut Thursday night in the team’s 5-3 victory over the Rangers.

Surprisingly, Dorion said he made the decision to be a buyer following a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Boston on Feb. 19.

"I said if we can play with this team on a back-to-back and show that kind of effort, and usually I’m always mad after every loss, I said we could be buyers here," Dorion said. "Not that we expected how we played against Detroit, Brady (Tkachuk) put the team on his back…and who can’t wait to see Brady Tkachuk play in a playoff series."

Dorion shored up the centre position with one final move on Friday, acquiring Brown from the Philadelphia Flyers for a sixth-round pick in the 2023 draft.

Brown tallied two goals and five assists with a minus-6 rating in 43 games with the Flyers this season.

"Our goal today was to add some depth down the middle," Dorion said. “A depth forward. Someone who could play, whether it’s a penalty killing role, a character role and that’s what we did with Patrick."

There had been speculation the Senators might consider moving forward Austin Watson or veteran netminder Cam Talbot, but Dorion feels both have made significant contributions to the Senators success.

Dorion said Watson’s play of late has been a factor in the team’s current 7-2-1 stretch, and added that this run likely wouldn’t have been possible without Talbot’s play in December where he won seven of his 10 starts.

There was also no consideration given to moving Nick Holden, Travis Hamonic or Derick Brassard, who are all set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

"There was no real intention, even for a little while, we’ve had no real intentions of moving any of those guys, unless there was an offer we couldn’t refuse and that wasn’t the case," Dorion said.

The Senators have 21 games remaining in what should be the most exciting stretch of hockey in the nation's capital since the 2017 run to the Eastern Conference final.

"The players are having fun right now, you can tell this group never had this kind of buzz before the Detroit game," Dorion said. "Let’s let them have fun. Let’s let them grow. Let’s see what happens. You never know."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2023.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press