Keep an eye on Jakob Chychrun as Senators GM Steve Staios studies trade options

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Steve Staios was in the stands briefly Wednesday as the Ottawa Senators skated at the Canadian Tire Centre.

The club’s president of hockey operations and general manager had a short chat with interim coach Jacques Martin and then headed back downstairs to the bowels of the rink to continue his work to try to get this franchise back on track.

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Sitting last in the East after losing to the Colorado Avalanche at home on Tuesday, the Senators aren’t in any rush to make decisions, but Staios is busy trying to gauge the market for the club’s players while also trying help for this troubled roster.

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“He’s not really in any hurry to do anything and he doesn’t have to be,” a league executive told Postmedia. “I just think they’re trying to get a feel for what they can get for certain players plus help the group.”

The clock is ticking towards the NHL trade deadline set for March 8 at 3 p.m. ET and, with each passing day, it becomes more evident the Senators are going to be a seller.

We’re told by league executives that the Senators are one of the NHL’s most active teams on the trade front. They’d like to keep the core of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Jake Sanderson, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Thomas Chabot together, but that hasn’t stopped teams from calling.

Most of those players aren’t up for discussion, but it’s Staios’ job to listen and he has been doing a lot of that lately. As we stated earlier this year, teams have called about Batherson, but does that mean the Senators really want to move him? No.

The expectation is the club will ask winger Vladimir Tarasenko to waive his “no move” clause before the deadline. There’s no reason to believe he’ll say no because he tried that route with the New York Rangers last spring and likely will take a shot at winning another Stanley Cup.

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The Senators have tried unsuccessfully to move winger Dominik Kubalik, who was acquired in the trade for Alex DeBrincat from the Detroit Red Wings, but there’s lots of time. Kubalik hasn’t been great, but he has nine goals in 38 games.

You’re not going to hit home runs with either of those players, but you will get assets (draft picks) that may help you down the road.

A player to keep an eye on is defenceman Jakob Chychrun.

Acquired from the Arizona Coyotes at last year’s deadline, league sources told Postmedia this week that Staios has been listening to expressions of interest from other teams for the 25-year-old Chychrun. Lots of teams are looking for help on defence, including the Edmonton Oilers.

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He’s an attractive option because he has seven goals and 26 points in 38 games with Ottawa this season. Chychrun has a cap hit of $4.6 million through next year and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2025, so a contender could have him for two playoff runs.

At some point soon, Staios will likely meet with Chychrun’s Ottawa-based agent, Andy Scott of Octagon Hockey, to determine what their parameters might be on an extension. If the numbers don’t add up, then it could get serious with the teams that have been kicking tires.

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The Senators will have five players with cap hits in the $8-million range next season, including Sanderson, whose eight-year, $8.05-million extension kicks in.

Given Chychrun’s numbers, he’s going to expect a healthy raise when his deal expires at the end of next season.

If the Senators and Chychrun aren’t on the same page, then you can expect the trade talk around the 25-year-old will intensify. He will have some control over the situation with a 10-team “no move” clause in his contract, but if a contender wants him, that’s an attractive option.

Last year, the Oilers were in heavy pursuit of Chychrun, which is why they might be the best fit if a trade is made.

The Senators would like to get a couple of players who can help bring leadership to their dressing room and play the game responsibly. Another player like Claude Giroux, 37, would be the perfect fit, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a wily veteran.

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If there’s a younger player that has some term left on their contract who plays the right way with good details in their game and can help this team make a step on the road to respectability, then Staios would entertain that option.

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Those players are difficult to find and the teams that have them want to keep them in the fold, so it can be difficult to find a dance partner.

The future of defenceman Erik Brannstrom is also clouded at best. He was minus-3 in the club’s loss to the Avs, has played a couple of games at forward since Martin took over and it’s fair to say that his role has slipped.

Is a trade imminent for the Senators?

Staios has a tremendous poker face and we know he’s determined to make a few changes to this roster because he doesn’t feel it’s constructed properly. The club’s 15-24-0 record confirms that’s the case and he could strike at any moment.

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