The Ottawa Senators made one of the more mystifying deals of this NHL season on Monday when they traded a promising prospect, Jonathan Dahlen, to the Vancouver Canucks for veteran forward Alexandre Burrows. Then they doubled down on that confusion by reportedly handing Burrows an immediate two-year contract extension worth $5 million.
Sure, Burrows may be able to provide some immediate offensive depth to a depleted Senators team hoping to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture down the stretch, as Burrows has 20 points (9+11) in 55 games this season.
But there’s plenty of reason for Ottawa fans to shaking their head (and possibly a fist or two) at this deal.
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First off, Dahlen appears to be a pretty good player. The 19-year-old prospect is the son of Ulf Dahlen, who spent 17 seasons in the NHL playing in 966 games scoring 655 career points. The younger Dahlen was taken with the 42nd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and has been pretty impressive playing overseas this year.
In 44 games for Timra IK of HockeyAllsvenskan in Sweden, Dahlen has racked up 42 points, including 24 goals. He also added five goals in seven games for Sweden at the 2017 World Junior Championship.
A quick glimpse at his highlight reel shows that he’s got some slick offensive skills.
Looking at his production rate, raw skill, and pedigree — it seems like a player that’s worth more than what Burrows should command. But it’s a seller’s market and maybe that’s what Ottawa felt they needed to do to land immediate help. Fortunately, they’ve still got an impressive pipeline of prospects with youngsters such as Colin White, Thomas Chabot and Logan Brown.
But then you have to consider the fact that Ottawa turned around and gave five million dollars to a regressing depth player who is about to turn 36 this spring? Before even seeing him play a single game for your organization? That’s a very questionable extension, especially when you remember those prospects that they have coming down the line.
It’s possible the extension was necessary before Burrows agreed to waive his no-trade clause for the Sens, and it isn’t necessarily a deal that’s going to put the Senators in cap hell on its own. But we’ve seen plenty of times over the years that overcompensating role players can quickly catch up to a team and force them into tight spots down the road.
It won’t kill them, but it definitely has the potential to hurt them. A safer play likely would have been surrendering a few picks in a weak upcoming draft for a half-season rental player on an expiring deal.
The Senators are banking on Burrows’ past accomplishments and experience to help them make an immediate push, and maybe it will work out. Maybe Burrows brings a veteran presence while finding new life with a change of scenery in Ottawa, but there’s plenty of reason to think that this deal could look pretty bad in a year or two.
The Sens are clearly willing to gamble to help them win right now, but it’s safe to say they put pushed more chips to the center of the table than they needed to.