After a brutal start to the season, the Ottawa Senators are finally starting to figure things out and work their way into the playoff picture, but they're still on the outside looking in.
After losing Erik Karlsson for almost all of last season, the Senators stuck with their guns and tightened up their defensive game on their way into the playoffs. This season though, the defense is extremely leaky, allowing the third most goals against in the entire league.
A disappointing start to the season didn't shake Bryan Murray's confidence in his team or his coaching staff, and they are going for the playoffs, likely looking to load up now and for the future.
In search of a difference maker
It's the same story for every team that feels they're on the cusp of being a contender, everyone wants to acquire a player that can make a big impact for them. For Ottawa, the biggest need is on the blueline, where Erik Karlsson has been a man possessed, but just one man, this season.
With Chris Phillips aging and both Marc Methot and Jared Cowen having disappointing seasons, the Senators need to upgrade their second pairing. They have the cap space to do so, and are probably willing to move prospects and picks in order to make it happen, although Cody Ceci is likely untouchable.
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Where are they looking?
There are rumours that the Senators are in conversation with the Buffalo Sabres, which would make sense after the Sabres hired Senators assistant GM, and Bryan Murray's brother, Terry Murray, which could mean that Ottawa is after Matt Moulson. They could also be in on Henrik Tallinder, who even at 35 would be an upgrade, and has an expiring contract that pays him just $3.375M.
The other name that continuously pops up in regards to the Senators is St. Louis Blues right winger Chris Stewart, who fits the power forward mold that Ottawa is looking for, but the Blues aren't exactly sellers while sitting around the top of the league. A one for one swap rarely happens in the NHL anymore, but could the Senators and Blues look at a Stewart for Michalek trade?
Other pieces in play
If the worst happens and the Senators can't break their way into the playoff picture right away, it's possible that they could explore moving veterans on expiring contracts like Milan Michalek and Chris Phillips. The Boston Bruins are reportedly interested in Phillips, and they haven't been hesitant to move good young pieces in the past.