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Thoughts on the Austin Watson Trade

October 12, 2020, 4:21 PM ET [60 Comments]
Michael Stuart
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Like many of you, I had the opportunity to enjoy a quiet Thanksgiving weekend with my close cohort (read: immediate family) over the last couple days. It was great to take a quick moment to recharge and reflect on this crazy year before the weather takes a turn for the worse here in Edmonton. While it’s impossible to know when a return to normal will grace us with its presence, there is one thing we do know for certain: Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators didn’t take a break during this long weekend.

After cruising through free agency and the draft last week, the Senators announced on Saturday that they have acquired forward Austin Watson from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2021 fourth-round draft pick. Watson, who carries a $1.5-million cap his through 2022-23, serves as a small step towards the salary cap floor for this Ottawa team.

Beyond the benefit of actually adding money to the books, it’s difficult to see what this move brings to the organization from an on-ice perspective. It’s another example of the team going out and acquiring one of D.J. Smith’s former players, but will probably do little to move the needle in terms of pushing the Senators towards competitiveness. Much like the Gudbranson trade, it’s also an example of using mid-round draft capital to bring in a player that isn’t likely to improve the product.

Pierre Dorion cited Watson’s history as a leading shot blocker and hit generator for the Predators when asked why he pulled the trigger on this move. What he failed to mention, though, is that the reason Watson led in those categories was that the Predators never had the puck when he was on the ice. Per Natural Stat Trick, no Predator with more than 500 five-on-five minutes in 2019-20 was on the ice for more goals against per 60 minutes. He also found himself at the bottom of Nashville’s scoring chance share and expected goal share rankings by a material margin.

It’s quite clear with this acquisition (and the Gudbranson trade) that Dorion wants his team to be bigger and tougher to play against. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that plan, but it should also be noted that there’s nothing in the rulebook that says being tough to play against and skill need to be mutually exclusive. Bringing in a player who blocks shots and hits without considering whether there’s an underlying reason for the prowess in those areas is a great example of missing the forest for the trees.

All of this is to say: I don’t love the acquisition, even without considering some of the off-ice concerns that have been voiced by members of Senators Nation. Yes, the Senators need to spend money and fill roster spots, but there were likely better ways to do it than this.

As always, thanks for reading.
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