As the NHL's February 27 trade deadline draws nearer and nearer, the Ottawa Senators continue to lose ground in the Eastern Conference standings. The Sens have fallen behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs as of late.
In order to build on their surprisingly good start, the Senators (27-22-7) must add to their active roster. Ottawa boasts an abundance of fourth-line centres such as Zack Smith, Zenon Konopka, Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, but lack a bona-fide third-line centreman. In order for the Senators to continue to be competitive, general manager Bryan Murray will need to add that type of player.
Third-line centres who could be on the market include Buffalo's Paul Gaustad, a big, physical player who is great on face-offs. Gaustad is an unrestricted free agent at season's end and is owed just $721,081, so he is extremely affordable.
There has been an online campaign by Senators fans to bring back Chris Kelly, who was traded to the Boston Bruins last season. Kelly is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and has yet to be re-signed by the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Goaltending has also been somewhat of an issue for the Senators. Craig Anderson, Alex Auld and Robin Lehner have combined to stop just 90.4 percent of the shots the team allows. This is a minor catastrophe for the Senators, considering they allow 32.2 shots per game—good for second-highest in the NHL. Anderson alone has a mediocre .908 save percentage and a 2.99 goals-against average.
If Murray wishes to address his goaltending, he could add a veteran such as Evgeni Nabokov of the New York Islanders, who has played stellar this season. Nabokov has posted a .925 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average this season while adding a pair of shutouts for the Isles.
Adding another top-nine forward should also rank high on the list of Bryan Murray's priorities.
The Senators don't boast an incredibly deep pool of forwards, which is a must-have for a contending team.
Some players who could fit that bill include Travis Moen of the Montreal Canadiens, Tuomo Ruutu of the Carolina Hurricanes, R.J. Umberger of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Malone of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
At any rate, the quick-sinking Senators will need to do something quick to counteract their recent slouch, which has seen them slide to 0-6-1 in their last seven games. The NHL Trade Deadline could provide an ample opportunity for Murray to improve his roster in hopes of a post-season appearance.