Senators’ GM Steve Staios confident he’s done groundwork for deals

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Steve Staios tried to wheel and deal Friday, but couldn’t get any across the finish line.

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The National Hockey League’s annual trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET and the Ottawa Senators’ president and general manager didn’t make any last-minute deals before the clock struck zero, but he may have laid the foundation for a busy off-season.

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“It didn’t really lead into any results as far as transactions, I think we learned a lot about our team and a lot about where other teams are at as well as far as value,” Staios said on a Zoom call Friday. “It helps us with our plan moving forward. We were extremely active.

“The process overall is going to help us in the long run.”

While Staios spent the last 48 hours huddled with his closest advisors in Los Angeles, they weren’t able to turn all the discussion into action and the only significant move was a trade that sent winger Vladimir Tarasenko to the Florida Panthers Wednesday morning.

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Though the Senators were hopeful they’d be able to get some players that might be able to help this group, those trades can be difficult to make the deadline and those are moves that Staios can focus on in the off-season.

He said he felt he was close on some trades.

“Yes, we had some very strong discussions on some transactions that we felt were probably pretty close,” Staios said. “The uniqueness of it is we were approaching this opportunity for the Ottawa Senators as not just where we are in the standings.

“(It wasn’t) your traditional way of moving players out. We were looking for opportunities to improve our team in ways that we felt best shaped our group. We were involved in a lot different discussions on a lot of different levels.”

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The Senators still have a long off-season, which will include the NHL draft in June and free agency on July 1, to make the necessary changes they want. Staios feels there are some discussions he’ll be able to continue in the coming months.

Staios wasn’t going to make a deal for the sake of making a trade.

“The conversations we had with teams were good and we learned a lot about what’s not only available at the trade deadline, but how teams are looking to approach their off-season,” Staios said. “A lot of those conversations and opportunities are open-ended.

“From that perspective it puts us in good shape moving forward to plan for the off-season.”

League sources told Postmedia Friday the Senators were trying to deal the likes of forwards Dominik Kubalik and Mark Kastelic along with blueliner Erik Brannstrom.

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It’s believed there were tire kickers for those players, but there were no takers. Kastelic has a contract for next season so he’ll likely be back, but this isn’t good news for Kubalik or Brannstrom. The latter is a restricted free agent and he may not receive a qualifying offer July 1.

We’re led to believe the Senators had some calls on defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker in the last few days, but teams weren’t willing to pay the asking price and the club wasn’t in a rush to deal him.

But Staios didn’t restrict his discussions to just those players. We reported months ago that this organization was “open for business” and the list of untouchables is short. Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Jake Sanderson won’t be going anywhere, but many are up for discussion.

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That doesn’t mean Thomas Chabot, Drake Batherson, Jakob Chychrun, Claude Giroux and others that are considered part of the core group are going anywhere anytime soon, but Staios owes it to himself to listen when rival GM’s pick up the phone.

The left shoulder injury to centre Josh Norris, which will likely require a third surgery to repair, has taken him out of any trade discussions.

“We learned that maybe that the value or fit wasn’t there in some instances and also that we have good players and we have coveted players,” Staios said. “That’s what’s been so intriguing about being here for a short period of time. We certainly have talented and good hockey players.

“We’ve shown that we’re a good team for stretches of time. It’s my responsibility to supplement this roster and help them along. Our players need to know they’re talent and they’re good and their responsibility is to come together as a team.”

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Staios can understand the frustration from the fans but noted “this was just one opportunity for us.

“I share in their angst for this team to get to the next level,” said Staios. “We thought outside the box, we were extremely aggressive in some situations to expedite the development of this group. We were keeping in mind that we weren’t going to do anything rash.

“I hear where (the fans) are coming from. I haven’t been around this group for a long period of time when it comes to building a team and group. There’s a lot of things we can do internally much better and we’ll enter the off-season with the same aggressive approach that we can into this trade deadline with to improve this team.”

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