The Vegas Golden Knights paid a pretty steep price to get highly sought-after Ottawa Senators winger Mark Stone at the final bell of the trade deadline on Monday, giving up their number-one prospect in defenseman Erik Brannstrom (along with the expiring contract of Oscar Lindberg and a second-round draft pick). But the news that broke just after the trade justified the cost a little more—Stone will be no mere rental for Vegas, but an extremely well-paid long-term player for several years to come.
That’s a lot of money to keep paying a guy until he’s 35, and given that the next CBA will most likely get signed in 2020, an amnesty buyout when he’s toward the end of the deal doesn’t seem like it’ll be an option. But Stone is worth it, especially if he keeps improving throughout his prime. One of the lone bright spots in an otherwise very dark Ottawa season, the five-year vet has already topped his previous season high for goals (28), and with 62 points, he’s just two away from beating his career high in that category as well. On a team with a total goal differential of -41, Stone has a +13, and along with Brady Tkachuk, he’s one of only two everyday Senators with positive Corsi and Fenwick numbers.
For the Golden Knights, who sit third in the Pacific far behind the Sharks and Flames and by no means have a playoff spot locked up, Stone will slot in fearsomely alongside Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson on the top line. With only one 20-goal scorer so far this year (Marchessault), the Knights have been underachieving offensively, but they’re still creating shots and scoring chances better than almost any other team, and Stone will only help that cause.
Up in Canada’s capital, however, it could be worse. Erik Brannstrom likely won’t do anything to immediately help the Sens out of last place, but the 19-year-old Swede has been absolutely dominant as a defenseman in his first year of AHL play. He’s still a little undersized, but Brannstrom—who was a tournament all-star as captain of Team Sweden at December’s World Juniors—is a crazy fast skater and a very talented force in the attacking zone. Brannstrom alongside Thomas Chabot on the blue line, and Tkachuk anchoring the forwards, provide small reasons to look ahead to Ottawa’s brighter future. All they need to do now is go back in time and stop Pierre Dorion from ever giving up a Jack Hughes lottery ticket for Matt Duchene.