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That’s all she wrote for this edition of the Ottawa Senators.
And, now the off-season work can begin for Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk, general manager Pierre Dorion, coach D.J. Smith, chief scout Trent Mann and the rest of the hockey operations staff as they start looking towards a long off-season and next year, whenever that gets under way.
A decision by the NHL Players’ Association Friday night to accept the league’s proposal to go ahead with a 24-team Return to Play proposal means the Senators are the only Canadian team that won’t continue their season if the pause is ended next month and the playoffs are held through the summer to award the Stanley Cup sometime in September or early October.
The union’s executive committee overwhelmingly agreed to forge ahead with negotiations for the summer tournament after the league went on pause because of the threat of the novel coronavirus on March 12.
“The executive board of the (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup,” the union said in a statement late Friday night. “Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”
The Senators, who had 11 games left when the pause took place, will finish with a 25-34-12 record and 62 points in the 71 they played, and are ranked No. 30 overall.
This outcome wasn’t unexpected after weeks of speculation, but it does mean the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Senators have also suited up for the last time this season. Dorion had remained hopeful the club would be able to come back to finish out the year, but the reality is, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It just so happens the Senators played in the last sporting event to be held before all the leagues went on break, a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on March 11. With so many questions about what the roster will look like next season the strong possibility exists that hat may have been goaltender Craig Anderson’s final game in an Ottawa uniform after a decade with the club.
A unrestricted free agent on July 1, Anderson, who celebrated his 39th birthday Thursday, has suited up for 435 games with the Senators. He has a 202-168-46 record and is the franchise leader in victories while also playing 40 playoff games with the club, compiling a 21-18 record.
Anderson has expressed an interest in playing next season, however, there may not be room for him with the Senators. Not only does the club have Anders Nilsson and Marcus Hogberg on one-way deals next year, the club also has four solid prospects in the organization.
In a conference call from his home in Florida with reporters last month, Anderson was asked if that game in Los Angeles was indeed his last in Ottawa uniform, would he feel like he’s leaving on his own terms.
“It’s hard to say. We’re at that point where we’re in an unprecedented area,” Anderson said. “We’re in a time where we never expected. I’m just rolling with it right now and let the chips fall where they may. As an individual, I’m hopeful that we are able to get back to play and kind of finish off the rest of the year.
“But it’s out of my control. If it was something I did that kind of screwed things up for myself, I’d be in a different boat. Right now I’m not too concerned about it. I don’t want to put too much energy into that kind of stuff.”
Dorion has already stated he plans to speak with UFA defenceman Mark Borowiecki about a contract to make him a “Senator for life”. After the trade deadline in February, the club planned to speak with veteran blueliner Ron Hainsey about a new deal, but you have to wonder if the Senators aren’t going to resume camp until November if they’ll still want to go down that road.
The Senators have already signed free agent Artyom Zub from the Kontinental Hockey League to replace the role left vacant by Dylan DeMelo’s departure while Erik Brannstrom and Christian Wolaniin should push for spots next year.
Up front, there are decisions to be made as well. Forwards Anthony Duclair and Connor Brown, both restricted free agents with rights to arbitration, have to be signed to deals. The club has to make a decision on centre Chris Tierney, another RFA, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get dealt because the organization needs to make room for some of its young forwards in the system.
Though the NHL’s board of governors still needs to approve the plan in the next couple of days, the Senators can now go ahead with the exit meetings they’ve been postponing while waiting to see what happens. Those can go ahead virtually and the club can start setting the path towards next year.
“I will touch base (with the players) once we get a little more information here,” Smith said in an interview Thursday. “My big thing is the speak with the younger guys just to make sure they’re going in the right direction.”
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