As the Ottawa Senators’ season winds down and the emphasis shifts from their on-ice play to what in god’s name can the Senators do this offseason to restore this fan base’s confidence in this organization, inevitably, how the Senators approach and handle player management this offseason will go a long way in reinvigorating their fans.
One part of this puzzle is the uncertainty surrounding involving a number of their big name players who are either slated to hit unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of this season or at the end of the 2014/15 campaign.
Over the past few days, a number of Senators players have spoken publicly about their willingness to engage the organization in contract negotiations.
For the first time since undergoing season ending surgery, Bobby Ryan addressed his health status before delving into answers about how he foresees his future with the Ottawa Senators.
Via the Senators’ website:
“I think the date is July 1 for us, we’re not allowed to talk up until that point. Truthfully for me it has been an afterthought thus far. I know what’s happening with the amount of guys coming up a year from now that the organization is going to have to start doing things in right direction for some players. For me, I love it here — we love it here, more importantly — it has been a great change for us. When the time comes if that’s the route Bryan wants to go with to sit down and have a conversation, we’ll certainly do that.”
Ryan would later on go to talk about how he and his fiancée enjoy the city and being in a hockey market. On the surface, it’s everything that you want to hear from a player who: 1) has put up some very good numbers despite playing with a sports hernia injury for the duration of the season; and 2) is an approachable and likeable player who’s been nothing short of exceptional in his interactions with fans off the ice.
Speaking to the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan yesterday, MacArthur dropped this morsel of awesomeness and actually praised the coaching staff for putting him in a position to succeed – call it the Randy Carlyle corollary.
“I’ve enjoyed myself here so I would want to stay here,” he said. “I don’t know what guys real situations are, because no one really talks about it, but for me, I like it here. I’ve been treated well here. The coaching staff has played me and put me in situations where I can do well, which is huge.”
Earlier in the week, Hemsky was effusive in his praise of Jason Spezza – going so far as to refer to him as the best center that he has ever played with. He would then go on to describe the importance of Spezza’s future with the club and how it could affect his negotiations moving forward.
“Yeah that will be a big part of it, to have a chance to play with Jason,” said Hemsky. “I don’t know what will happen, but that will be a big part of it … what he does.”
But the thing about Hemsky buttering up Jason Spezza is that he was asked specifically about playing with him and whether his status in Ottawa had any impact on his future. What is Hemsky supposed to say? Spezza may be the de facto best center that Hemsky has ever played with, but he’s also right here and right now. Their line, with Milan Michalek, has been productive and I doubt that novelty has worn off and as such, who would expect Hemsky to say anything to the contrary?
Do I really expect Hemsky to waver if the Senators trade Spezza but present him with a great offer and the opportunity to play on one of the team’s top two lines?
Absolutely not, especially if they turned around and offered him an opportunity to play with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur.
As reassuring as it might be for some to hear it directly from their favorite player that said player really likes the city of Ottawa – hell, even Bryan Murray has made it a habit of interviews to point specific individuals who seem to enjoy playing in Ottawa – MacArthur is blatantly honest when he admits that everything essentially comes down to the contract negotiations.
“If something works out for both sides, then yeah, that would work good,” he said after the morning skate. “If not, I’ve got one more year to play well and do what I can.”
Until these players ink their name on a new extension, I’ll quell any excitement. If the whole Alfie ordeal taught me anything last summer, it is not to invest too heavily in flattery and lip service.