By Carter Brooks
Photo by Patrick Smith
The Ottawa Senators have had a tough go of things over the last few years - and that is probably an understatement. Financially, managerially, publicly and productively, the past calendar year has been a disaster in Ottawa.
From former captains speaking out against ownership, to botched trades and empty seats in Canadian Tire Centre, to the arrest of an Assistant General Manager, to the Mike Hoffman/Erik Karlsson family bullying dilemma, hockey in the nation's capital has been an absolute joke since the Senators were one goal from moving on to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
Adding insult to injury is the way that General Manager Pierre Dorion has handled the 2018 off-season. Although finishing the 2017-18 campaign horrendously, (30th in goals against, 27th on the power play, 26th on the penalty kill and 25th in goals per game), Dorion seemingly got off to a good start in the summer.
He re-signed Patrick Sieloff, Magnus Paajarvi and Chris Wideman all before July, but disaster struck when Alex Burrows - whom Dorion traded Swedish prospect Jonathan Dahlen for - was waived, and subsequently announced his retirement, leaving Ottawa after just 91 games.
Dorion then dealt Hoffman to San Jose for Mikkel Boedker and a minor leaguer, who then flipped the goal scorer to Florida, keeping Hoffman within the Eastern Conference.
Ottawa then used their fourth overall pick to select American Brady Tkachuk at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Not only was the selection questionable, but retaining the pick as opposed to dealing it to Colorado as a part of the Matt Duchene conditional first round pick. The pick is non lottery protected, meaning that if Ottawa finishes lower than 26th in 2018-19 (which most are expecting to happen) the Avalanche could win the draft lottery with the Senators' first round selection.
Dorion did eventually re-sign forward Nick Paul before adding Adam Tambellini via free agency. However, the biggest issue of the off-season thus far was Dorion's handling of his restricted free agents. Although much of the talk surrounding Ottawa remains focused on the future of current captain Erik Karlsson, the Senators' RFA situation did not go over well.
With both Cody Ceci and Mark Stone filing for salary arbitration, news broke that Melnyk, Dorion and the Senators were not expected to negotiate towards a settlement before the respective hearings, hanging both their players and agents out to dry.
Ceci - a 24-year-old former first round Ottawa selection - was then lowballed by the front office, leaving his salary request of $6 million put to shame by the Senators' $3.5 million counteroffer. Word has yet to come back on the result of Ceci's hearing.
Mark Stone - a Winnipeg native - put together 20 goals and 62 points in just 58 games for Ottawa in his fifth full season in the NHL. Over the last four years, Stone is ranked 12th among wingers in points and fourth among wingers in relative corsi. Even with those numbers considered, Ottawa only offered Stone $5 million - less money than Washington's tough guy Tom Wilson signed for earlier this week.
Stone filed for $9 million, counteracting Ottawa's offer, in hopes of boosting his stock. The 26-year-old has 95 goals and 249 points in 307 career games. He will plead his case in front of an independent arbitrator Friday in Toronto. A ruling is expected to come by Sunday evening.