The rebuilding process in Ottawa is well under way.
Starting with the Mike Fisher trade to Nashville, and ending with Chris Campoli move on deadline day to the Chicago Blackhawks, Senators fans now must get the sense this will be a new team come training camp.
General Manager Bryan Murray stated this organization had a plan going forward, and it would be hard pressed to say he hasn’t cleaned house. Fisher, Campoli, Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu, Brian Elliott and Alex Kovalev all moved their way out of Ottawa. Others, like Chris Philips, Jason Spezza, Filip Kuba, Ryan Shannon and Chris Neil, garnered attention from numerous teams around the league. Curtis McElhinney and Marek Svatos were claimed on waivers, Craig Anderson was acquired from Colorado, and young goalie Robin Lehner was sent back to the AHL.
In return for their vets, the Senators were able to stockpile picks in this years entry draft. They will have two picks in the first round, three in the second round as well as their third pick (which will be the 62 or 63 pick at worst). Re tooling the farm system could happen in a hurry.
Murray was able to re-sign Philips hours before the deadline. There was interest for Philips from around the league, who has played his entire NHL career in Canada’s capital. But when it came down to it, both the player and the team wanted this to work.
“I am very happy to have it done,” Murray said. “He definitely wanted to stay here and we talked long and hard … to make sure the commitment was there. I know at least eight teams called about him, but with the amount of young players coming in we need to have a couple of anchors here in a mentoring way.”
“There were times that I thought it was more likely that I would be going than staying,” Philips said. “That’s the game, that’s negotiating. But it’s lifestyle, it’s family, it’s community and kids in the community involved with stuff. I love playing in Ottawa and there is no other team that I would rather do it with.”
“It’s great for our team to keep a veteran guy like Philips,” Spezza noted. “He has been around here for a longtime and he is a great leader in the room and we are happy to see him stay.”
Campoli moves to the defending champs for a minor league forward (Ryan Potulny) and a second rounder. The 26-year-old defenseman, who is a RFA this summer, had been the Sens most consistent blue liner this year, and will now get a chance to extend his season. Moving him will create some room at his position next season.
“Because of a couple young guys coming, we thought in our interest and in his as well, he would get a chance to go to a playoff team and we would get a second round pick,” Murray said.
With the players they moved–mostly for picks–the Senators were able to create a new atmosphere around the team. Because the players they moved were older, the Binghamtom Senators have been providing the big club with some of their younger guys to fill in.
“We now have the door open for a number of young people to get a chance,” said Murray. “We will get an evaluation as we go towards the end of the year.”
“There are a lot of young guys excited to be here,” Spezza noted. “We have lost a lot of good teammates, but when it comes to game time we are just making sure we are all ready to go.”
“The guys who have been called up you have to give them credit,” Anderson stated. “When you are a player you have to learn the system and they have all done a good job of filling in their roles.”
The trade that has had the most impact has been Elliot for Anderson. In his short time here, Anderson has helped the team go 3-1, with a .964 save percentage and a GAA of 1.23. To say the Sens are happy with that would be an understatement.
“The guy has been pretty good for us,” said Murray.
“Obviously when you win things are going good for you,” Anderson stated. “Making first impressions is always a good thing. The number one priority here is to win hockey games, it’s just more fun to be around the rink.”
The Sens will have many more decisions to make before the beginning of next season. But for now, Murray and his staff have done a solid job preparing this team into a new direction.