It’s time for a Screen Shots column, and if you’re a regular in these parts, you know what that means: We cover two or three hockey topics more succinctly than a regular column. Next we go:
– Two interesting items came out of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly’s state-of-the-league press conference in Denver on Wednesday. The first had to do with their announcement that at least the Stanley Cup would not travel to Russia or Belarus this summer; NHLers of Russian or Belarusian descent should have their day with the Cup in North America, or hope that the horrific Russian war of aggression against Ukraine will be over by the summer of 2023, and celebrate with the Cup at that point .
The league gets no extra credit for this move. It’s really the least they can do, given the planet-wide consensus that Russia (and its ally, Belarus) are clearly the villains in this war. But it is another brick in the wall surrounding the aggressors, and it is important for the hockey community to act in unison to condemn the horrors of Vladimir Putin and his accomplices. It’s sad that athletes have to pay a price for crimes committed by their leaders, but pretending everything is normal would be even sadder.
– Bettman also noted that nothing has changed regarding the ownership of the Ottawa Senators, who lost owner Eugene Melnyk in late March. He donated the Sens property and his other belongings to his daughters, Anna and Olivia, and Bettman disbelieved in the speculation that Melnyk’s daughters were interested in selling the team.
“The property is the property,” Bettman told reporters on Wednesday. “The franchise is completely stable and functioning as normal.”
Bettman did acknowledge that the senators were looking for a new ice rink in LeBreton Flats, but went no further. Regardless, many experienced hockey observers believe that if the franchise remains in Ottawa, it must have a new building in downtown Ottawa proper. Whether the daughters of Melnyk maintain control of the team or not, it cannot thrive in Kanata.
But in the short term, the senators will need a solid financial pledge of ownership if they are to build on the progress made by GM Pierre Dorion. The Sens have (per CapFriendly.com) more than $23.2 million in salary caps this summer, but Dorion will have to pay key restricted free agent forwards Josh Norris and Alex Formenton, possibly buying goalkeeper Matt Murray’s contract. which currently has two years left with a cap hit of $6.25 million.
That’s basically enough to keep the core of Ottawa intact, but that shouldn’t be the goal with this group. If they want to seriously challenge Toronto, Florida, Boston and Tampa Bay for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division next year, the Senators must add a veteran up front. Ottawa-born and unrestricted free agent Claude Giroux fits the bill perfectly, but Giroux sounded like someone who might want to remain a Florida Panther for the rest of his career. It will take a good chunk of cap space for Dorion to sign him, but he’s not their only option. There will be teams selling players for what doesn’t seem to be a good reason – Alex DeBrincat in Chicago, anyone? – and it’s up to Sens Brass to sort out the draft picks and prospects needed to acquire a difference maker.
It may not be long before Kanata, but the Senators have a chance to build something special in Ottawa. Now the question is whether they are willing to live according to the well-known old maxim: “you can’t make money without spending money”. It’s time to make a bigger investment.