When the Ottawa Senators hit the ice for the 2015-16 campaign, defenseman Chris Phillips could be watching from the sidelines as a setback in his recovery from back surgery is threatening to force him out of the lineup to open the season. It could even keep him out of the lineup until late in the year.
Senators GM Bryan Murray confirmed to CTV Ottawa’s Terry Marcotte that Phillips’ status for the training camp and beyond was up in the air.
“He’s hurting a little bit still,” Murray told Marcotte. “He hasn’t been able to do the fitness level that he wanted to get to. There are some other issues that are going on. It appears right now that his back may delay him being able to even attend camp, but we hope and think that if he can get healthy, certainly in the second half of the year, his experience should help us.” Read more
Welcome back to the Futures mailbag. We’re only one week away from real, regular season hockey being played in the Quebec League and other junior circuits will follow after that. In the meantime, here are more prospect and draft questions from you, the readers. If you have a query for me, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and attach the hashtag #thnfutures to make sure I see it. Let’s get to the questions!
(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)
Life hasn’t been easy for the Binghamton Senators since their championship run in 2010-11. Since then, the Senators have failed to make the post-season twice — including misses this past season and the season immediately following their championship — and have been booted from the playoffs twice in the first round, winning only one playoff game along the way. That’s not exactly the type of sustained success the franchise was after.
But things might be looking up in 2015-16. Shane Prince, the club’s leading scorer in 2014-15 with 28 goals and 65 points in 72 games, should be back for a full season and be looking to build on last year’s successful campaign. Standout defenseman Chris Wideman will likely spend at least one more full season in the AHL. And this season Nick Paul, who was rated as the Senators’ best prospect, should be suiting up in Binghamton.
Add in Eric O’Dell and Mike Kostka, two depth signings Ottawa made this off-season who should contribute on the farm, and the roster is rounding out quite nicely.
The one loss that might be felt is that of Matt Puempel. The 22-year-old played 13 games with Ottawa in 2014-15 and he could be ready to have a full rookie campaign in the NHL. If he’s back in Binghamton, however, expect improvement on his 12-goal, 32-point output this past season.
The biggest question for Binghamton will be goaltending, where top NCAA free agent Matt O’Connor and 21-year-old Chris Driedger will likely split time. Driedger has a total of eight AHL games to his name, and that’s the most AHL experience any of any of the Senators’ options for the starting job in Binghamton. Read more
With a tight salary cap and uncertainty about where the upper limit will be heading in the future, this off-season hasn’t been an easy one for veteran free agents.
Top UFAs such as Cody Franson and Christian Ehrhoff remain unsigned, useful veterans such as Marek Zidlicky have yet to land deals and those looking to get their careers back on track, such as Martin Havlat and Tyler Kennedy, aren’t even sure if a deal is coming their way. It’s a tough set of circumstances for both Havlat and Kennedy, as they may not even be looking for solid NHL contracts, but rather the opportunity at a training camp tryout.
Already Sergei Gonchar and (reportedly) Devin Setoguchi are among those who have signed pro tryout agreements, but Havlat’s name might be the next added to that list. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported Wednesday that Havlat’s agent has been contacted about the 34-year-old right winger signing a PTO with the Senators. Read more
With a nickname like ‘Hamburglar,’ it was pretty obvious what was going to be the main focus of Andrew Hammond’s new mask. But it’s the tribute on the back that really stands out.
Hammond unveiled his brand new lid for the upcoming campaign through his Twitter account Tuesday, and the mask has all the staples one would be looking for. It has the McDonald’s character which shares the same nickname, the Hamburglar, swinging through a brick wall, it has ‘Hammy’ across the chin with the famed McDonald’s golden arches making up the M’s in the middle and one panel has the Senators’ logo.
In addition, the mask also combines MAD Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman with the Hamburglar to give the mischievous McDonald’s character a different look.
But among all of those artistic touches, it’s the tribute on the back of the mask that’s most eye-catching. Read more
While there’s no award given for finishing as the best Canadian team in the NHL, it’s always a point of pride for the seven clubs north of the border.
In 2014-15, the Montreal Canadiens were practically carried by the incredible play of Carey Price, finishing atop the Atlantic Division and just three points back of capturing the Presidents’ Trophy. In addition to leading the charge in the Atlantic, though, the Canadiens also ended the campaign as the best Canadian club in the league — and, it just so happened, as the Canadian team with the best shot at capturing Canada’s first Stanley Cup since 1993.
Montreal has made some interesting additions to the lineup this off-season by acquiring struggling sniper Alexander Semin, grinder Zack Kassian and defenseman Mark Barberio. The trade deadline additions of Brian Flynn, Devante Smith-Pelly, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn will also get a full season in Montreal this time around. But in 2015-16, does Montreal finish atop the heap of Canadian teams again or does another club unseat them as the country’s best club? Read more
In early July, rumors surfaced that Sami Salo had played his final game in the NHL. Now, the 40-year-old defenseman has confirmed those rumors, adding that his nagging wrist injury is what has cost him a final season.
Salo last played in the 2013-14 season with Tampa Bay, but missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He again missed time during the Lightning’s four-game defeat at the hands of the Canadiens that season, missing the final two games of Montreal’s series sweep.
Salo confirmed to Ilta-Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, that he could no longer play in the NHL. “Hand is what it is,” Salo said. “(I am) no longer able to play. Not hockey, not tennis. At least not as a professional.” Read more
Following the recent completion of the NHL’s 2015 salary-arbitration period, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston observed the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild had a second buyout window open for a 48-hour period commencing on Aug. 5. None of the clubs, however, used the opportunity to shed a contract.
The Senators spent months last season trying to find a trade partner for winger Colin Greening, prompting some speculation the 29-year-old winger might receive a buyout. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion explained that wasn’t possible, as Greening’s $2.65-million annual cap hit was about $10K short of the minimum allowable to be bought out.
Greening’s future with the Senators remains uncertain. Garrioch believes Murray will keep trying to peddle the winger, who was a frequent healthy scratch last season. Perhaps Murray will have better luck next month, as rival GMs evaluate their roster needs during training camp and preseason play. Read more