Chris Phillips (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips is a “long shot” to return to the NHL this season. Phillips, 37, suffered a set back in September after having off-season back surgery. He is the Senators’ all-time leader in games played with 1,179, but hasn’t suited up since Feb. 5, 2015.
Veteran defenseman Chris Phillips may have played his final game in the NHL, as the Ottawa Senators blueliner is considered a “long shot” to come back to the team this season.
Phillips, 37, was placed on injured reserve in October following off-season back surgery, and he’s been attempting to get in shape for a comeback since the season began. However, according to Senators GM Bryan Murray, things aren’t looking great for the Senators’ all-time games played leader.
"Chris is a ways away," Murray told TSN 1200 Thursday. "He's trying really hard. He's in the gym and doing some skating, but I would say, in my estimation, he's a long shot to come back.”
Phillips sustained a cracked vertebra in September while rehabbing from the surgery, which he said would challenge him “a little bit more” to get back to full health.
"It's a significant setback and it's very frustrating," Phillips said, via NHL.com. "The surgery went well and everything on that side was great. I don't know if it was a complication of the rehab and I'm not 100 percent sure how it happened.”
Phillips hasn’t suited up since Feb. 5 against the Washington Capitals, missing the last 28 regular season games with the back injury and then being sidelined for all six post-season games for Ottawa. Phillips’ last game with the Senators was his 1,179th, making him the all-time leader in games played. The game against Washington put him one ahead of longtime Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who suited up for 1,178 games as a Senator.
If he can’t return to the Senators’ lineup this season, Phillips may have very well played his final NHL game. He’s in the final year of a two-year, $5-million deal he signed with Ottawa in March 2014, but has only played 36 games of the contract. At his age and with the miles on him, it seems unlikely he’d be an enticing option to be signed as an unrestricted free agent, though his experience could, at the very least, garner him a professional tryout deal.
Phillips was the first overall pick, by the Senators, in 1996. Over his 17-year career, he has scored 71 goals and 288 points.