Chris Phillips (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)
Senators GM Bryan Murray said Chris Phillips’ back injury may prevent the 37-year-old blueliner from attending training camp and there are questions about just how much time the veteran defenseman will miss. Phillips, the longest-tenured Senator in franchise history, is entering the final season of a two-year deal.
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.”
Phillips, 37, is the longest-tenured Senators in franchise history, having played 1,179 games — one more than longtime Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. Phillips was taken first overall by the Senators at the 1996 draft and, aside from a 27-game stint with the SHL’s Brynas, he hasn’t played a single professional game for a franchise other than the Senators.
Leading up to the 2013-14 campaign, Phillips was somewhat of an ironman, missing only three of a potential 540 games. However, over the past two seasons, including the post-season, Phillips has missed more than 60 contests.
In 2014-15, Phillips was sidelined from Feb. 7 onward, missing the Senators’ final 32 regular season outings and all six games of their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens.
While Phillips’ presence in the Ottawa lineup isn’t what will make or break the Senators’ season, it does mean the club will have to have much more reliance on a group whose most veteran presence is the 30-year-old Marc Methot.
Phillips is entering the final year of a two-year, $5-million deal that was signed in March 2014.