The Ottawa Senators are ready, willing and able.
The roster is all but set, the ice at the Canadian Tire Centre has been in place for nearly a month and now all the Senators need is the green light to get training camp under way.
While there was hope we’d know by now when camp will get started, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association threw cold water on the idea when they were unable to come an agreement last week on a deal that would allow both sides to set a starting date for the 2020-21 campaign.
It’s been 258 days since we last saw the Senators. The club dropped a 3-2 decision to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center before the league went on pause March 11 because of the threat of the novel coronavirus and since then there’s been no shortage of changes to the club’s roster.
Trying to help the Senators improve, general manager Pierre Dorion has made no shortage of changes and has been backed by a commitment from owner Eugene Melnyk. Once this roster does start this season it won’t look much like the one we saw in March.
The big question remains: When will that be?
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are working hard to get this season under way but it won’t happen until the players agree to a financial format the owners can stomach. A proposal for changes to salary deferral and escrow offered recently haven’t been accepted.
According to former NHL player Nick Kypreos, who hosts his own Real Kyper at Noon show with former league GM Doug MacLean, there were no discussions between the NHL and the union on the weekend.
“Without knowing repercussions for denying owners request, players tell me they have little choice but to sit (and) wait,” Kypreos wrote on his Twitter account.
He also suggested the players believe the league could push back the start to as late as Feb. 1 and the result would be a shortened 48-game schedule.
The league remains focused on a Jan. 1 start date but Daly has suggested several times that is flexible so it may have to be pushed back a week or two.
It’s likely been quiet because both sides have retreated to their own offices and are trying to come up with a plausible solution that will work. Speaking on The Bob McCown podcast last week, Melnyk confirmed not all the owners are on board with the plan being put forward because of the financial hit they’ll take.
As he noted, there are 31 owners with different opinions. Melnyk is excited to get the season under way because of the roster changes and, of course, he’d like to be able to have fans in the Canadian Tire Centre. The club has done modelling for the seating of 6,000 people with proper social distancing in place.
For that to happen, the province would have to lift its gathering limits and the city of Toronto was one of the regions in Ontario that started a 28-day lockdown Monday. Bettman has stated several times that even the league starts without fans and that may not be the way the season finishes.
One way or another, we feel there’s going to be a season which is why the NHL and NHLPA need to carve out a path to make it possible. The Senators, one of the teams that didn’t participate in the Return to Play in the summer, are scheduled to get an extra week of camp but that may be sacrificed to play more games.
The players are slowly making their way back to town and the expectation is sometime in the near future they’ll be able to use the arena to get ready for the season.
Coach D.J. Smith and his staff have been in the offices for months, they’re champing at the bit to get going.
Newly-acquired goaltender Matt Murray moved into his new Ottawa home midway through last week while Erik Gudbranson is back here from his home in the Muskoka region.
Defenceman Thomas Chabot, who makes his off-season home in Quebec City, has been in the area for awhile so he’ll be ready to go whenever the players get the green light. The likes of Nick Paul, Chris Tierney, Connor Brown, and prospect Alex Formenton have been skating in the Toronto area so they’re close by.
The hurdle for the Senators with this delay between the two sides is this 14-day quarantine. Any player arriving from outside of Canada must self-isolate and unless the NHL can negotiate testing procedures with the federal government that’s not going to go away any time soon.
The changes made, with the addition of the likes of Evgeni Dadonov, Austin Watson, Alex Galchenyuk and defenceman Josh Brown, along with No. 3 overall selection Tim Stuetzle has people waiting with anticipation for the Senators to get camp under way.
Unfortunately, it’s out of their hands on when that may happen and this matter is only complicated by the fact the COVID-19 virus is showing no signs of slowing down.
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