Screen Shots: Day With the Cup and the Ottawa Senators’ Future

It’s time for a Screen Shots column, and if you’re a regular around these parts, you know what that means – we examine two or three hockey topics with more brevity than a regular column. Onward 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 Wednesday. The first had to do with their announcement that the Stanley Cup would not be traveling to Russia or Belarus for at least this summer; NHLers with Russian or Belarusian heritages would have to have their day with the Cup either 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 doesn’t get extra credit for this move. It’s really the least they could do, considering the consensus around the planet that Russia (and its ally, Belarus) are clearly the villains in this war. But it’s another brick in the wall around the aggressors, and it’s important that the hockey community acts in unison to condemn the horrors perpetrated by Vladimir Putin and his henchmen. It’s sad that athletes have to pay a cost 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 bestowed ownership of the Sens and his other assets to his daughters, Anna and Olivia, and Bettman gave no credence to the speculation Melnyk’s daughters were interested in selling the team.

“The ownership is the ownership,” Bettman said to reporters Wednesday. “The franchise is completely stable and functioning in the ordinary course.”

Bettman did acknowledge the Senators were pursuing a new rink in LeBreton Flats, but did not elaborate. Regardless, many veteran hockey observers believe if the franchise is going to remain in Ottawa, it has to have a new building in downtown Ottawa proper. Whether or not Melnyk’s daughters retain control of the team, it can’t thrive in Kanata.

But in the short term, the Senators are going to need a solid financial commitment from ownership if they’re going to build on the inroads GM Pierre Dorion has made. The Sens have (per CapFriendly.com) more than $23.2 million in salary-cap space this summer, but Dorion has to pay key restricted free agent forwards Josh Norris and Alex Formenton, and quite possibly, buy out the contract of goalie Matt Murray, who currently has two years left at a $6.25-million cap hit.

That’s basically enough to keep Ottawa’s core intact, but that shouldn’t be the goal with this group. If they are to seriously challenge Toronto, Florida, Boston and Tampa Bay for a playoff berth in the Atlantic Division next year, the Senators need to add veteran scoring up front. Ottawa native and unrestricted free agent Claude Giroux perfectly fits in there, but Giroux sounded like someone who may want to stay a Florida Panther for the rest of his career. It’ll take a good chunk of cap room for Dorion to sign him, but he isn’t their only option. There are going to be teams selling off players for what appears to be no good reason – Alex DeBrincat in Chicago, anyone? – and it’s on Sens brass to pony up with the draft picks and prospects it’ll take to acquire a difference-maker.

They may not be long for Kanata, but the Senators have a chance at building something special in Ottawa. Now the question is whether they’re willing to live by the familiar old maxim, “you can’t make money without spending money”. The time to make a bigger investment has arrived.

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