Eugene Melnyk took part in an interview on the Bob McCown podcast today, and much like every time the Ottawa Senators owner takes to the microphone about his team, waves were made. Here are some key takeaways and my thoughts:
Projecting Confidence that the Senators Will Sign Brady Tkachuk
The big question this offseason is what will happen with Brady Tkachuk’s contract; he’s just finished up his three-year entry level contract, and is in line for a big pay raise even as a restricted free agent. For his part, the Owner projected confidence that something will get done.
While the play around the league seems to be bridge deals for players like Tkachuk, I think there’s a very compelling case to be made that the Senators should go long-term with this one. If there’s anything that this past year showed, it’s that Tkachuk is the true on-ice leader for this team. The best way to shut down any off-ice noise that surrounds the Senators is to commit big term and big dollars to that kind of player.
The Gatineau Senators?
With the LeBreton project completely dead, Melnyk re-introduced the idea of a new arena in Kanata – on land he owns near the Canadian Tire Centre. This isn’t a new idea from Melnyk, but the fact that he’s brought it up again suggests that it’s very much front of mind. What is new, though, is the idea of building an arena in Gatineau if he can’t push the project through in Kanata.
My $0.02: I’m not completely convinced that the Gatineau proposal is all that serious. Given comments he made about the challenges of dealing with City Hall in Ottawa, it seems like a bit of political posturing to get what he wants. Whether that’s an accurate read on the situation or not, I don’t know.
“We Got Killed in Goal”
When assessing weaknesses from this past campaign, Melnyk hit the nail on the head when commenting on the goaltending. It was an almost comical flaw on this roster, especially at the start of the year. It’s not exactly a coincidence that the Senators started to look a whole lot better once the goaltending settled down in the middle of the season.
While Melnyk expressed hope that Matt Murray will bounce back next season, the thing I’ll be watching for in the crease is the continued emergence of Filip Gustavsson. Murray may or may not be a reliable number-one goaltender right now, but he’s almost certainly not the “goalie of the future” for this franchise. If Gustavsson can build on his small sample size this year, he might be.
Areas of Need
The other major thing to come out of Melnyk’s interview was a hint of what the team might be looking to do this offseason. He identified a “good defensive defenceman” and a “veteran-type first-line centre” as needs in the lineup. Jake Sanderson was discussed as potentially being the kind of guy who can fill the first hole, but the second was left wide open. It didn’t take social media very long to start speculating with names like Sean Monahan or Claude Giroux.
The funny thing about Melnyk’s assessment here is that it mirrors exactly what the team tried to do last offseason. Go back and read Pierre Dorion’s quotes when he acquired Erik Gudbranson and Derek Stepan. You’ll find narratives similar to the “good defensive defenseman” and “veteran-type first-line centre” buzzwords heard today. Here’s hoping the pro scouting department has learned its lesson.
As always, thanks for reading.