The Senators signed GM Bryan Murray to a three-year contract extension today to give Murray the ability to control and oversee the rebuild in Ottawa.
Murray has been GM of the team since June 2007 and in the four years under his tenure, the Senators have made the playoffs twice, losing in the first round both times. In the two seasons where Ottawa missed the playoffs, they did so in glorious burn-the-house-down fashion. With the Sens alternating years between making the playoffs and colossal season-long failure, things are looking up for next season but only because they’ve been so awful this year.
Speculation has swirled around the position for the entire second half of the season as the Senators had some curious moves and decisions to make. Acquiring Craig Anderson from Colorado for Brian Elliott and then re-signing him to a lucrative four year extension while rookie phenom Robin Lehner waits in the wings in the AHL stood out as a particularly curious move especially with Murray’s future as yet unknown. Now the two will be linked together for the next three seasons to see where exactly they can lead the Senators in the future.
Making the Senators rebuild all the more fascinating to watch is how things broke down this year. They’ve cleared out guys like Chris Kelly, Chris Campoli, Alexei Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu, and star forward Mike Fisher in an effort to shake things up and start from the ground up once again all while captain Daniel Alfredsson plays it year to year trying to lead what’s now a very young team through the rough stages of growing up. Alfredsson’s season is over this year but he’ll be back next year.
One guy that might not be back next year is coach Cory Clouston. Clouston was able to juggle injuries and goalies last season to get Ottawa to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference. His luck ran out this year as injuries and poor play in goal sunk the Senators before they could put it together before acquiring Anderson. Is poor goaltending of that magnitude and horrible luck with injuries the fault of a coach? That’s up to Murray to decide before the offseason begins in earnest and the suspicion is that Clouston will be out after the season is over. Then again, we thought Murray was toast too so who knows.
With Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Chris Phillips all back next year with a group of hard working rookies like Bobby Butler and Colin Greening joining up promising players like Peter Regin the Senators future is murky and a lot of how things go for them as time goes on hinges upon this year’s draft.
The Senators will have five picks through the first two rounds, including two first round selections. They’ll get what should be a stud player with what should be a top five pick and then see what shakes loose later on, but for Murray the pressure to make this year’s draft a very successful one is huge. Another draft with poor choices dooms Ottawa’s future and with free agents not clamoring to get to Ottawa, the road to rebuild could turn into a road to ruin fast.
Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.
After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.
Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:
Now, back to Rust.
With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.
Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?
What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.
Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.
After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.
Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.