Mika Zibanejad

Core signings: Senators lock up Zibanejad, Stone

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The Ottawa Senators announced that they have signed Mika Zibanejad to a two-year, $5.25 million contract extension and Mark Stone to a three-year, $10.5 million contract.

Zibanejad will earn $2 million next season and $3.25 million in 2016-17. He was eligible to become a restricted free agent after completing his entry-level deal.

The 22-year-old forward was taken by Ottawa with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and made his debut that year. However, it’s been over the last three seasons that he’s established himself at the NHL level with 99 points in 191 games. In 2014-15, he set career-highs with 20 goals and 26 assists in 80 contests.

Stone, 23, was also coming off of his entry-level contract. He will make $2.25 million in 2015-16, $3.75 million the following campaign, and $4.5 million in 2017-18.

He slipped all the way to the sixth round of the 2010 draft, but he went from recording 28 points in 39 WHL games in his draft year to 106 points with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2010-11. That was an early indication that Ottawa had gotten a steal as after spending a couple years bouncing between the AHL and NHL, Stone firmly established himself last season with 26 goals and 64 points in 80 contests.

He was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, although it ultimately went to defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

The Senators have already done a lot of the heavy lifting expected of them this summer, but they still need to re-sign restricted free agents Alex Chiasson and Mike Hoffman.

Sens inquired about Coyotes’ third overall selection

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With the NHL Draft just days away now trade talk between teams is picking up.

Arizona Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney holds the third overall pick at Friday’s draft and hasn’t closed the door on dealing the selection for the right price.

Bryan Murray told reporters in Vegas on Tuesday that he had conversations with Maloney about the pick.

“I always ask the question, but I don’t think that pick in particular is in play at this point for us,” Murray said. “I think where we’re picking back at 18, that would be hard for him to move that far no matter what price I paid, but we have to ask the question anyway.”

Murray is currently in the process of trying to unload either Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner. The Sens’ general manager said Lehner is getting the most attention at this point.

“People look at the price and maybe look at other things, but Robin Lehner is a hell of a goaltender,” said Murray. “He’s going to perform given a chance, whether it be him getting the chance right away either with us or another team, he’s going to be a good goaltender.”

Lehner is considered to be more attractive than Anderson based on cap hit. The 23-year-old has two years remaining on his deal with a cap hit of $2.225 million while Anderson has three years remaining at a cap it of $4.2 million.

“There’s going to be a couple moves. I think there’s three goaltenders really in play at the moment and there are a couple teams that are looking so what will happen based on that, I don’t know,” Murray said. “I think we should be the first choice.

“I think we’ve got the best guy. That’s my feeling and I’m very strong about that, but maybe not everybody looks at it that way.”

Zibanejad & Stone update

Murray met with Craig Oster the agent for restricted free agents Mika Zibanejad and Mark Stone on Tuesday in Vegas.

“We’ve made proposals once again and waiting on a reply I think they were going to talk to the players and see what happens,” said Murray.

Murray joked about Sens’ captain Erik Karlsson signing his seven-year, $45.5 million extension the night before the NHL Awards in Vegas back in June 2012 and the luck it brought him on awards night (he won the Norris Trophy).

“Well if Mark Stone is smart, he signs and he might win the award cause that’s what happened with Erik,” Murray said. “Maybe that’ll be the case.”

Stone is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the league’s top rookie along with Aaron Ekblad and Johnny Gaudreau.

Arbitration for Hoffman & Chiasson

While Murray is making progress with Zibanejad and Stone, the same can’t be said for restricted free agents Mike Hoffman and Alex Chiasson.

“We talk to them all the time, but they’re arbitration guys that, at the moment, want to go that direction,” Murray said. “If we’re not going to negotiate, then we have to prepare for that.”

Dave Cameron ‘extremely proud’ of Senators

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The Ottawa Senators couldn’t get past the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, but the fact that they got that far was a tremendous accomplishment that required a 21-3-3 run. That they then battled back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 6 against one of the league’s toughest teams is the icing on the cake.

So although the Senators’ campaign ended tonight, there’s cause for them to exit with their heads held high.

“I’m extremely proud of this group,” Senators coach Dave Cameron said, according to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch.

“We made some steps. This is a tough business, tough league, we’ll get over it ending … and feel good about what we accomplished,” he added.

The Senators certainly have reasons to be optimistic about the future. They had two of the top four scoring rookies this season in Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman. Mika Zibanejad, 22, took a step forward this season as well while defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Kyle Turris are arguably just now entering their prime.

They certainly have some question marks going forward, especially with Zibanejad, Stone, and Hoffman all set to become restricted free agents and goalie Andrew Hammond eligible for unrestricted free agency. It also remains to be seen if they’ll be willing to spend to the cap going forward, which is potentially vital to both keep their core together in the long-term and build around it.

Still, the fact remains that they can take a lot of positives out of this campaign.

Price makes 43 saves as Senators’ magical run ends in controversy

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It took the Montreal Canadiens three tries, but in Game 6 Montreal was able to secure a 2-0 victory over Ottawa. And with that the Ottawa Senators’ incredible run that included a 21-3-3 regular season finish has come to an end.

The finale certainly wasn’t devoid of controversy. The most notable issue was the quick whistle cost the Senators a game-tying goal. At the same time, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price deserves a lot of credit for his efforts.

Price made 43 saves tonight and was challenged by the Senators multiple times in the dying minutes of the contest. He stood tall throughout it and once again showed why he’s worthy of consideration for the Hart Trophy.

It would also be simplistic to suggest that Ottawa’s elimination is solely the result of a bad call. The Senators fell behind in this series 3-0 and in doing so, conceded any breathing room that they had. They fought hard to challenge Montreal, but when you’ve been reduced to competing for a reverse sweep against a great team, nearly everything has to go your way.

The Senators are a young squad that showed a lot of character in both their late season push and their fight over the final three playoff contests. With Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, and Mika Zibanejad leading the way, Ottawa has a potentially bright future. The present belongs to Montreal though and with Price between the pipes, it will be a tough adversary for the winner of Tampa Bay vs. Detroit.

Neil out, Chiasson in as Sens look to stave off elimination again

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Out with the old, in with the new.

That’s the strategy Ottawa will employ this evening as it looks to win its second consecutive game against Montreal and keep the series (currently 3-1 in favor of the Habs) alive — veteran Chris Neil, who played in Games 3 and 4, will be dropped from the lineup in favor of Alex Chiasson, who hasn’t played since Game 2.

Neil, 35, was a non-factor in each of the last two outings, and only played 6:06 in Game 4.

Chiasson, 24, fits with the youth movement that head coach Dave Cameron implemented upon taking the gig from Paul MacLean, and continues to push today; only two Senators in the lineup tonight are over the age of 30 (winger Milan Michalek and goalie Craig Anderson).

Meanwhile, the likes of Curtis Lazar (19 years old), Cody Ceci (21), Mika Zibanejad (21), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (22) and Calder nominee Mark Stone (22) continue to see significant minutes.