Chris Phillips (back surgery) questionable for training camp

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Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips hasn’t played since Feb. 5 due to a back injury that led to surgery. Since then he’s been rehabbing, but with training camp just around the corner, it appears that process hasn’t been completed yet.

“He’s hurting a little bit still,” Senators GM Bryan Murray told CTV Ottawa. “He hasn’t been able to do the fitness level that he wanted to get to. There are some other issues that are going on. It appears right now that his back may delay him being able to even attend camp, but we hope and think that if he can get healthy, certainly in the second half of the year his experience should help us.”

Phillips celebrated his 37th birthday on March 9. He’s spent his entire career with the Ottawa Senators and is their franchise leader with 1,179 games played.

This is the final season of his two-year, $5 million deal.

Stars’ Klingberg ‘was a little bit surprised’ with seven-year deal

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Following a solid rookie campaign, which saw him finish fifth in Calder Trophy voting, the Dallas Stars rewarded defenseman John Klingberg with a new seven-year, $29.75 million contract.

It was a deal that surprised some, including Klingberg himself.

“I was a little bit surprised. I thought maybe a two-year or three-year deal, somewhere there,” Klingberg told the Stars’ website. “I talked to my agent, and he said Jim wanted to make a long-term deal, and I was really surprised. I was happy because I knew they were happy with how I played and wanted to sign me for a long time. It’s exciting when you know they trust you, and they think you can be a good player.”

The 23-year-old didn’t make the Stars’ opening night roster last season as he was recovering from hip surgery. However, after scoring four goals and eight assists in 10 AHL games with the Texas Stars, he was recalled by Dallas in November.

Klingberg finished with 11 goals in 65 games and led all Stars’ blue liners with 40 points.

His play had Stars’ GM Jim Nill comparing Klingberg to two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

“We think we’ve got a chance of having the next Karlsson,” Nill said in July. “We think (Klingberg’s) heading (in) that direction, and if he continues to improve, I think he will be that type of player.”

Klingberg, who represented Sweden at the world championship in the Czech Republic, ranked third among rookie defensemen in average ice time at 21:50 per game last season and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team.

“I learned a lot, it was a lot of good experience last year,” Klingberg said. “With the good start I had and then the little bounce back and then to come back again, I think I played pretty good the whole year. I can’t put a finger on it, but I learned a lot the last year. It was a good year, and I am excited to start up again this year.”

Related: Dallas has ‘deepest bench of defense prospects in the league,’ says owner

Trade target Cowen says Sens’ support has been ‘awesome’

It’s safe to say Jared Cowen knows he hasn’t lived up to expectations in Ottawa.

And it’s safe to say he appreciates the Sens sticking with him — even though teams have called about a potential trade.

“It’s awesome to have that support and I feel that same way about myself,” Cowen said this week, per the Ottawa Sun. “I know that it’s not just me that feels I can be a lot better and be the player that I know I’m going to be and I want to be.”

Cowen, taken ninth overall in 2009, has struggled to replicate the success he found during his rookie year in 2011-12, when he scored 17 points in 82 games, averaged nearly 19 minutes a night and received a handful of Calder votes — pretty impressive for a 21-year-old defenseman.

Injuries have played a role in Cowen’s declide — hip and abdominal issues sidelined him for extensive periods — and that’s led to teams inquiring about potential availability, given his size (6-foot-5, 228 pounds) and the fact Cowen only turned 24 in January.

Doesn’t sound like Ottawa is willing to make a move, however.

From the Sun:

Senators GM Bryan Murray along with assistants Pierre Dorion and Randy Lee have received a lot of calls from teams interested in Cowen but dealing him wasn’t an option because it’s difficult for any organization to give up on a young defenceman who still has upside potential.

With two years left at $3.1 million per-season, the Senators want to see what they’ve got in Cowen and that’s why he hasn’t been dealt. He’s looking forward to a big year under coach Dave Cameron and wants to show he can return to the form.

One would assume Cowen’s in the group of seven defensemen Ottawa will mostly rely on this year, along with Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Cody Ceci, Patrick Wiercioch, Mark Borowiecki and Chris Phillips.

That said, there are other blueliners knocking on the door, including Chris Wideman, a minor-league standout that won last year’s Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s top defenseman.

Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

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After unveiling the top 10 goaltenders for the upcoming video game NHL 16, EA Sports has done the same for every other position.

As was the case last season, Sidney Crosby has the highest overall rating at 96, but there are some alterations after that. In 2015, Steven Stamkos ranked second overall with a 93 rating and he kept that rating for 2015-16, but he’s been leapfrogged by Jonathan Toews (94), Shea Weber (94), and Carey Price (94).

Pavel Datsyuk (93) and John Tavares (92) round out the top-five among centers. Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have two players in the top-10 with Henrik Zetterberg (92) and Evgeni Malkin (92) securing eighth and sixth place respectively.

As previously established, Weber leads the pack among defensemen and is followed by Duncan Keith (93), Drew Doughty (93), Ryan Suter (93), and Erik Karlsson (91). Nashville is the only team with two defensemen in the top-10 as Roman Josi (90) ranks ninth.

When it comes to right wingers, Corey Perry (92) got the top position, although he’s closely followed by Patrick Kane (92). Vladimir Tarasenko (91), Jakub Voracek (90), and Marian Hossa (90) make up the remainder of the top-five. Phil Kessel, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh over the summer, saw his rating slip from 90 in 2014-15 to 89 following a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to left wingers, it won’t surprise many to learn that Alex Ovechkin secured the top rating at 93. He’s followed by Jamie Benn (92), Taylor Hall (90), Zach Parise (90), and Max Pacioretty (89). The Dallas Stars’ acquisition of Patrick Sharp means that they now have two players in the top-10 as Sharp took the final place on that list with his 89 rating.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe. If you want to see each position’s top-10 list, you can view them here.

Calder runner-up Stone says injured wrist is ‘100 percent’

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It’s been a pretty good summer for breakout Sens forward Mark Stone.

He finished second to Aaron Ekblad as the NHL’s top rookie, scored a three-year, $10.5 million extension from the Sens and, this week, confirmed there’s no lingering effect from the P.K. Subban slash he took to the wrist during Ottawa’s opening-round playoff loss to Montreal.

“It’s felt great out there the last couple of skates,” he told the Ottawa Sun. “The shot feels good. The hands feel good. My legs are starting to come along. I feel good and I feel like I’m 100 percent.”

That wasn’t the case this spring, when Stone suffered a microfracture from the Subban slash — an incident that set off a mini-firestorm between two clubs. Following the series, which the Habs won four games to two, Stone expressed frustration over how much the injury — which occurred in the second period of Game 1 — limited him.

Stone played through the injury, but needed to freeze his wrist before and sometimes again during each game.

“It was just frustrating not being able to feel parts of my wrist and parts of my fingers,” he explained. “It definitely didn’t help my shot, but I was able to play through it.”

Now healthy, Stone can focus on two major tasks — getting Ottawa back into the playoffs, and avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump.