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Amid Karlsson trade rumors, Ryan to return for Sens

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During Tuesday’s Insider Trading segment on TSN, Bob McKenzie noted that to trade for Erik Karlsson, a suitor might need to assume the mammoth contract of Bobby Ryan. Ryan, 30, hasn’t played since Feb. 1 and has been limited to 39 games this season because of hand/wrist injury issues that have been plaguing him for years.

Remarkably, a day after that report surfaced, it sounds like Ryan might make his return to the Senators lineup. The current plan is for Ryan to suit up for Ottawa on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, according to reporters including TSN’s Brent Wallace.

There are a number of remarkable things about this development.

Obviously, the timing stands out, as this comes on the heels of that report, not to mention less than a week before Feb. 26’s trade deadline. It’s even amusing that Ryan is slated to face the Lightning, a team that may very well decide that it’s worth it to go all-in and acquire Karlsson, even if it means taking on Ryan. Surely getting a look at him, up close and personal, wouldn’t hurt matters?

(Allow me to think out loud: if Ryan Callahan‘s $5.8 million was involved as well, would that grease the wheels a bit?)

There are a few ways things can go for Ryan.

LTIR bound?

For one thing, it’s difficult to ignore the possibility that the once-potent sniper might go the way of the LTIR mainstay, much like Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, and others before him. The Athletic’s Chris Stevenson went into exhaustive detail regarding the rather confusing scenarios for Ryan possibly being LTIR material here (sub required).

Even if Ryan’s fated to go on LTIR – which might be a necessity for a contender that already has big commitments, considering the fact that his $7.25M cap hit won’t expire until after 2021-22 – the Lightning or some other team might want to see what he can do now. Assuming they can make the cap hits work in 2017-18.

More in the tank?

It’s easy to forget that Ryan isn’t that far removed from some impressive goal-scoring days.

His last 20+ goal season came as recently as 2015-16, when he collected 22 in 81 games. He basically averaged 20 goals through his first three seasons in Ottawa, as Ryan totaled 63 from 2013-14 to 2015-16.

Ryan showed flashes of that brilliance during the Senators’ remarkable run within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He managed six goals and 15 points in 19 playoff games, including a brilliant OT-winner against the Penguins:

For once, the bounces were going Ryan’s way, as he enjoyed the best playoff work of his career and connected on 28.57 percent of his shots on goal. So, yes, those results were inflated … yet they came during the 2017 postseason. If healthy, is that unreasonable to imagine Ryan posting nice numbers in Tampa Bay and becoming more than just a throw-in? Could he help even if his injury luck continues to come and go?

If Ryan was forced to be part of a Karlsson trade, the dream scenario for the Lightning or another contender might be something like Clarke MacArthur‘s 2017 playoff run with Ottawa. Maybe Ryan contributes to a postseason push, then lands on LTIR?

One other thought

It’s important to note that trading Ryan wouldn’t necessarily be the best-case scenario for Ottawa. (It might be for owner Eugene Melnyk, mind you, as it’s basically an open secret that he’s very … cost-conscious at the moment.)

To accept Ryan’s contract – even at a discounted rate – a bidding team would likely give up less actual, beneficial pieces in a Karlsson trade. Perhaps ridding themselves off Ryan’s contract would cost the Senators a draft pick, prospect, or some other key piece? It’s certainly something to consider.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: Up to eight teams have recently expressed interest in Duchene

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Another day, another development in the ongoing, lengthy Matt Duchene trade saga.

“Many teams are interested and many teams have been talking with (general manager) Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche. Up to as many as eight teams over the last stretch of days,” said TSN’s Darren Dreger during Insider Trading.

“But the reality is none of these teams think they’re getting him. If you look at the Ottawa Senators, Pierre Dorion has been among the more aggressive and you look at the need he has with Clarke MacArthur out and Colin White out. But I’m pretty sure Ottawa doesn’t think they’re getting Matt Duchene. And the same applies to Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets.”

Yesterday, it was reported in the Ottawa Sun that the Senators were making quite an aggressive push to try to land Duchene, the Avalanche center who has been for months the focus of trade speculation following yet another disastrous season for Colorado’s NHL team. That said, the same report added that the two sides aren’t close.

Duchene has two years remaining on his current contract — five years, $6 million annual cap hit — before he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency.

The Senators are dealing with a list of injuries up front right now, including the aforementioned MacArthur and White, the prospect center who got only a small sample of NHL playing time this past spring after his college season ended and he turned pro. The former did not pass his physical at the beginning of camp and the latter was announced as being out six to eight weeks with a wrist injury.

Last week, Duchene reported for training camp and gave a brief statement to reporters but didn’t take questions. He has since spoken to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, calling his future with the Avalanche “day to day.”

“I’m not going to predict the future on my longevity here,” Duchene told The Denver Post. “I’m day by day. I’m just enjoying playing hockey. A lot got blown out of proportion. I said what I wanted to say then. Nothing’s changed since Thursday. I’m here to get better, I’m here for those reasons — that I said on Thursday.”

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Horton and Lupul fail Maple Leafs physicals

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When it comes to NHL players failing physicals, expected news can still be sad news.

It’s unfortunate – though maybe for the best – that Clarke MacArthur failed his physical with the Ottawa Senators. A long run, with some great moments with the same Chicago Blackhawks, might be over for Michal Rozsival after failing his.

Even ones that feel like formalities are a drag because we’re reminded of what once was, and perhaps what could have been had these players stayed even reasonably healthy.

So, it’s not surprising that Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton failed their Toronto Maple Leafs physicals, as Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported. Both cases are unfortunate nonetheless.

Lupul, 33, stated that he wanted to continue his career when it was clear he’d enter the 2016-17 season on injured reserve. His $5.25 million cap hit expires after this coming season.

If this is it for Lupul, he can look back at multiple 20+ goal seasons and two strong playoff runs during his career.

Horton, 32, will see his $5.3M cap hit expire in three seasons. He won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and enjoyed some strong years as a power forward, yet he barely suited up for the Columbus Blue Jackets team that signed him to his mammoth contract and was traded to Toronto in a bizarre swap of cap hits (David Clarkson, his spiritual salary cap sibling, went to Columbus).

In a strange twist, both forwards look like they’ll finish their careers with nearly identical point totals; Lupul is at 420 while Horton scored 421.

Senators’ MacArthur fails training camp medical test

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Clarke MacArthur, who has a documented history of concussions throughout his career, did not pass his medical testing on Thursday, according to Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion.

As a result, MacArthur will not be a part of training camp, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

There have been questions about the future of his playing career for a few years now as a result of the head injuries he’s sustained. At age 32, MacArthur has appeared in only eight regular season games over the last two campaigns. He did, however, return to Ottawa’s lineup for its playoff run in the spring after getting cleared.

Read more: Silver linings if Senators doctors don’t clear Clarke MacArthur

The Senators made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final and MacArthur posted three goals and nine points in 19 post-season games, while averaging more than 15 minutes of ice time per game. That included time on the penalty kill and power play.

Following Ottawa’s playoff run, MacArthur was adamant that he wanted to continue playing if he could. He did reveal that he went through the playoffs with discomfort in his neck and would be meeting with doctors during the offseason.

Silver linings if Senators doctors don’t clear Clarke MacArthur

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It’s difficult to recall a time when Clarke MacArthur didn’t stand out as a guy to cheer for, even among the many great people in the NHL.

Back in 2010, MacArthur dealt with the indignity of the Atlanta Thrashers (yes, the Thrashers) walking away from what was a $2.4 million arbitration verdict.

That turned out to be a mere footnote in his struggles, as MacArthur resurrected his career in a big way, only to deal with an honestly frightening slew of head injuries.

It made for some seriously conflicting emotions as sports fans and media types become increasingly aware of the risks of concussions (and how such issues only increase risks of additional concussions). On one hand, seeing MacArthur fight back to play for the Senators – and score the kind of goal that would happen in a Hollywood movie – was incredibly inspiring.

At the same time, there was the cringe-inducing concern that the next big hit could end his career, and maybe adversely affect his life after retirement.

Wednesday brought sad news for MacArthur, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that it’s not a sure thing that Senators doctors will clear the veteran winger to play.

McKenzie adds that Senators GM Pierre Dorion was “non-committal” when asked about MacArthur’s future.

Now, there’s no denying that this is sad news for MacArthur. He clearly worked hard to play again for Ottawa, and it would be crushing to experience another setback.

Still, his concussion issues stand out even in a physical sport where head injuries sometimes feel, unfortunately, like they’re the “nature of the beast.”

The silver lining would be that, with three years remaining on a contract that carries a $4.6 million cap hit, MacArthur can secure his financial future.

That’s not the absolute greatest situation for a Senators team that’s on a budget, but MacArthur possibly going to LTIR would save cap space if Ottawa changed course and decided to spend with the hopes of making another deep playoff run. There’s also the possibility that the Sens would convince a bottom-feeding team to take MacArthur’s LTIR cap hit in exchange for a roster-ready player (for the fee of, perhaps, a prospect and/or picks).

None of this erases the notion that this is a sad situation, and certainly not an ideal one.

It might just be the best move for all parties involved, particularly when considering MacArthur’s long-term health.