The Ottawa Senators avoided another date with the arbitrator Tuesday, this time a little earlier than less than 24 hours notice as they did with Connor Brown – signing Chris Tierney to a two-year, $7 million contract.
Tierney who had an arbitration hearing scheduled for November 8, will earn $2.8M next season, $4.2M in Year Two.
“I’m really happy to get it done. I don’t think any player or team really wants to go to arbitration. You hear a lot of stories and it doesn’t sound good from either side. I really wanted to get something done and avoid that,” said the 26-year old from his home in Southern Ontario via a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon.
“And that fact that arbitration would’ve been a one-year deal and we got two is great. I’m just really happy to be back in Ottawa.”
The dependable centre compiled 11 goals, 26 assists in 71 games last season, his second with the Senators since being acquired in a swap that sent Erik Karlsson to the Sharks in September 2018.
A penalty-killing specialist, Tierney finished in a four-way tie for tops in the NHL in shorthanded goals. His four shorthanded markers tied him with former Senator Vladislav Namestnikov who scored all four of his goals with the club prior to his trade to the Avalanche at the deadline. Hurricanes Sebastian Aho and Flyers Kevin Hayes also netted four each.
Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion said of Tierney in a team release, “He’s a reliable veteran who has very good hockey sense and who is consistently among our best centres in faceoff success rate. That he’s accumulated significant NHL experience in a short period of time is also of considerable importance to the club.”
Tierney’s possessed a 51.2 percent success rate on draws in 2019-20 and has amassed 476 games including playoffs during his six-year NHL career.
The Sharks 2012 second-round pick may slide into a no.1 centre role, possibly between Brady Tkachuk and Evgenii Dadonov, but Tierney’s versatility allows him to skate anywhere within the Senators lineup.
“I think it’s just going to be talking to (head coach) D.J. (Smith) when I get to camp and seeing where he wants me to play. Obviously, we have a lot of young guys coming up that are going to be good players. I just want to try to be a leader for this team, still try to be a good player. I still want to play big minutes. I still want to contribute both defensively and offensively to this team – really looking forward to see what kind of role that D.J. has for me, and kind of grow into it,” Tierney explained.
At 26, Tierney also realizes that he’s now one of the elder statesmen among the team’s forward core.
“I think it gets to a point, a certain amount of games – you’re getting to a certain age – certainly with the team we have, we’re going to have a lot of young guys – you need to kind of transition into a leadership role. That’s what I want to do this year – kind of become a leader, help some of the young guys out. If they have any questions about anything or just leading by example on the ice in practices or games, I’m looking forward to developing and adding that to my game.”
Like other Senators interviewed recently, Tierney too is impressed by Dorion’s acquisitions.
“I think they went out and got a lot of key pieces so far that will make the team better. (Matt) Murray is a really good goalie in this league. He’s won before. He knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup, along with (Evgenii) Dadonov, who’s a great scorer, put up 60-70 points the last couple of years. So that’s another weapon we can add to our team. We’ve got a couple of other guys (Josh Brown, Erik Gudbranson) on the back end that are big bodies, good leaders. We got Austin Watson. I played with him in junior. He’s a great player. I’m really liking what we’re adding to the team.”
Tierney and Watson were teammates on a 2012 London Knights club that won the Ontario League championship.
“He came over in what I think was my second year. It was his fourth. He ended playing unbelievable for us. We won the OHL championship. He won the MVP. At the Memorial Cup, he was a star there too. I think he’s an underrated player. I think Ottawa fans and people watching him play will be impressed in his details of the game. He’s a long guy. He’s got a good stick. He’s got more skill and more awareness and more hockey sense than people give him credit for. I’m looking forward to watching him again,” said Tierney of one the newest Senators.
Tierney has spent the summer training at the Gary Roberts High Performance Training centre in Aurora and has been doing so since he was only 16-years old.
On his experience with training under Roberts, “It’s been great. Every year I’ve been learning something different. Starting in junior, trying to develop into a man almost, build strength, build conditioning, figure out your body really well. Growing at that age is cool. Now being midway through my twenties, I think just keeping and maintaining your strength and just getting your conditioning level up to the highest it can be when you come back for the season. It’s been great. He focuses on nutrition, training, just taking care of your body. It’s great training with a lot of other NHL pros that you can take advice from and watch as well. It’s been a great experience with him.”
Like many NHL players, Tierney is chomping at the bit to return to training camp, especially for the Senators as they haven’t hit the ice since March 11 in Los Angeles.
“It’s been a weird process. It’s been a really long off-season, feels like I’ve been in the gym and skating forever now without playing in a game. It’s starting to get to the point where you’re just itching to get back on the ice and competing in real games. It’s nice and it’s getting closer now. When they do set a date, it’ll be nice to being able to make a plan when you start ramping up slower and slower and slower to when you hit your peak and you’re in full stride when camp starts. I’m just really looking forward to them kind of setting a date.”
“It’s been weird. You don’t want to start in June and be skating for three months hard. You don’t want to burn yourself out or over-do anything in the middle of summer when you’re trying to prepare for so much longer. I think it’s important to kind of stay in shape right now. You work out for two months, take a three-four day break, and then get back at it. I think it’s important to keep fresh. I think when they set that date, it gives you a firmer timeline, so you know to skate more and more – get your conditioning up a little higher before camp. And then like I said, you’re feeling fresh and in good shape when you’re ready to go.”
Whatever that start date is, Senators’ Chris Tierney will be rest-assured ready for puck-drop.