For the first time since March 5, 2020, the Ottawa Senators welcomed fans into the Canadian Tire Centre Saturday. And the majority of the 1000 fans in attendance went home happy as the Senators rookies edged the Montreal Canadiens rookies 4-3 on a Mark Kastelic goal with under five minutes remaining.
The Senators had tied the game seconds earlier when defenseman Maxence Guenette pounced on a loose puck at the side of the Canadiens net. Guenette also added an assist for two points on the night, while forward Cole Reinhardt also matched Guenette’s performance. Matthew Wedman playing on a professional try-out added a shorthanded marker.
Goalie Leevi Merilainen made two game-saving stops with only five ticks on the clock to preserve the victory for the Ottawa youngsters.
WOW Leevi 🤯 pic.twitter.com/m0UDM2mANl
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) September 19, 2021
But this wasn’t the only Senators news on the day. During the first intermission, the club announced the signing of restricted free agent centre Logan Brown to a one-year, two-way contract that carries a value of $750,000 at the NHL level, $100,000 in the American League.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a team release, “Logan is among the most talented prospects in our organization. He possesses many of the tools that could ultimately help him find success in the NHL. We’re hopeful that a productive summer translates into a good training camp for him here beginning next week.”
Dorion’s statement hammers home a conundrum that’s plagued the Senators 2016 11th overall selection since the outset of his career.
There’s little doubt Brown is indeed “among the most talented prospects in the organization.” However, the abilty for the St. Louis resident to remain healthy for long periods has always been a concern. In four seasons of junior hockey plus another three at the professional level, Brown is yet to play a full campaign.
But when he does, the six-foot-six, 220-pound centre, Brown produces. The 23-year old has compiled 79 points (23 goals, 56 assists) in 94 AHL games during his pro career.
While there were unfounded rumours of Brown heading to Sweden, he now has an opportunity to earn a spot at centre when Senators main camp commences Wednesday.
With sophomore Josh Norris holding down the role of no.1 centre, the second-line pivot position is wide open. Unless a trade occurs between now and opening puck-drop of the club’s regular reason October 14, Brown will compete with likely Colin White for the job. There’s also a possibility of a shift to the wing. Brown has done this in the past.
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Belleville head coach Troy Mann who’s been behind the bench for all of Brown’s 94 AHL contests echoes these sentiments but does have a message for the youngster.
“I think that the message to “Brownie” if he ends up in Belleville is one; “Let’s stay healthy.” It’s been three years, whether it’s been a lot missed opportunity because of injuries, hopefully, something that can happen. Sometimes you can’t control injuries. Sometimes it’s bad luck. Sometimes there’s other reasons for injuries. Overall, my message is “Let’s stay healthy,” and you’ve got to be a dominant player at the AHL level for a consistent amount of time. That’s for any type of opportunity to get recalled to the Sens or possibly showcase yourself for another organization. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which player, you’re always being evaluated, whether it’s by your own organization or the teams that are at the games watching. I think there’s a long way to go before we get to Belleville and see who ultimately comes down – that would be my initial thoughts.”
As Mann stated, Brown has all the ability to become a dominant player, especially if he utilizes his size and skill to his advantage, something he’s been guilty of not doing on a consistent basis in the eyes of the organization at times.
One thing is for certain, Brown is no longer waiver exempt meaning if he doesn’t crack the Senators’ roster, his time with the organization will likely come to a close. It would be a shock if Dorion didn’t attempt to move him as losing Brown on waivers is a likely scenario.
Brown’s signing leaves Brady Tkachuk as the Senators’ lone RFA. Senior vice-president of player development Pierre McGuire commented in a between period radio interview Saturday that talks between the team and Tkachuk’s agent Craig Oster have been “acrimonious.” The two sides have spoken at least five times, including face-to-face meetings.
The belief is Tkachuk’s team is seeking to hit a home run on an eight-year deal with the AAV being north of $8 million. At this point, it’s tough to say if the recently turned 22-year old will be in Ottawa when camp opens later this coming week. Brady’s brother, Matthew of the Calgary Flames suggested in a Sportsnet interview Friday that the younger Tkachuk may hold out – something Matthew and his dad, Keith each have done in the past.
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