Thursday was a great day to be an Ottawa Senators fan. The team backstopped by an astounding 46 saves from Anton Forsberg edged the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tyler Ennis led the way with one goal, one assist. Chris Tierney opened the scoring, while Alex Formenton‘s marker at the first period horn turned out to be the game-winner.
The victory was the cherry on top for the club who finally locked Brady Tkachuk to a seven-year, $57.5 million contract earlier in the morning.
When Senators general manager Pierre Dorion sat down to meet the media prior to his club’s season-opener, one could sense a massive weight was lifted off his shoulders.
Breakaway presented by Bell | S2 E3
Brady Tkachuk IS BACK! Go behind the scenes of his return with Breakaway. pic.twitter.com/baKLWAXV1X
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) October 15, 2021
The Senators GM was grinning ear-to-ear, and why not? “After many months of conversations, many conversations,” a trip to Toronto during the summer, and then finally a two and three-quarter hour meeting in Belleville, the two sides hammered out a framework for a contract that was eventually in agreement Thursday.
The deal valued at $8.214 million per season is one that’s palatable for both sides. The contract buys up three seasons of unrestricted free agency – something the organization and its fans wanted. There were a lot of rumours surrounding early negotiations in that Tkachuk sought a short-term bridge contract.
Dorion put that idea to rest, “The one thing that always impressed me through this process, hearing from the other side was, how much Brady wanted to be here. That’s why we were never worried that we were never not going to agree on a deal.”
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However, there was a shadow of doubt in recent days, neither side had spoken to each other in the week prior to Tuesday in Belleville.
Why Tuesday? It was the start of the NHL campaign combined with the distinct possibility of opening the season without their star player and motivational leader was worrisome for Dorion and Tkachuk’s agents Don Meehan and Craig Oster of Newport.
Why Belleville? “For us, it had been a few days that we didn’t talk. Tuesday morning, the season starting, (owner) Eugene (Melnyk), myself, (senior vp of player development) Pierre (McGuire), (agm) Peter (MacTavish), (director of hockey operations) Tim (Pattyson), (head coach) D.J. (Smith), we felt Brady needed to be here. We picked up the phone and called Craig.”
Oster had offered to meet halfway, Dorion intimated he wasn’t certain if it was on term of contract or dollars. Tkachuk’s agent actually meant Belleville.
So, Dorion, MacTavish, McGuire took a drive west down Highway 401 to meet Newport’s Don Meehan, Oster and Rand Simon.
Regardless of the length of negotiations and the difficulty of getting the deal completed, the buzz around the building and the reactions from Senators’ fans on social media was a huge sense of relief. Not to mention the eruption of cheers when Tkachuk was introduced to the crowd in attendance.
— Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) October 14, 2021
It was a whirlwind day for Tkachuk. Upon being contacted the deal was agreed upon, the 22-year old sent out a mass group chat to his family. After series of series of calls, including one to his mom, Chantal who was crying tears of joy, Tkachuk found a flight out of Detroit to Montreal and drove the remaining trek back to Ottawa.
“I’m super-happy to back, super-happy to be home. It’s exactly what I wanted. This is the place I wanted be in. The city has been great to me since I got here and the fans have been so supportive,” said Tkachuk during the first intermission of the Senators season-opener.
“I’m glad the business side is over and I get to be part of the team again – improve every single day. I’m just happy to be back with the guys again…I’m probably going to be here for hours shooting the s***,” added the Senators 2018 fourth overall selection.
It’s unknown when Tkachuk will play. He’ll leave it up his head coach, though Smith indicated postgame, that may be as early as Sunday – pending his conditioning. Tkachuk has been skating with the United States National Development squad in Ann Arbor, MI, and was actually on the ice in the a.m., just in case he had to make his way to Ottawa.