It's now been two July 1sts in a row that a long term face of the franchise has left the Ottawa Senators. If you were have asked me back in June of 2013 what the legacy of the Senators franchise it would have been markedly different than where it stands today. At that point in time we had 2 players who had played over 1000 games in a Senators uniform(Daniel Alfredsson & Chris Phillips), with another couple in Chris Neil and Jason Spezza working their way there as Sens lifers. We had come through the other end of the tunnel of a rebuild with some solid young players coming down the pipe and a veteran core to show the way.
As a franchise the outward appearance was one of stability, where we had shown we could keep players happy in Ottawa long term(Dany Heatley excluded) and had a long history of making the playoffs and icing competitive teams. While we were never a first choice destination for a lot of free agents, we could still appeal to players looking to play in a nice community with an engaged fanbase. The Sens were never big spenders, but they would spend when needed and would reward their own internally to keep them in Ottawa. The team had shown it was resilient and scrappy the previous year by making the playoffs with star players Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson out long term. It showed the club had a bright future, with many young players stepping up to fill holes in the lineup.
Now here we stand July 2nd, 2014 and essentially the Senators legacy is in tatters. The team's long term Captain and future Hall Of Famer Daniel Alfredsson left because the club decided to ask for another hometown discount from a player who had given absolutely everything to the club. Without their longtime leader the Sens floundered to find an identity and failed to make the playoffs. Jason Spezza, the new captain was entering the last year of his contract and looked for assurances that management would be willing to bring in more talent to put the team over the hump. GM Bryan Murray, operating with a strict internal salary cap couldn't make any promises that the Sens could do that. So he asked for a trade to a team that was more worried about winning than dollars and cents. After the trade free agency opened up and the Sens were only able to re-sign a single free agent, Milan Michalek.
The outward appearance to free agents is a franchise in turmoil. In the last two seasons they lost 2 future Hall Of Famers in Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar and trade deadline acquisition Ales Hemsky, as well as trading their Captain and a Vezina candidate in Ben Bishop. Players and agents must cringe when they see Bryan Murray's name show up on their call display. After years of being a second tier destination the Senators are now scrapping it out with the Islanders and Oilers as destinations with rather low desirability. Any player we're going to sign this offseason is going to be a player who knocked on all the other doors in the NHL and is now scraping the bottom of the barrel to secure a job in the league.
This is how far the Sens have fallen in a calendar year. With Charles Wang selling the Islanders the Senators officially have the worst owner in the league. Eugene Melnyk may have a lot of enthusiasm and bluster, but when it comes down to it he no longer has the money to afford this hockey team.
I find as a fan of the Senators I'm embarrassed. This club isn't going to win a Stanley Cup anytime soon and the hope from our short rebuild is pretty much exhausted 2 years on. The only way I see this cloud lifting is for Eugene Melnyk to sell the Senators. The club cannot expect to challenge for a Stanley Cup by being a cap floor team. Trying to win a Stanley Cup with top teams spending 25% more than you is a real uphill battle. Might as well just play games without a 4th line and only 5 D. That's pretty much what the Senators are trying to achieve at this point.