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Five Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts on the Senators parting ways with Chris Neil, Dion Phaneuf not waiving his NMC, Erik Karlsson playing through injuries, and more

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Los Angeles Kings Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The final five thoughts before the madness that is the real off-season...

Erik Karlsson is a Mad Man

This subtitle should be common knowledge, and I went through just how good he is in my article yesterday. However, I think it needs to be repeated that it is absolutely incredible that Karlsson played as well as he did while having a broken foot and torn tendons in that same foot.

If you ever break your foot or tear some tendons in it (or both), try skating a lap around the rink. I bet you can’t. Yet he didn’t even skip a beat and he looked better than ever at times. We’ll be talking about his warrior status in the 2017 playoffs for the rest of our lives, there’s no doubt about that.

Oh and by the way: he is supposed to be out for four months due to the surgery he underwent, but I’ll bet he comes back in time for the season opener.

No Ill-Will Towards Phaneuf

After news came out that Dion Phaneuf would not be waiving his no-move clause for expansion draft purposes, there were a few (but not many) that were upset at his decision. However, most of the reactions I saw were quite level-headed, and I have to agree that I don’t hold this decision against Phaneuf one bit.

As Ian Mendes pointed out, he wants to be here, so he shouldn’t be getting criticized.

After all, he has this NMC in his contract for a reason, and it’s his right to not waive it. He has only been in Ottawa for a year and a few months, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to pack his bags for another city (as slim as the chances are that he actually does get picked). From his perspective, why take the risk if you love the city you are already in?

Plus, no matter if he waives his NMC or not, Ottawa will most likely be giving up one of Marc Methot, Cody Ceci, Fredrik Claesson, or Chris Wideman to Las Vegas anyway unless Pierre Dorion has some tricks up his sleeve. So ultimately, this decision doesn’t hurt the team that much, it just makes Dorion’s job much harder heading into the expansion draft.

Moving on From Chris Neil

Surely there will be some other writers who will have very good Neil appreciation posts, but I am not one to say that he was one of my favourite Senators. That doesn’t mean I can’t see the good in him, but at the age of 37, it was time to let him go.

As the league drifts away from enforcers, there really isn’t much of a need for him on the roster anymore, especially with the deepest team we’ve seen in years.

Now, I’m obviously someone who has never liked the role of enforcers, but I can at least appreciate the kind of teammate and leader that Neil was, as well as the person he was off the ice.

Every time I hear someone talk about who he is as a person, it’s always something extremely positive. I hear about all the volunteer work he does, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, one of my best memories as a young kid came in 2005 when the Senators came to Vancouver.

It was my first Senators game, and I was watching the warmups with a kid in a Canucks jersey standing next to me. He was screaming at Neil to give him the puck he was about to throw over, but instead he pointed at me because of my jersey and threw it over the glass. I’ll never forget how happy I was, and I still have that puck sitting in my room.

I didn’t want him to play these final few seasons in Ottawa, but that doesn’t mean I ever disliked him as a person. On a personal level, I wish him nothing but the best in the future.

Sens Could Have Won it All...

The Pittsburgh Penguins winning their second Stanley Cup in a row didn’t exactly help with my depression after the Senators got eliminated. By looking at the glass half full, you could say Ottawa got eliminated by the best, so they should hold their heads up high.

But if you look at the glass half empty, you could also say that if just one of Ottawa’s shots in overtime in game 7 went in, they could have easily beaten Nashville to win the Cup. It’s not as if the Predators were a horrible team or anything, but Pekka Rinne was either a brick wall or a sieve, plus some key injuries would have made me like Ottawa’s chances in that series.

I’m not sure what is more heartbreaking: the loss in the 2017 Conference Finals, 2007 Cup Finals, or the 2003 Conference Finals. All are hard pills to swallow.

Next Few Weeks Will be Entertaining

We’ve almost had no time to digest the ending of the Stanley Cup Finals, yet the off-season is already in full swing. The expansion draft results will be revealed on Wednesday, but we will know which players were protected on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET. That means there will be three and a half days of wondering which players Vegas will take, and we will know exactly who they are allowed to take.

Plus the trade freeze does not begin until tomorrow, so the Jonathan Drouin trade may just be the tip of the iceberg as teams scramble before the expansion draft.

Wednesday itself should be interesting, as the team will be revealed, and Twitter will surely melt down. At the same time, the NHL Awards are happening and we will see if Erik Karlsson wins the Norris Trophy or if the voters are wrong.

Then just two days later there is the usual NHL entry draft, which doesn’t have the same hype as it did in 2015 and 2016, but there are always at least a few interesting trades. One week after the conclusion of rounds 2-7 of the draft is Canada Day, which means “Free Agent Frenzy.”

I don’t know if Ottawa will be that active in terms of free agents, but I do feel like Dorion will be making a few trades or small signings. Or he’ll at least be more active than Bryan Murray would ever be.

That’s four big events to be very excited about in the near future. Can’t wait to see what’s in store.