Welcome, my friends, to the first week of the 2021-22 NHL season. You’ve waited long enough for this moment. In three days you’ll get actual meaningful (to the extent that any sporting event can mean anything) regular season hockey and we couldn’t be any more excited if you paid us (technically they already pay us). While the Sens have hit more than one bump in the road to get here, we’ll take whatever version of the team we can get, and I say this with the utmost sincerity: Go Sens Go.
- The Provincial government has made it official that professional sports teams in Ontario can return to full indoor capacity this season, with obvious conditions in place (fans in attendance will require proof of vaccination). This news comes with less than a week to go before Ottawa opens their NHL season at home against Toronto. And I have some very, very bad news for anyone hoping to get the year off from another saga of NHL fans being extremely online about attendance.
- In yesterday’s camp check-in I briefly went over Matt Murray’s numbers heading into this season as most of us wonder whether he’ll improve on a rocky debut season in Ottawa. Over at the Citizen, Ken Warren got some of Murray’s thoughts on what made last season unique and why he feels better heading into this campaign. Also of note from the article: Scott Sabourin could start the season in Ottawa, Logan Shaw currently lines up as Ottawa’s fourth centre, and head coach DJ Smith will keep Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub together to start the season (blessed!).
- In former Ottawa Senators news, Mika Zibanejad has committed long term to the New York Rangers with an eight-year contract extension that will pay the centre $8.5 annually. Of course as Sens fans this means we get to engage in the what ninth? tenth? installment of the Zibby Wars. Mute your timelines accordingly.
- Speaking of top centres inking their career contracts, Sasha Barkov won’t test free agency next summer as the Florida Panthers agreed to an eight-year, $80M deal to keep their franchise superstar in town. Now typically this kind of news out of the NHL wouldn’t move the social needle too far around these parts because these deals happen all the time. But the face of a franchise? Signing a max contract? In a small market? Again, for those of you whose serenity hangs on by the thinnest of threads right now, try muting the words “signing” and “bonuses.”
- But wait, we have more news out of South Florida! The Cats have acquired former fifth-overall pick Olli Juolevi from the Vancouver Canucks for Noah Juulsen and Juho Lammikko (whomst?). Injuries have prevented Juolevi from ever fully finding his place in Vancouver and this looks like your classic change of scenery trade (and very similar to the trade that sent Juolevi’s draft-mate Logan Brown to the St. Louis Blues last month).
- Closer to home, Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price has entered the NHL Player Assistance Program. In moments like these, we put our rivalries aside and wish nothing but the best for Price and his family.