The Ottawa Senators will not be leaving the city, owner Eugene Melnyk said Tuesday.
Melnyk, who has owned the Senators for the past 16 years, said in an open letter published in the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun that neither he nor the team is going anywhere. His focus is delivering a better hockey experience for this season and beyond.
The Senators will hold their annual golf tournament Wednesday. Player physicals are Thursday and the first on-ice session is Friday.
In the letter, Melnyk introduced the concept of a multiyear rebuilding plan to improve on and off the ice after the Senators finished with 67 points (28-43-11), the second fewest in the NHL behind the Buffalo Sabres. They were 30 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, one season after losing in overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Melnyk noted the Senators’ nine playoff qualifications over the past 15 years, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final against the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, but said much must be done to return to competitiveness.
“Last season, however, we were horrible and it just wasn’t acceptable,” he said. “We must get back to winning, winning a lot more, and with more consistency.”
The Senators have made changes since last season. Forward Mike Hoffman, who scored more than 20 goals in each of the past four seasons, was traded to the San Jose Sharks on June 19. Hours later, the Sharks traded Hoffman to the Florida Panthers.
Erik Karlsson’s future in Ottawa is also uncertain. The defenseman is entering the final season of a seven-year contract and can become a free agent July 1. According to Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, Karlsson was offered a contract extension July 1, but there has been little movement since.
The possibility that Karlssson will be traded has been a major storyline throughout the offseason. He has been Senators captain since the 2014-15 season.
Melnyk didn’t address the Karlsson trade rumors in the open letter and ended it with an optimistic view.
“We know that this rebuild makes us the underdog,” Melnyk said. “And we love it.”