The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Eugene Melnyk Speaks: MacArthur Signing, Ryan/Methot Status, Sens Foundation

Fresh off the heels of yesterday’s press conference to reveal that its Sens Foundation has surpassed the $100 million benchmark for money raised for the community, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk made an appearance on TSN 1200’s ‘The Drive’ to talk about the organization’s charitable endeavours and some other items of interest.

I have transcribed most of the interview, but there were some comments that I excluded. If you’re interested in listening to the audio, you can click here or check out the embedded audio at the bottom of the post.

As always, my thoughts are in italic. No, I’m just messing with you, they’re still in bold.

On having significant news to break with the Ottawa Senators…

“Yeah, I just got word that we did sign Clarke MacArthur to a five-year extension and he’s going to be a Senator for another six years with us and we’re very, very excited about that signing. We’re looking forward to him tearing up the ice this coming year.”

Tearing up the ice? MacArthur should check his extension immediately for some hidden cost-saving clause that entails he join the work crew that converts the Canadian Tire Centre’s surface from hockey to the arena’s other principle functions — like concerts, basketball and etc.

I did about the importance of the MacArthur signing yesterday on the blog and you can find my comments here.

On the importance in getting him signed to a deal…

“Yeah, well he’s still a young guy. He’s going to contribute. I think his best years are still to come and I think Bryan (Murray) feels the same way and Pierre Dorion as well. We all believe that he’s going to be a huge contributor to the team and he’s a great character guy. He’s great in the dressing room and we’re really, really pleased that we’ve got him locked in for the next six years.”

MacArthur will turn 29 years old next season and by the end of his extension, he’ll be 34. By relative standards, he’s not an old guy, but from a hockey standpoint, numbers have shown that a hockey player’s offensive peak usually happens at around 25 or 26 years of age. From that point, there’s a slow decline until a player reaches 32 years of age – where he can expect a more drastic drop in production from there. Even if this development curve speaks true for MacArthur, four seasons of decent production and two-way play at an average annual value of $4.65 million is great. For what it’s worth, Capgeek is indicating that MacArthur has a full no-move clause. 

On any thoughts about Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan signing extensions…

“Well, they’re working with them. There’s no guarantee that anything is going to get done before the season starts or if it gets done anytime soon. There’s no hurry for us. We’re way ahead of the curve here. We’ve got a full year with these players and we’ll just see how things work themselves through. I mean, we have eight defencemen right now and Marc is a great player, but you’ve got to be realistic of what we can do. I think Bobby would be a great, great contributor and again, we’ve got them for this coming year and we’ll see what pans out. We’re hoping for the best and I know they’re going to be playing their top, top, top level all season long.”

This probably won’t come across as very reassuring and in listening to the interview, it didn’t sound any better than it reads. Given Melnyk’s comments about how many defencemen the team have and how he anticipates Ryan to be a great contributor, reading into his comments makes it sound like the negotiations with Methot are further apart than they are with Ryan.

I know that the organization will downplay the significance of putting timelines in place to get either of these players inked to a contract, but if they cannot come to terms with either player on an extension before the start of the season, the Senators will be assuming a ton of risk in the form of: an injury, decreased value for rental players (as last year’s trade deadline showed), lingering in the playoff picture (will the Sens go for it and keep impending UFAs the risk of losing them for nothing?) and poor play possibly devaluing them further (ie. will Ryan’s recovery/recuperation from hernia surgery be a hiccup similar to how Jared Cowen’s hip surgery affected him?). 

I don’t want to sound too negative considering that there’s still a significant amount of time left for the Senators to get deals done with either player, but considering the circumstances involved to acquire Ryan — the Alfie departure and needing to satiate a bloodthirsty fan base — should the organization not be able to re-sign him or recoup fair value for him in a trade, it will be an organizational failure.

I admire the Senators for having the stones to try and bring in what they believed to be an impact player, but even at the time of the deal, the risks were well known. As a rebuilding team, the Senators mortgaged a lot of future assets (whether they pan out or not is inconsequential since they pieces Ottawa moved had substantial value at the time) to make a splashy move. For it to be a success however, they had to sign Ryan and convince him that Ottawa was where he wanted to spend the remainder of the most productive years of his career. 

On whether there’s any nervousness about what the Senators gave up and having Bobby Ryan potentially walk at the end of the year…

“Well of course you are, but that’s part of the game. It’s part of what we have to do and you can’t lose sleep over it. You hope for the best and you do what he’s going to do and like I said, we’re going to do our best to keep these players and hopefully we’re successful at it.”

If not having the cash to sign Bobby Ryan or have the financial wherewithal to support him and the rest of this team’s young core with more talented players is real, then trading significant, controllable and young assets for a player with two years left on his deal shouldn’t be part of what the Senators do. Build patiently through the draft like the 1990’s era budget Ottawa Senators. 

On whether some of the disappointment has worn off from last season…

“Yeah, there’s no question it was a brutal year. It was very, very disappointing and I think it was disappointing to all the players. But now, they need to feel that hunger and I think speaking to that group that was there today, they’re all pumped. They are all working out virtually every day. They want to come out full steam ahead. Our schedule this year is a lot better at the start than last year. I think it’s a team that has the talent. It’s just a question of everybody playing up to that talent and I think they will. So I think everybody is pumped. We’re hoping that we are a playoff contender. I think we are. Of course once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.”

For an owner whose mantra is “once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen”, the Senators have made the playoffs five times since 2007 and have only won one series. Maybe it’s time to change the mantra and aim for a loftier goal — shelving short-term results at the expense of a better long-term goal. 

On the Sens Foundation raising over $100 million for the community and what the Sens Foundation means to him…

“Well, it means a lot. One of the politicians that was speaking, I forget which one of them, said ‘What does $100 million buy?’ I mean, he can’t fathom that kind of money, but what it does buy, bringing it down to grassroots levels and reality is that does a lot of things for people that are in need. The kids that don’t have a phone call to make. The kids that have drug addictions (or) have family problems, we’re there for them. Then you have other children again that come to Roger’s House and basically, they don’t check out. We’re there for them and we have professionals working in there. These are angels that work in there and they’re able to comfort the families and the people. It’s a lot of money. It’s a ton of money by any stretch and I think we’re putting it to great use and I’m very, very, very proud of anybody that’s involved with the Foundation and being able to expend that money properly to the right people. It’s one of those feel good things that you just love to do.”

I know that the organization raised some eyebrows yesterday for what was essentially a self-congratulating press conference to announce how they’ve passed this $100 million benchmark, but so what? The Senators mean a lot to the people of this community and $100 million is a crazy amount of money that they have raised. Congratulations to them and the work done by the people within their organizations. Now if you want to continue to support the Sens Foundation, buy your Cost Per Point t-shirt today

On the Sens Foundation’s footprint on the city…

“Exactly, you don’t see that in other cities. That’s just what a lot of people don’t get. They come to us. A lot of people that run very large market hockey organizations come to us and say, ‘Okay, well how do we do this?’ And by the way, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that transpires over a number of years and it continues to grow and grow and grow. And I asked Cyril Leeder just before we came out for that press conference, I said, ‘How much have we grown? Is it linear? Is it kind of a nice slope up?’ He says, ‘Nah, it’s off the charts. It’s just taken off.’ It’s really nice to see the community get behind this and have a purpose and you can see the results. In the future you’re going to see the results with a lot more kids getting involved in sports and not sitting in front of television sets and getting out there and enjoying life.”

Get out there and enjoy life. Summer’s winding down and hockey thankfully, is just around the corner.