Steve Staios started his exercise in cap gymnastics Sunday.
With Mathieu Joseph eligible to come off long-term injury reserve (LTIR) to suit up Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames, the Ottawa Senators’ president of hockey operations and GM carved a path to get the veteran winger’s $2.95 U.S. salary under the cap.
To make that happen, a couple of recalls from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville headed back to the minors. Forwards Angus Crookshank and Jiri Smejkal, both scratched for the club’s 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, joined Belleville in Winnipeg on Sunday.
Even then, that won’t be enough to get Joseph back on the roster. Staios also has to place centre Rourke Chartier on LTIR retroactive to Dec. 16 to get his $775,000 salary off the books. He missed his 10th straight game against the Oilers and there’s no timetable for his return.
Just to complicate matters, the Senators also have to start looking down the road because centre Shane Pinto will resume skating with the club next weekend as he prepares to return from his 41-game suspension Jan. 21 against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game No. 42 of the season.
The expectation is Pinto, 23, will sign a one-year deal at — or close to — the $874,125 qualifying offer he received from the Senators in the summer. His New York-based agent Lewis Gross likely knows he has no leverage in talks and the best bet is to get Pinto in here playing.
Sources say the two sides have talked about a contract with longer term, but that may not happen immediately because of the club’s cap situation. Pinto can skate without a contract, however, he’ll have to sign the day before his return to suit up.
According to Jamie Davis of Capfriendly.com, the Senators will have to find a way to get another salary off the books once Pinto signs. For example, if he agrees to his qualifying offer, then Staios is going to need to clear about $875,000 from the current roster to make that a reality.
The Senators will either have to send somebody down — and maybe Chartier is ready to come off LTIR by then — or make a trade to get money off the books.
Staios understood the challenge the club was facing with its cap when he took over the full-time GM’s job on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s a challenge but I’m confident we can get it done,” Staios said at the press conference to introduce senior VP Dave Poulin a week ago in Ottawa. “The situation that we’ve inherited and what we’re in is not ideal, but I’m confident we’ll be fine.”
Of course, Staios and the club’s hockey operations staff will find a way to manage this situation, but it doesn’t make dealing with a team that’s not performing up to expectations any easier.
THIS ‘N’ THAT
It would be no surprise to see centre Mark Kastelic either moved or sent to the minors if he doesn’t start playing better. He saw only three minutes of ice time in the loss to the Oilers and only played 48 seconds in the third period … Interim coach Jacques Martin didn’t mind the club’s effort against the Oilers, but noted everybody needs to be better. “I thought we played pretty well,” Martin told TSN 1200’s Gord Wilson. “They’re a good hockey club, and I think a couple of breakdowns and their special teams made a difference. I still thought we did a pretty good job on our penalty kill, we missed the one clear for their first goal and then I thought the second goal we could have played it a little better in the neutral zone. But overall, I can’t blame the effort. I think we have to build on this.” … Captain Connor McDavid’s assist on Zach Hyman’s third of the game in the third period was his 40th point in 23 career games against the Senators … The club’s best player Saturday was winger Parker Kelly, and that’s not just because he scored a goal. He grew up an hour from Edmonton in nearby Canmor, so it was a homecoming of sorts.
THE LAST WORDS
No, the club hasn’t had the success the 71-year-old Martin would like, but he’s trying to make the most of his return to the bench with former captain Daniel Alfredsson by his side as an assistant.
“This is a new group with an opportunity to make their own history. I believe we have some great skill, but there’s a couple of areas of our game (needing work) … the foundation of winning is you have to play hard and well away from the puck,” Martin said before facing the Oilers.
This is a nice way for Martin to close out his career. He made stops with the Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before coming back to Ottawa.
“I had the opportunity to learn more as a coach (leaving Ottawa). Whenever you get a chance to coach a superstar like (Sidney) Crosby, you learn from that experience. Plus winning two Stanley Cups with them (Penguins). Hopefully that will mould this Ottawa team into a championship one,” Martin said.
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