Cowen relieved to have contract impasse behind him

Jared Cowen received a warm welcome when he hopped on the ice at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon Monday morning, as teammates banged their sticks to mark his return to the Ottawa Senators.

Cowen relieved to have contract impasse behind him
Ottawa Senators Jared Cowen at practice for an exhibition game at Credit Union Centre on September 16, 2013 in Saskatoon. {RICHARD MARJAN/STARPHOENIX}

SASKATOON, Sask. — Jared Cowen received a warm welcome when he hopped on the ice at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon Monday morning as teammates banged their sticks to mark his return to the Ottawa Senators.

Then Cowen took his share of ribbing from those same teammates, who immediately started hitting up the $12.4-million man for free dinners when they return to Ottawa.

The hulking blueliner missed the first five days of training camp after contract negotiations with the Senators dragged on, an impasse that finally ended over the weekend with an agreement on a new four-year deal.

“I think I got a little bit of something from everyone out there,” Cowen said with a laugh after the skate. “I don’t mind, it’s all in good fun and everyone’s really understanding. A couple guys have gone through it themselves, so there was no negativity towards me at all, so it’s good.”

Cowen — a Saskatoon native who skated here while his agent sorted out a new contract — was disappointed not to be able to play in front of friends and family Monday night, but jamming him into the lineup for a neutral site tilt between the Senators and the Calgary Flames would have been too risky.

“I think a week ago at this point I was hoping to sign so I could come here and play,” he said. “It’s kind of a crappy situation, I had people who wanted to come and watch, but it just doesn’t make sense to rush it.”

He was clearly relieved to have negotiations behind him so he could focus on getting ready for the season.

“I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “I don’t really enjoy the whole contract process, but it’s part of the business.

“I get it, I’ve watched other guys go through it. I never thought I’d be in that situation where you miss camp for it, but I’m glad it’s done and I’m glad to be back with the guys. I missed everyone. I was tired of skating on my own, so it’s good.”

Senators coach Paul MacLean planned to ease Cowen back into fold before trotting him out for game action.

“We have too big an investment in Jared,” MacLean said through a grin. “Although we works real hard, he’s dedicated, I think we’re going to give him a couple of practices after watching him this morning. I think he needs a couple practices to get up to speed.”

MacLean was just happy to see the 6-5, 230-pound defensive specialist back in the fold.

“As a coaching staff, any time you get a player, that young player that has that much potential, we’re very excited to have him back on the ice and we look forward to getting him into a game.”

Now it’s up to Cowen to show the team and its fans that he’s worth each and every one of those dollars.

His early goals are modest — he’d like to get through a season without injury after missing much of last year with a torn hip labrum — but he believes he’ll have more to offer on both sides of the puck over the next four years.

“That’s just becoming more well-rounded and being more comfortable in situations and just having confidence,” said Cowen, who has 6 goals and 12 assists over 90 National Hockey League Games. “I’m happy with our team and how they look and I’m really excited to have these new guys with us.”

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