It’s the summer of shocking twists for the Ottawa Senators.
First, Daniel Alfredsson, the guy who nobody thought would ever leave the capital, is gone.
And now, veteran defenceman Joe Corvo, a guy nobody ever thought would return, is coming back.
In February, 2008, the offensively gifted but defensively challenged Corvo received his wish for a trade out of Ottawa – Corvo and Patrick Eaves went to the Carolina Hurricanes for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore – to get away from the media pressure of playing in a Canadian market. General manager Bryan Murray, who served as Senators coach during the 2006-07 season, also regularly grew frustrated with Corvo’s defensive commitment, including cutting his ice time during the Stanley Cup finals against Anaheim in 2007.
Clearly, it’s not a match made in heaven. Yet with the Senators in need of an offensive defenceman to replace Sergei Gonchar on the power play and with Corvo in need of a job – he signed a one-year, $900,000 contract as an unrestricted free agent – Murray made the move.
It’s a controversial signing, especially since the Senators let Andre Benoit skate away as an unrestricted free agent. Benoit has since signed a one-year, $900,000 deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
“Joe brings us a veteran defenceman who has a history of scoring points in the NHL,” Murray said in an audio statement released by the team. “We needed depth and we certainly have that provided now in Joe.”
Corvo, 36, scored six goals and 11 assists in 40 games with Carolina Hurricanes last season and has 89 goals and 211 assists in 683 career games with five teams. During his two-year stint with the Senators from 2006-08, he scored 14 goals and 50 assists in 127 games. Corvo still holds the franchise record for points in a game by a defenceman (five in a 7-2 win over Toronto in October 2006) and scored a double overtime goal against Buffalo in the Eastern Conference finals in 2007.
Yet he may best be remembered for publicly airing his confidence issues after giving away the puck to lose a game in overtime against Atlanta earlier that season. “If you know me as a person, it’s going to be hard for me to bounce back from something like that,” he said at the time. “We’ll see how it goes for the next game.”
In some ways, Corvo never recovered from the resulting criticism. Murray, in his taped statement, said “he has an understanding of what it takes to play in this market now.”
The jury is out on that.
The Senators now have five defencemen signed to guaranteed NHL contracts: Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips, Marc Methot, Eric Gryba and Corvo. Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and Marc Borowieki are restricted free agents.
The signing of Corvo also means Cody Ceci, the Ottawa native and former Ottawa 67′s defenceman who was drafted 15th overall in 2012, will likely begin next season with Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
“I’ve still got to work just as hard to try and earn a spot on the team,” Ceci said after taking part in the Senators’ development camp Monday at the Sensplex. “I know this spot wasn’t going to be given to me I knew it was going to be a tough thing for me to make that team and this is just going to make it a little tougher and I will have to work that much harder.”