Cowen talks heating up, agent expects deal before training camp

The Ottawa Senators and free agent defenceman Jared Cowen are picking up the pace on contract negotiations with training camp just a month away.

Cowen talks heating up, agent expects deal before training camp
Jared Cowen (R) skates a drill as the Ottawa Senators practice at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the NHL's Eastern Conference semi-final. (Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen)

The Ottawa Senators and free agent defenceman Jared Cowen are picking up the pace on contract negotiations with training camp less than a month away.

Cowen’s agent, Rick Valette, said in an interview Thursday afternoon that the two sides have had some preliminary discussions about dollars, but are more focused on contract term right now.

At issue with Cowen is finding proper comparables. The 6-5, 230-pound blueliner has shown flashes of being a top-pair defenceman in Ottawa, but injury troubles and the most recent lockout have limited his playing time.

In 90 career NHL games, Cowen has six goals and 12 assists. Cowen thrives on the other side of the puck, however, and he’s projected by many to take over as the Senators’ top defensive defenceman over the next few years.

Cowen got off to a good start with the AHL Binghamton Senators last fall — he would have been here if not for the lockout — before tearing a hip labrum in a game. That injury was expected to keep him out of the lineup for a year, but he returned in time to play seven regular season and 10 playoff games with the Senators this season.

While it’s clear the potential is there for Cowen, the team doesn’t quite know what it has yet in the 22-year-old.

As such, Valette said the player and team have traded ideas for three scenarios: A one-year deal, a bridge contract in the 2-3 year range and a long-term contract at four-plus years.

Asked if he felt there was enough time to get it done in time for camp, he said: “I think we can. I don’t see any reason why we can’t reach a conclusion.

“I think that there’s two willing parties, and usually reasonable people come to a reasonable conclusion, so I think we can.”

Valette was playing phone tag with the team Thursday, but said more talks are expected this weekend.

“It’s more of a tricky contract with respect to comparables, et cetera,” he explained. “I think everybody agrees Jared Cowen’s going to be a great player for the Ottawa Senators, but it’s a little wee bit more difficult to come up with … comparables for a guy that’s played one full season. There’s a few things that complicate it.”

Cowen is the last restricted free agent the Senators are trying to get under contract for this season.

The average annual value of the deal is expected to come in somewhere between the $2 million the team is paying young offensive defenceman Patrick Wiercioch and the $3 million Marc Methot will earn skating on the team’s top pair with Erik Karlsson.

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