Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wants Bryan Murray to stay on as general manager.
Melnyk, however, says the time isn’t right to make any announcements on a contract extension.
“We’ve had some preliminary talks, me and Bryan,” Melnyk said Monday, as he hosted 100 underprivileged children for the club’s 10th annual holiday skate at Canadian Tire Centre.
“I would love to see Bryan here next year and he would like to finish up with a Stanley Cup and I would like to see him leave with a Stanley Cup. But those talks are preliminary. We’ll just continue talking and let things work out where they work out.”
Murray’s existing deal expires at the end of the 2013-14 season.
So, if Murray wants to be back and Melnyk wants him back, why not sign a new deal today?
Like so many other things surrounding the team which has spent the season on a treadmill of mediocrity, Melnyk is hoping the picture will look a little brighter before making any concrete decisions on the future.
“Everybody’s in a better position when you have a nice winning streak and the opportunities are there. Right now (Murray) would like to stay. I would like him to stay. But right at this very moment, it’s not a priority and we’ve got some time.”
As for assistant general manager Tim Murray, who has been interviewed for the vacant Buffalo Sabres general manager job, Melnyk says he’s not going to stand in his way of climbing to the top of the NHL management ladder. Unless, perhaps, that job offer was from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
”You always let people move up in higher positions, even if that means with other teams…depending on which team, of course,” said Melnyk. “Buffalo wanted to speak to him, so I said ‘fine’. If he gets a job, I will be happy for him. I don’t know where that process is at this point.”
The Senators owner acknowledges some disappointment with attendance at Canadian Tire Centre – before Monday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, the Senators have had four crowds below 16,000 – but he also claims it’s a true number, unlike previous seasons when the club regularly discounted tickets as part of package deals.
“It’s a different approach to create some scarcity, but these are real numbers, there’s no more (freebies), this is what it is,” he said, insisting that the club’s season ticket base is up 2,000 and that overall revenues are higher than last season.
That said, he believes a stretch of wins and a strong push towards a playoff spot would help to fill some of those empty seats.
“Nothing beats nice six, seven, eight winning streaks,” he said. “Give me six out of eight. I will be happy.”
The revenue picture will also likely be enhanced by the future deal for local broadcast rights, where Melnyk says there are competing bids – believed to include Rogers Sportsnet and TSN – to showcase Senators games to the Ottawa market.
While Melnyk would certainly like to have more reasons to cheer about the state of his team (he talked to Murray and coach Paul MacLean about the need to receive a bit more from several key players), Monday afternoon’s event at Canadian Tire had him smiling. More than 1,000 children have now benefitted from the annual charity skate, where newcomers to skating are outfitted with new skates and helmets and take in all the sights and sounds at the arena.
“I know what they’re thinking,” he said. “They’re thinking they’re Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, (Erik) Karlsson, you name it. It’s one of greatest thrills of the year for me. I’m very happy to be part of it.”
CECI STAYS, METHOT SITS: In somewhat of a surprise non-move, Ottawa native and former Ottawa 67′s star defenceman Cody Ceci remained in the lineup for a third straight game Monday. It raised a few eyebrows, considering that the healthy Eric Gryba and Marc Methot, who has skated for the past two days after battling the flu, were kept on the sidelines.
“Every day here has been a good day and I’m just going day to day for now,” said Ceci, surrounded by a dozen reporters and cameramen following Monday’s morning skate. “I’m just kind of dreading (the possible) news that I get sent back to Binghamton, so I was going to work as hard as I could every day to try and stay up here.”
Methot, meanwhile, says he would always opt to play if the choice was left up to him,
“I always want to play, but whether it’s in my best interests or am I going to hurt the team? It’s their decision,” he said.
MacLean says the team was concerned that Methot came back too early following an earlier bout with the flu and wanted to make sure the defenceman didn’t suffer another setback.
Methot is expected to make the trip Tuesday for New Jersey. The team has yet to decide whether he’ll return Wednesday against the Devils or back at Canadian Tire Centre Thursday against the Florida Panthers.
A LITTLE FOOTBALL TALK: Defenceman Chris Phillips, a Redblacks season ticket holder, was keeping an eye Monday on the formation of the CFL’s newest franchise. The Senators stepped off the ice following their morning skate just as the Redblacks were announcing their expansion draft picks. “You want to see competitive, close games,” Phillips said, when asked about what he expected from the Redblacks next summer. “It’s a fun atmosphere. I had season tickets when the Renegades were here, too. I enjoyed going. You would like to see them make the playoffs right away, but if they’re competitive, that’s all you can ask for.”
Phillips, who grew up in Fort McMurray, Alta., also related a funny story about split CFL allegiances when he was young.
“There were some family fights,” he said, smiling. “My Dad was a huge Eskimos fan and my mom was a Stampeders fan. No matter what, when they played each other, it was a quiet night. Because somebody was losing.”