OTTAWA — While the Ottawa Senators have endured more than their fair share of negative headlines the past two years, the last week has been particularly rocky.
The latest blow came Wednesday when news broke that mediation to try to resolve a dispute over a proposed plan for a new downtown arena had failed.
After a relatively quiet stretch (at least compared to previous periods), the Senators’ on- and off-ice woes returned to the spotlight over the past week.
Here’s a look at what has transpired for the last-place team in the NHL standings:
THURSDAY, FEB. 21: Four days before the NHL trade deadline, the Senators decide to make pending unrestricted free agents and top forwards Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone healthy scratches in New Jersey.
The Senators had said they were in contract talks with all three. But with the trade deadline drawing closer, the team didn’t want to risk injury to any of the assets.
"It’s nothing we can control," veteran forward Zack Smith said. "Yeah we want those guys to stay. We want the best players to stay here. At the end of the day, it’s their decision. They are the ones that own the business and pay the bills. That’s their choice and rightfully so. We get a paycheque to go out there and play hockey, it’s our job to play to the best of our ability."
The undermanned Senators went on to lose 4-0 against the Devils.
FRIDAY, FEB. 22: Just hours before hosting Columbus in Ottawa, the Senators ship Duchene to Columbus for forward prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, a first-round pick in 2019 and a conditional first-round pick in 2020.
The Senators had traded for Duchene in November 2017 when they thought they were Stanley Cup contenders, sending the Colorado Avalanche their first-round pick this year (which may prove to be first overall).
Because of the timing of the trade to Columbus, Duchene’s first game with the Blue Jackets just happened to be in Ottawa. He received an ovation from the crowd when he was introduced in the starting lineup. He was then mildly booed when he touched the puck during his second shift of the game, and again applauded during a short video tribute.
The Senators, with Dzingel and Stone as healthy scratches, went on to lose 3-0.
Duchene, afterward, was asked about joining a playoff contender.
"That’s what I’m looking for and that’s what gets me up every morning for sure," he said. "I’ve been fortunate to be on a lot of good international teams and win some big tournaments, but I’ve never had a chance to play in the playoffs consistently."
SATURDAY, FEB. 23: The Senators make another deal with Columbus, sending Dzingel and a seventh-round pick to the Blue Jackets for forward Anthony Duclair and two second-round picks.
"We’re pleased with the futures we’ve received in this deal," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a statement. "The two second-round picks add to the significant depth of quality selections we’ll have available to us in the next three drafts to fuel our rebuild.
"In Anthony Duclair, we’ve acquired a talented young winger who has a history of scoring goals in the league. We plan to give him the opportunity to succeed here and expect that his speed and skill set will allow him to fit as part of our future."
SUNDAY, FEB. 24: The Senators lose 2-1 against the visiting Calgary Flames.
Stone is a healthy scratch, as are defenceman Cody Ceci and forward Mikkel Boedker, raising speculation about those two as well.
MONDAY, FEB. 25: The Senators send Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights in the biggest deal on trade deadline day.
The Golden Knights give Ottawa top defence prospect Erik Brannstrom, centre Oscar Lindberg and a second-round selection in the 2020 draft in a deal completed just prior to the deadline.
Vegas also gets minor-league winger Tobias Lindberg in the trade.
The Senators and Golden Knights were thought to be close on a deal involving Ottawa captain and star defenceman Erik Karlsson at last February’s deadline, but the potential swap never materialized.
The two-time Norris Trophy winner was eventually traded to the San Jose Sharks in September.
Stone, a sixth-round Ottawa draft pick who is expected to sign a contract extension with Vegas, Duchene and Dzingel accounted for 41 per cent of the Senators’ goals this season before the trades. All three are in the prime of their careers, as is Karlsson.
"It’s the players’ right if they want to stay or not stay," Dorion said. "We’ve made it clear through this process to these four players that we’re in a rebuild.
"It’s their choice, we tried to sign all four of them. All four of them were offered contract extensions."
Ceci and Boedker, meanwhile, were not traded.
TUESDAY, FEB. 26: Canada’s Heritage Minister says there will be no extension of a Thursday deadline to resolve a dispute over a plan to build a community featuring a proposed downtown arena.
Pablo Rodriguez told reporters that the National Capital Commission’s deadline for the LeBreton Flats file is firm.
"The NCC was very clear," Rodriguez said. "There’s a deadline for February 28th and there will be no extension."
Hours later, the Senators lose their fifth in a row, blowing a 2-0 lead in a 7-2 loss to the Washington Capitals.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27: Judge Warren Winkler, the mediator retained by the RendezVous LeBreton Group, advises the National Capital Commission that no settlement could be reached in the dispute between business partners. The NCC had set Thursday as the deadline for a settlement for a project that included a downtown arena for the Senators.
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, Trinity Development Group founder John Ruddy and GBA development and project management president Graham Bird — the business partners in RendezVous LeBreton — had entered mediation to try to resolve differences.
Melnyk’s Capital Sports Management Inc., filed a $700-million lawsuit against Ruddy and Bird in November. Ruddy responded with a $1-billion counterclaim.
The Senators currently play at the Canadian Tire Centre in suburban Kanata.