With NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics still up in the air, if the league does decide to stay out, there is plenty of speculation on how many players would leave mid-season to be part of the tournament anyway.
On a few occasions, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has said he would go play for Russia whether the NHL shuts down the league or not. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has continually supported his franchise player, saying he wouldn’t prevent him from representing his country even if it meant the Capitals had to play on for two weeks without him.
But if the Ottawa Senators‘ best player asked to participate, owner Eugene Melnyk wouldn’t be so supportive. Asked in an interview with Postmedia if he would permit Erik Karlsson to play for Sweden if the NHL stays out of the Games, Melnyk shot down the idea.
“No, no, it would be no, a flat no,” Melnyk said. “I talked to (Daniel) Alfredsson about it and he understands the player would want to (attend), but I’m not going to risk that.”
In reference to Leonsis’ position to let Ovechkin participate either way, Melnyk said: “Good, go ahead, wait until you’re going into the Stanley Cup final or you’ve got a hot team or you’re favoured for the Stanley Cup and Ovechkin is gone. Go to (Carey) Price. He gets hurt: what happens to the Canadiens?”
A reason why Melnyk is so against letting his best player go can be traced back to the 2006 Olympics. Dominik Hasek was Ottawa’s starting goaltender that season and went into the tournament with a .925 save percentage and 2.09 GAA, which not only had the Sens looking like Stanley Cup contenders, but had Hasek in position to chase down his seventh Vezina Trophy.
However, Hasek was injured during those Olympics and never played for the Senators again. That Ottawa team had to rely on Ray Emery the rest of the way, and were eliminated in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I had a Cup in 2006 parked for me and waiting for me,” Melnyk told Postmedia. “We were arguing about whose name was going to go on the (Cup). We were there and what happens? Hasek. I’m not going to do that.
“Can you imagine if (Karlsson) goes and he gets a permanent injury? You know what I’m saying? That’s my view.”