Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith says he has to make plans to start the season without star winger Brady Tkachuk.
The native of Scottsdale, Ariz., is the lone unsigned restricted free agent in the NHL.
“We were hoping obviously he’d be here by now," Smith said Tuesday. "As coaches, you know these things can linger on and you kind of put lines together in the back of your mind thinking 'when Brady gets here thinking this is going to happen, this is going to happen.'
"We’re at the point now where we only have two exhibition games left so I've got to start preparing like he’s not going to be here. So that changes things. He’s obviously a huge piece to our team. But that’s not my job. My job is to coach the guys that are here. When he gets here, I’ll coach him."
Tkachuk, picked fourth overall by Ottawa in the 2018 NHL Draft, led the Senators with 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 56 games last season.
Tkachuk isn't the only top forward missing for the Senators.
Centre Colin White suffered a shoulder injury Monday in a pre-season game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Smith says he's expected to miss a significant amount of time.