Stuetzle's injury not as grim as it appears for Senators despite surgery

Number-three pick Tim Stuetzle spoke about joining the Ottawa Senators and why it’s such an exciting time for hockey in Germany.

To some jaded fans in Ottawa, it was the most Senators thing ever.

Six days after the Senators selected uber-talented forward Tim Stuetzle third overall in the NHL draft, he is sitting at home in Mannheim, Germany with a broken hand, awaiting surgery on Thursday.

The 18-year-old is expected to be out of action for six to eight weeks.

Just before mid-day on Tuesday, the Senators released a statement from general manager Pierre Dorion on the injury:

“In consultation with doctors in Germany and with our own medical staff, it has been determined that Tim requires a surgical procedure to stabilize a fracture,” Dorion said. “The procedure is scheduled to take place in Germany later this week and has an expected recovery time of six to eight weeks. Our medical staff will remain in regular contact with Tim and his doctors as he begins his recovery through to the point that he is medically cleared.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Mannheim Eagles of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) also issued a statement that Stuetzle suffered the injury during a training camp collision with a teammate.

While many bone fractures do not require surgery and heal on their own while protected by a cast, some fractures require extra support, most typically with surgical screws, rods or plates.

As grim as it sounds, neither the nature of the injury nor the timing was as bad as it could have been. The DEL has not yet started its season, and the pending training camp of the Senators won’t likely open before mid-December. Stuetzle did not suffer ligament or joint damage and is expected to make a full recovery.

If Stuetzle’s injury rehabilitation is on schedule, he should be available to report to Ottawa’s training camp ahead of the 2020-21 season, expected to begin around Jan. 1. He would also, theoretically, be healthy and ready for the IIHF World Junior Championship if the Senators opt to let him participate. The world juniors open on Dec. 26 in Edmonton.

Stuetzle, six-foot-one, 187 pounds, appeared in 41 of Mannheim’s 52 regular season games in 2019-20 and produced 34 points, including seven goals.

On the night of the draft, Dorion could scarcely contain his excitement at acquiring the effervescent German.

“Tim Stuetzle is an elite talent, he’s a dynamic offensive player,” Dorion said. “He’s got great speed, great hockey IQ, great skills. At the same time, he just generates offence shift after shift.

“We look forward to having him in our lineup as early as next season.”

With luck, this injury won’t prevent that from happening. While Stuetzle should be back skating soon, it will be a longer time before he is able to resume strength training.

Senators inch closer to salary cap floor

After a significant draft effort by the Senators on Oct. 6-7, Dorion stayed on a roll for several days, trading for goaltender Matt Murray and then signing him to a four-year, $25-million contract, plus a couple of other additions via trade.

On the heels of a trade for physical defenceman Erik Gudbranson late last week (for a 2021 fifth-round pick), Dorion picked up rugged forward Austin Watson from the Nashville Predators. Ottawa gave up a fourth-round pick in 2021, which previously belonged to Colorado.

Watson, 28, has three years left on a contract paying him $1.5 million per year.

With the additions of Murray ($6.25 AAV), Gudbranson ($4M) and Watson, the Senators have burst through the $50 million salary barrier to a projected cap hit of $53.7M.

They still have to sign RFA forwards Connor Brown, Chris Tierney, Rudolfs Balcers and Nick Paul.

Watson once played for Senators head coach DJ Smith with the OHL Windsor Spitfires, and Smith will be looking for him to duplicate his aggressive forecheck and robust board work with Ottawa.

“(Watson) is a big, strong winger who will bring a significant presence to our forward group,” Dorion said over the Thanksgiving weekend. “He was among Nashville’s forward leaders in blocked shots last season, was the team’s leader in hits and is someone who is especially physical on the forecheck. We also expect him to be a valuable asset on our penalty kill.”

Watson was a Predators first-round draft pick (18th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft. Over 306 career games with Nashville, he has posted 77 points (36 goals, 41 assists) and 358 penalty minutes. He also has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) and 48 penalty minutes in 45 playoff games.

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