It lacks the bells, whistles and excitement of opening night, but it is nonetheless an important time of the year and it has arrived for the Senators.
It is the arbitration season.
Barring a last-minute agreement, the team and Ray Emery will meet before an independent mediator today in an effort to get the No. 1 goalie's name on a contract for at least next season.
The 24-year-old Emery, who made $925,000 (all terms US) last season, is in for a big raise either way. It's believed his agent, J.P. Barry, will use the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist and the Islanders' Rick DiPietro as comparables. Lundqvist, a 25-year-old who made $817,000 while posting similar stats to Emery's last season, avoided an arbitration hearing that was also slated for today by signing a one-year deal worth $4.25 million.
The Islanders have a 15-year pact with the 25-year-old DiPietro that pays him $4.5 million annually. He and Emery were also in the same ballpark with their on-ice numbers in 2006-07.
The Senators were likely looking to give Emery a deal closer to the contract Cam Ward signed with Carolina. The 23-year-old has a three-year agreement that pays him an average of $2.66 million per.
The Senators also have arbitration hearings scheduled with defenceman/winger Christoph Schubert on Friday and centre Chris Kelly Aug. 1.
As they have more than one case to face, the Senators will have up to 48 hours after Kelly's to decide whether they want to accept or walk away from the arbitrator's ruling on each of the three players.
Should the Senators choose to walk away, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
The team could also agree to the ruling, then turn around and try to trade the player.
The arbitrator can only hand out one- or two-year awards.
In his third season as a full-time member of the Senators, Emery led the team to the Stanley Cup final. While starting all 20 of Ottawa's playoff games, he had a 13-7 record with a 2.26 GAA and a .907 save percentage on a run that ended with a Game 5 championship series elimination to the Ducks.
All the while, Emery played through a wrist injury that required surgery when the post-season was over.
Emery started the 2006-07 regular season as backup to Martin Gerber, whom the Senators signed to a free-agent deal that averaged out to $3.7 million per year for three seasons. After taking over for the struggling Gerber in November, Emery would not relinquish the reins.
He finished 12th in the league in wins with a 33-16-6 record. Emery's .918 save percentage was tied for seventh best in the league, while his 2.47 GAA was 13th.