Eugene Melnyk has plenty to be happy about.
The Senators are flying high and the best of the best are in town this weekend for NHL all-star weekend at Scotiabank Place.
But even with his team’s unexpected success, the Senators owner cautions that the Senators may not go deal crazy at the trade deadline.
“Nobody expected us to be where we are,” said Melnyk in a telephone interview with the Sun on Monday, before the Senators faced the Los Angeles Kings. “We’re 27-17-6, when people thought we’d be 17-27-6. We went through a rebuild and it was very, very, very tough.
“I keep a close eye on the games that we have in hand, and we’ve just got to keep looking forward and just keep winning because it’s so tight. You lose a game and you can drop one or two spots, so you’ve got to keep playing hard. I’m just delighted to see where we’re at in a rebuild.
“What’s scary is: These are all kids. By NHL terms, imagine them when they’re (Jason) Spezza’s age? A guy like (Erik) Karlsson. You’ve got Mika (Zibanejad) coming over, (prospect) Jakob Silfverberg and we’ve still got a draft ahead.”
Last season, Senators GM Bryan Murray hung up a For Sale sign at the deadline. Veteran players such as Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarrko Ruutu and Alexei Kovalev were sent packing, while goalie Brian Elliott was dealt for Craig Anderson.
Melnyk credits the team’s success to way the veterans have stepped up, the work done by Murray, assistant Tim Murray and the scouts and the coaching staff, led by newcomer Paul MacLean.
With the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaching, the focus has changed and the Senators could be a buyer. That doesn’t mean Murray is going to spend wildly and if the Senators do anything, it might be a tweak.
“(Dealing) would come with one caveat. Let’s not lose focus of what our job is: That’s to rebuild,” said Melnyk. “The deal we made for Kyle Turris was more of an anomoly than anything else because we did give up a piece of our future and we weren’t going to be competitive without a second-line centre.
“We had to give something up. You tell me: Unless there is an injury here, I can’t see a void. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to to fix it. Even if we lose a couple in a row, it’s not the end of the world. We need to just keep grinding away. The ones that will succeed in the league, are the ones left standing.”
Melnyk said the players and coaching staff will be consulted by Murray before a move is made.
“We will watch everything that is going on,” said Melnyk, who arrives in Ottawa Thursday. “The key is talking to the coaches and players and finding out what they think they need. On a lot of teams, the players have no say on what they need or not because they’re players.
“This is a true team. It has voice that is listened to, respected and when a decision is made, it’s going to be a decision a lot of people have thought through and a lot of people have bought into. It’s not going to be: Here, this is what we think you need. The players have a say ... they’re at the table and we want their buy-in that this won’t mess up a good thing.”
Melnyk said he couldn’t happier with the job Murray has done.
“He’s got a three-year contract and I think he’s got his eyes on a big silver cup before his contract expires,” said Menlyk.
The Senators are proving just about anything is possible.