OTTAWA - Bryan Murray isn’t holding out a lot of hope.
The Senators GM is ready for any scenario, whether it’s training camp opening as scheduled on Sept. 21, to the season to be delayed until a new CBA is in place, to no hockey at all this season.
With the clock ticking towrad the expiring CBA on Sept. 15 and no discussions planned between the NHL and NHLPA, Murray isn’t confident there’s going to be a new deal in place anytime soon.
“I’m not sure that I’m optimistic,” said Murray, who stopped by the Bell Sensplex Thursday to watch a handful of players taking part in informal scrimmages.
“I hope we’re going to play. I hope they work really hard at getting an agreement going, getting discussions going and we find a common ground that allows both groups to be satisfied at the end when we do have an agreement. But I would say, at the moment, it’s going to be hard to start Sept. (21).”
The Senators are trying to decide the best course of action for their players if there is a lockout. They can’t do anything about veterans like Jason Spezza, Chris Phillips, Chris Neil, Peter Regin, Craig Anderson or Milan Michalek.
But the club does have control over the future of blueliner Jared Cowen, 21, who is going into the final year of his entry-level contract, along with top prospects Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad and Mark Stone.
While Cowen played full-time in the NHL last season and was one of the Senators’ best defencemen, he’ll be expected to report to camp with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton in late September and he’ll stay until the lockout ends.
“We’re going to have to push down, there’s no question, some of the two-way guys. The young players on our team are going to have to go play in Binghamton if that is necessary and then go from there,” said Murray.
“The thought (with a player like Cowen) is always guys have to play, especially young people, if they have a chance to play somewhere they have to play. That’s what we did the last time with (Jason) Spezza, (Ray) Emery and even Chris Neil and went down.”
Murray said players on two-way contracts don’t have a choice and they’ll have to report to Binghamton.
“They have no option. That’s our call,” said Murray.
Murray admitted he has as many questions about what’s going to happen as everybody else. He might be working in the league, but he’s not sitting at the bargaining table and has to be ready for whatever happens.
He has been working with assistant GM Tim Murray, player personnel director Pierre Dorion and director of player development Randy Lee to try to have a solid plan in place.
“That’s what we’ve been doing the last two or three weeks with our scouts and everybody,” said Murray. “We’re planning if there is, if there’s a delay and if there’s none. We have to have things in place for (those scenarios).
“We know that, at this point in time, Binghamton is going to operate. We’re hoping that there’s an East Coast league team that will operate for some of our players and then after that we just have to hope that when they’re ready to drop the puck that the balance of our group is ready to play.”