September 11, 2012
Senators defenceman Jared Cowen game for AHLD-man on two-way contract fine with taking small step back during lockout
OTTAWA - As tough as it would be on some small business owners in Ottawa, an NHL lockout could put a smile on the face of a Binghamton restaurateur.
Yup, every time he saw a certain 6-foot-5, 230-pound single-and-perhaps-still-growing 21-year-old walk through his door.
"There's not very many," Senators defenceman Jared Cowen said Monday when asked about his favourite Bingo eateries. "I don't know where I will be staying, so I'll probably be living in those restaurants pretty quick."
You'd figure somebody should be shopping for a red carpet to roll out upon reading that.
While Cowen is unsure of his living arrangements, at least he knows where he'll be playing -- and from whom he will be accepting a paycheque -- should there be a delay in the commencement or no NHL season at all because of the players and owners inability to reach agreement on a new CBA.
In fact, he'll be the only proven NHLer regularly dipping into the pocket of Senators boss Eugene Melnyk.
Of those on last season's roster, Cowen remains the lone player still on his two-way, entry-level contract. That means the Senators can and will have him continue his development with their AHL affiliate, where he'll earn a $67,500 salary instead of the $1,265,000 he's slated to make in Ottawa with the big club.
Somehow, it just doesn't seem right that the big boy from Saskatoon has to go back to the farm. Two springs ago, Cowen stepped directly into the Binghamton Senators' playoff lineup right from another dominating season with the WHL's Spokane Chiefs. He played 10 games and registered four assists, but more importantly proved to be a reliable defender in Bingo's run to a Calder Cup championship.
Just four months later, he not only forced his way onto the Ottawa roster but proceeded to become one of three Senators to play all 82 games in the 2011-12 season. Only Erik Karlsson, Filip Kuba, Sergei Gonchar and Jason Spezza had more ice time than his 1,549:12. Cowen was also second on the team in hits and fifth in blocked shots. He had five goals and 12 assists for 17 points to go along with his 56 penalty minutes.
What's more, he gave every indication that he's ready now to become a Top 4 defenceman on the team, a point well taken by GM Bryan Murray, who during the past summer allowed veteran blueliner Filip Kuba to walk via the free agent door.
With Kuba gone, it's believed Cowen will be given every opportunity to become the full-time partner of the Norris Trophy winning Karlsson -- that is, if he's not in the minors.
"That's a (crappy) thing about the lockout," said Cowen. "It's things you have to go through, though ... it's just something you have to deal with, and I guess I'm just thankful I can play somewhere, I don't have to go to a different continent. That's not a bad thing. Something you just have to take in stride.
"I just want to play. Seems like I've been waiting for a long time now," Cowen added in his first Ottawa interview after what he called "the longest summer" he's had in a while. "It's nice that I've been (in Binghamton) before. It's not just a new scenario. It's friendly faces down there, not exactly a new place, so that's a good thing for me."
Cowen figures his time with the B-Sens during the spring of 2011 was extremely beneficial.
"At that stage it was huge," he said. "When I came into camp here after that, I felt like I wasn't coming in as a new guy. I felt like I had accomplished something in pro hockey, which was a huge thing for me at the time. I think it was a big stepping stone."
He also realizes playing in Bingo again this season, if he has to, certainly won't hurt his progression as a player.
"There's always things you can learn," said Cowen. "There's going to be good players going down there. I'm not the only guy who's on an entry-level going down to the AHL. It's going to be a good league this year."
In essence, he's fine with taking a step backwards to get further ahead.
"Yeah, I've got to prepare for it in a way there's going to be a lockout, because that's kind of the worst case scenario," said Cowen. "Best-case scenario is something that I don't really need to prepare for. If I go down there it will be a step backwards, but it's not a huge step back. It's just something that I have to do."
That, and find another restaurant in Binghamton.
"There's only two of them," he said, laughing.