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Have Things Suddenly Turned Sunny For The Ottawa Senators?

Sean Hartnett

Sean Hartnett has covered the New York Rangers and the NHL for WFAN.com since 2011. He has covered two Stanley Cup Finals. Sean now contributes to XNSports’ NHL and general sports coverage. He devotes far too much of his free time watching Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. Sean can be reached via Twitter @HartnettHockey.

Earlier this summer, the situation was looking pretty despondent for the Ottawa Senators. Captain Jason Spezza requested a trade and got his wish when the Sens dealt him to the Dallas Stars.

The Stars took advantage of Spezza’s stance by fleecing the Sens. A return of Alex Chiasson, a second-round draft pick and a pair of run-of-the-mill prospects wasn’t what Sens fans were hoping for in exchange for their number one center and the face of the franchise.

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Things grew bleaker when owner Eugene Melnyk admitted that the franchise is financially hamstrung due their very regional fan base and the city’s largest employers – the federal and municipal government being unable to buy or give away tickets.

“We’ve got a tough job to make hockey work in Ottawa, but we’re trying to make it work,” Melnyk told Sportsnet 590. “We are a very regional market. Our biggest employer in the city can’t buy tickets, nor can they buy tickets or give tickets. The number two biggest employer is the city and they can’t buy tickets or give tickets. We’re number 29 out of 30 in corporate opportunities and it is not easy.”

Two captains (Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson) skipped town in consecutive offseasons to realize their desire to play for a winner. The question was being asked – had the Sens become a lame duck, also-ran NHL franchise?

The dark clouds finally lifted and the mood changed for the better on Thursday as the team made a stunning double announcement – star winger Bobby Ryan had agreed a seven-year extension and offensive-defenseman Erik Karlsson was named the ninth captain in franchise history.

After all the talk of gloom and doom, the Sens are now on a solid footing with Karlsson leading the ship and a solid core of Karlsson, Ryan and Kyle Turris locked down to long-term contracts. Turris’ $3.5 million per year cap hit for the next four years is one of the league’s best value for money signings.

Ryan signing on for an additional seven years is the best evidence that the downtrodden Sens might actually be on the upswing.