The Ottawa Senators are set to kick off the 2021-22 season on Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Brady Tkachuk is still noticeably absent.
The 22-year-old restricted free agent has yet to sign a new contract with the club coming off his three-year, entry-level contract. According to the Postmedia's Bruce Garrioch, the Sens and Tkachuk are no closer to a new deal than they were a month ago.
"I think that they’ve exchanged ideas in the last 10 days but as far as I’m concerned, the status quo remains," Garrioch told TSN's Claire Hanna on Tuesday. "There’s ongoing discussions, the lines of communications are open. At this point, they’re no closer to a deal than they were a month ago.
"The Senators would still like to sign Brady Tkachuk to an eight-year, $64 million deal and move on from this negotiation. Brady Tkachuk’s camp still wants a bridge deal. That’s something that makes no sense to the Senators."
Tkachuk had 17 goals and 36 points in 56 games last season. Drafted fourth overall by Ottawa in 2018, the Senators consider him to be a key part of their present and future.
"They don’t want to do this dance again in three years," Garrioch said of the Sens' disinterest in a bridge deal. "They feel like if they sign Brady Tkachuk to a three-year bridge deal, all they’re going to do in the fourth year is march him into unrestricted free agency. The Senators want Brady Tkachuk to be a part of the long-term solution here. They want him to be the next captain of this team."
The Sens are holding off on naming a captain but are expected to announce their leadership group on Thursday. Tkachuk wore an 'A' last season for the team last season.
With just over $20 million in current salary cap space, the Senators need to keep an eye on the future, with other members of Ottawa's core expected to take up room.
"Yeah they do have a lot of cap space," said Garrioch, "but down the road they expect that cap space to be eaten up by Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, Shane Pinto, they’ve got Jake Sanderson coming and you know what, the goalie, Mads Soogaard, he may be better than any of them.
"So they look at it right now, they say ‘come on Brady, come on into the core, we’ve signed the coach to an extension, we’ve signed the general manager to an extension, we signed Drake Batherson to an extension, be part of the group for the long term and be here the long haul.’”