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Sens' Pinto set to sign qualifying offer ahead of Jan. 21 return

Ottawa Senators Shane Pinto - The Canadian Press

Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto practiced on Friday, his first skate with the team since he was handed a 41-game suspension for violating the NHL gambling policy.

To get Pinto back on the ice as quickly as possible, he and the club will need to quickly agree on a contract for the current restricted free agent, which is expected to come to fruition very quickly. 

“I don’t think this is a negotiation that’s going to take very long. I would expect, at some point in the next seven days, Shane Pinto will sign his qualifying offer that he received from the Senators in the summer, which is close to $850,000 for one season,” said Post Media’s Bruce Garrioch.

“I think they have talked about a longer term, and something like that could come down the road but I think right now both sides want to get pen to paper on a one-year deal and get Shane Pinto back on the ice.”

Sens head coach Jacques Martin said following practice that Pinto is expected to suit up when he is first eligible to return on Jan. 21 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“He may need some time for the adjustment of not just practicing but playing games," Martin said. "He’s a young player with a lot of energy... It takes a little while for them to get the right timing once you get into the game competition.”

While Pinto is now expected to make his return at the NHL level, Garrioch says that was not the team’s original plan.

“I think under previous management the plan was for him to go to Belleville and play some games in the American Hockey League to get ready for the NHL,” Garrioch said. “This is going to be a difficult jump for him. He’s coming into a team that’s struggling, but he’s also coming into a team that needs him badly.

“He’ll be able to chip in and help where he can but that’s going to be difficult in game 42 against teams that are in a playoff race.”

The Senators have gone winless in five straight games and sit last in the Atlantic Division with 28 points in 37 games.

Pinto was suspended for “activities related to sports wagering” in October, adding its investigation found no evidence that Pinto made any wagers on NHL games. Pinto had previously missed the first games of the Senators season while unsigned. 

The 22-year-old centre scored 20 goals and tallied 35 points in 82 games last season, his first full campaign in the NHL