OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators have suspended assistant general manager Randy Lee, who is facing a harassment charge from an incident during the NHL's pre-draft scouting combine in Buffalo earlier this month.
General manager Pierre Dorion announced Lee's suspension in a statement Friday afternoon. Dorion said the suspension is effective immediately and applies to work with the Senators as well as the club's American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville, Ont.
The move comes a week before the NHL draft in Dallas.
Lee is charged with second-degree harassment after allegedly making lewd comments and rubbing the shoulders of a 19-year-old male hotel shuttle driver in Buffalo on May 30. He has pled not guilty and is due in court on July 6.
"As our hockey club's initial statement made clear, our hockey team — and our organization as a whole — will always hold our leaders, coaching staff, players and employees to the highest standards of behaviour," Dorion said in the statement.
"Harassment in any form is unacceptable, whether it occurs inside or outside the work place."
Dorion said the Senators are unaware of any previous complaints against Lee, and that Lee is entitled to due process and the right to address the allegation in court.
"That said, the questions that must be answered by Randy are unlikely to be addressed until his next court date ... we believe the best way to live our values and enforce our standards of behaviour is to suspend Randy Lee until the allegations against him are ruled upon by the courts," Dorion said.
Lee faces a fine and up to 15 days in jail if guilty.
Lee is responsible for prospect development with Ottawa and oversees the Belleville Senators. Ottawa has the fourth- and 22nd-overall pick at the upcoming draft.
The Senators, who had a disastrous season and missed the playoffs after reaching the Eastern Conference final in 2016-17, have been even more of a mess recently with a litany of public relations headaches.
Earlier this week, it emerged that the wife of Senators captain Erik Karlsson filed an order of protection in May against the fiancee of one of his teammates, alleging harassment and cyberbullying.
Melinda Karlsson alleged that Monika Caryk, the longtime partner of Senators forward Mike Hoffman, posted hundreds of derogatory online messages aimed at her and her husband, including trolling messages following the death of their infant son Axel.
Caryk has denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, former captain and fan favourite Daniel Alfredsson, was quoted saying at an event in Ottawa he hopes the Senators are sold to an owner other than Eugene Melnyk ensure their future in the nation's capital.
Melnyk is a remarkably unpopular figure among segments of the Senators' fanbase after making a veiled threat to move the team before Ottawa was set to host an outdoor game last season. Some even crowdfunded four billboards with the hashtag #MelnykOut to be erected in the city.
Here is the full statement:
"As our hockey club's initial statement made clear, our Hockey Team - and our organization as a whole - will always hold our leaders, coaching staff, players and employees to the highest standards of behaviour.
Harassment in any form is unacceptable, whether it occurs inside or outside the work place. As a result, and with all the care and caution required in such cases, we have spent the past two weeks listening carefully to, and consulting with our community, our fan base and our partners to understand their expectations on the matter.
At the same time, we have worked with authorities in Buffalo, as well as with Randy Lee's lawyer, to ensure that Randy be granted the due process to which he is entitled. Until now, the Senators had never been made aware of a complaint against Randy, whether before or during his 23-year career with the team. He must be allowed to address the allegations against him through the court system.
That said, the questions that must be answered by Randy are unlikely to be addressed until his next court date - on July 6, 2018 - we believe the best way to live our values and enforce our standards of behaviour is to suspend Randy Lee until the allegations against him are ruled upon by the courts.
The suspension is effective immediately and applies both to Lee's work with the Ottawa Senators and our AHL team in Belleville."