Owner Eugene Melnyk said he believes the Ottawa Senators can make a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that he will not mortgage the future before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 1 (3 p.m. ET).
"I think now, finally, [we] have dug out of a three-year hole," Melnyk told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "It was kind of sad. One out of three years you get into the playoffs, and you get blown out and the others you don't get in. Now it's exciting."
The Senators (29-19-6) are tied with the Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division, six points behind the Montreal Canadiens. Ottawa plays at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV).
"I just think we have the potential, first, of getting into the playoffs," Melnyk said, "and secondly, potentially going into the second, third and even the fourth round. I think finally I've become optimistic cautiously."
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Melnyk said he planned to sit down this weekend with general manager Pierre Dorion to discuss the Senators' trade strategy but added they would not give up a prized prospect, including Saint John defenseman Thomas Chabot or Boston College center Colin White.
"If they want Chabot or White, they can forget it," Melnyk told the Ottawa Sun. "We're going to be smart about it. That's what I'm afraid will happen, so we're just going to stay to our plan and that's not to give up our future.
"Did you see what [the Colorado Avalanche] want for [center Matt] Duchene and stuff? Oh, my God. It's going to be silly because there's so many competitive teams, especially in our conference. From bottom to top, even if I was at the bottom, I'd still have hope. I think it will be way too expensive, and we're not going to jeopardize our future. Everyone wants our young stars and I don't blame them.
"I think we're going to be smart about it to build a long-term base and a long-term team, but we're urgently wanting to win, of course."