|Defenceman Brian Lee was among several Senators who had to battle their way through a nasty flu bug on Saturday night (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images).
Less than 48 hours after one of the most trying nights of his still-young professional hockey career, Brian Lee had plenty of reason to smile.
And not just because the flu bug’s bite is finally over.
Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced today the signing of a new two-year contract with the 22-year-old blueliner, who was due to become a restricted free agent on July 1. But Lee was more than happy to learn his immediate future has been squared away in Ottawa.
“It feels great,” he said about signing his second contract. “Now I don’t have to worry about anything but having fun, working hard and playing hockey … It takes some of the pressure off.”
The native of Moorhead, Minn., can only wish it was that simple on Saturday night. Lee was one of several Senators battling the flu during their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs — and leaving the bench at various points to find relief in the dressing room.
“That was pretty tough,” Lee said with a wry grin. “Every step was a real battle on Saturday night.”
It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for Lee, who came to training camp believing he had a shot at landing permanent employment on the Senators blue line. Instead, he became the odd man out as 19-year-old Erik Karlsson
and minor-league veteran Matt Carkner
earned roster positions.
"It feels great. Now I don’t have to worry about anything but having fun, working hard and playing hockey ... It takes some of the pressure off." - Brian Lee
So it is that Lee, the Senators’ top pick (ninth overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has seen only 18 games worth of action in Ottawa this season, while toiling in 31 games with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. But he sees the new contract as another opportunity to crack the lineup with the big club.
“I think I belong here and I think I belonged here all season,” he said. “It was just tough circumstances — I was kind of the odd man out — but this means I just get to worry about playing hockey. I don’t have to worry about those outside circumstances anymore.”