OTTAWA — The removal of longtime general manager Pierre Dorion is the latest episode of an eventful 42 days for Michael Andlauer as owner of the Ottawa Senators.
On Wednesday, Andlauer announced the club had officially parted ways with Dorion and Steve Staios, president of hockey operations, would take over as interim general manager.
Dorion's departure comes after Andlauer learned the Senators will forfeit a first-round pick in one of the next three upcoming drafts. It's punishment for the Senators, with Dorion at the helm, failing to disclose Evgenii Dadonov’s 10-team, no-trade list to Vegas when it dealt the forward to the Golden Knights in July 2021.
As a result, the Knights trade of Dadonov to Anaheim in 2022 was invalidated as the Ducks were one of the teams on the no-trade list, which ultimately "embarrassed the league and pissed off two other NHL clubs."
This was hardly the way Andlauer wanted to keep the Senators in the news.
“As a member of this league, we have to be held accountable for our actions," Andlauer said.
"I am looking forward to less phone calls from the NHL."
The latest development comes days after the NHL suspended unsigned Senators forward Shane Pinto 41 games for violating the league's rules on sports wagering.
Understandably, the new owner wasn’t pleased with having to pay the price for things that occurred before he was involved and could have been avoided.
“At the end of the day, we are at fault for what transpired," Andlauer said. "We can argue about how harsh this penalty was, but ultimately this could have been avoided and accountability is with our hockey club. Pierre was ultimately responsible for the hockey operations of this club."
Andlauer said he spoke to commissioner Gary Bettman last week and familiarized himself with the 73-page league report. He later sat down with Staios and discussed the possibility of making a change at general manager.
"Last night, I sat down with Pierre and discussed the situation and how serious it was and how I couldn’t come up with a lesser penalty," Andlauer said. "And it was decided over dinner it would be best to part ways.”
Dorion had been with the Senators since 2007, originally joining the organization as the chief amateur scout. He was later named director of player personnel before being named assistant general manager in 2014. He was named the general manager in April 2016 when it was announced the late Bryan Murray would be stepping down.
The Senators advanced to the playoffs only once, in 2017 when they made it to the Eastern Conference final, under Dorion’s management.
Andlauer was clearly frustrated by the league’s decision and somewhat confused as to why he should suffer the consequences for something he had no involvement in.
"Why I inherited this is beyond me," said Andlauer. "There's no reason for it to last that long. I knew about it through the due diligence process and it was basically, from the seller's perspective, it was really a non-issue. I don't know if a first rounder is a non-issue for you guys, but it is for me."
Andlauer said he didn't know why he wasn’t made aware of the situation during the sale of the club.
"Maybe they didn’t want to disrupt the sale to make sure the seller got the best price possible," he said.
Details of the mishandled trade came as Andlauer was still wrapping his head around Pinto's suspension.
Andlauer was troubled that information wasn't shared with the club earlier considering the investigation had "started a lot earlier" and "they weren't getting all the facts."
With gambling advertisements so prevalent and former players like Wayne Gretzky promoting them, Andlauer feels for his young player and emphasized the club will support Pinto through his suspension and beyond.
"The important part is that this young man gets all the help, all the support from this organization," he said. "He will be a better person with all of us supporting him and he’s already made a difference being the first person and he regrets what he’s done and he’s getting help for it."
The Senators are 4-4-0 and Staios says his first priority will be to provide stability to the club as it searches for a new general manager.
“I’ll do what’s best for the Ottawa Senators,” said Staios. “That’s the bottom line. I think as this sort of starts to unfold we’re going to take a longer look at what our options might be and who might be available.”
Expectations are high for the Senators this season and when asked about head coach D.J. Smith, who was hired by Dorion, Staios was optimistic.
“Are there areas of improvement, for sure, yes, D.J. would tell you the same thing,” said Staios. “I have confidence that this group is going to continue to move in the right direction.”
The Senators host the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press