END OF THE ROAD?

MacArthur fails med­i­cal, putting Sens winger’s ca­reer in limbo — again

Ottawa Sun - - FRONT PAGE - KEN WAR­REN

The news couldn’t have come as a com­plete shock to Clarke MacArthur and the Sen­a­tors, but that didn’t make it any eas­ier to hear.

MacArthur failed his med­i­cal test on the open­ing day of train­ing camp on Thurs­day, once again putting his fu­ture in the NHL in doubt.

MacArthur, a left winger, has sat out the ma­jor­ity of the past two sea­sons with con­cus­sion prob­lems, al­though he did re­turn in the fi­nal week of the 201617 reg­u­lar sea­son be­fore hav­ing a ma­jor im­pact on the Sen­a­tors’ play­off run, which ended in the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

While there were con­cerns through­out the sum­mer about MacArthur’s sta­tus for the 2017-18 sea­son — he talked about neck pain as the play­ers packed up fol­low­ing their run — the worst fears weren’t con­firmed un­til Thurs­day’s tests.

“Right now, we don’t know much, but he won’t be part of camp,” Sen­a­tors gen­eral man­ager Pierre Do­rion said. “He was dis­ap­pointed, but at the same time, he looked in great shape (skat­ing). He trained all sum­mer.”

Do­rion pro­vided few ad­di­tional de­tails — he wouldn’t even con­firm that MacArthur failed the med­i­cal for con­cus­sion­re­lated prob­lems — only say­ing he had a quick discussion with MacArthur and the club’s doc­tors.

“We know Clarke worked hard last year to come back,” Do­rion said. “We have to think about the per­son first here. I think we al­ways have an obli­ga­tion as an or­ga­ni­za­tion to do that. Ev­ery­thing has come so quick (Thurs­day) that I re­ally don’t have much more about the sit­u­a­tion.”

It’s hardly an ideal way to start the sea­son. Cap­tain Erik Karls­son (foot) and cen­tre Derick Bras­sard (shoul­der) also be­gin train­ing camp on the side­lines, re­cov­er­ing from off-sea­son surg­eries.

MacArthur didn’t speak pub­licly Thurs­day. Do­rion says he told him to try and stay away from his phone for the next few days.

“Hope­fully,” Do­rion said, “we can have an up­date at some point in time dur­ing camp or once the sea­son starts.”

MacArthur, 32 and an 11-year NHL vet­eran, has been a study in per­sis­tence and ded­i­ca­tion while deal­ing with a se­ries of con­cus­sions dur­ing the past three sea­sons.

He missed the fi­nal two months of the 2014-15 sea­son fol­low­ing a goal­mouth col­li­sion that also in­volved for­mer Sen­a­tors goal­tender Robin Lehner and Carolina’s Jay McCle­ment. But he re­turned for the play­offs.

Af­ter at­tempt­ing to play through a con­cus­sion he suf­fered dur­ing the pre­sea­son in Septem­ber 2015, he made it through only four reg­u­lar-sea­son games be­fore hit­ting his head on the ice. While he made progress through­out the sea­son and was ready to re­turn for the fi­nal weeks of 2015-16, doc­tors ad­vised against a re­turn.

Dur­ing train­ing camp last Septem­ber, he suf­fered yet an­other con­cus­sion when hit by prospect Patrick Sieloff dur­ing the club’s first in­trasquad scrim­mage. Again, MacArthur made steady progress, but was re­peat­edly de­nied med­i­cal clear­ance to re­turn.

He se­ri­ously con­tem­plated re­tire­ment be­fore fi­nally re­ceiv­ing the go-ahead to re­turn in the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar sea­son. MacArthur had a solid play­off per­for­mance, scor­ing three goals — in­clud­ing the se­ries-clinch­ing over­time goal against Bos­ton in the first round — and six as­sists in 19 games.

Now, though, he has once again en­tered the here-we-go-again sce­nario,

un­clear when, or if, he will ever play again.

“From the get-go, we have said we would leave it in the hands of the doc­tors in­di­cated to us that he’s not clear, med­i­cally, to play,” Do­rion added.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, Do­rion says the or­ga­ni­za­tion knew it was a pos­si­bil­ity that MacArthur would not pass his med­i­cal, but the plan was for him to play some­where on the club’s top two lines. Be­yond his num­bers — he has scored 133 goals and 171 as­sists in 552 games dur­ing his ca­reer — MacArthur pro­vides in­valu­able lead­er­ship, show­ing the way for the club’s younger play­ers.

“There was al­ways un­cer­tainty, but you never know,” Do­rion said. “We were count­ing on Clarke, but there was al­ways un­cer­tainty about Clarke to a cer­tain de­gree and for us we feel we have some good young play­ers com­ing up.”

At this point, any­way, Do­rion says he’s not look­ing to make a trade to fill the void. Ryan Dzin­gel, Alex Bur­rows and/or Zack Smith will be among those asked to pick up the slack.

The dress­ing room door also opens a lit­tle bit wider for Colin White, Max McCormick, Chris DiDomenico, Tyler Ran­dell, Mike Blun­den, Ben Sexton and Max Rein­hart. Chris Van­deVelde, at­tend­ing camp on a pro­fes­sional try­out of­fer, could also re­ceive a longer look due to the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing MacArthur.

MacArthur has three years and $14.25 mil­lion US re­main­ing on his con­tract.

If he’s not cleared to re­turn, the Sen­a­tors would put him on the long-term in­jury list, where his salary would not be counted against the cap.

In­surance would cover 80% of the salary, mean­ing the Sen­a­tors would have the salary room to re­place him with an­other player.

As for now, though, the Sen­a­tors are hop­ing for noth­ing but a re­turn to health for MacArthur.

“Right now,” Do­rion said, “I’m just fo­cused on mak­ing sure that we try to get through camp with­out any more in­juries. That would prob­a­bly be the big­gest fo­cus right now. If it was up to me, I would like to can­cel all six (pre-sea­son) games and just start (the reg­u­lar sea­son) on Oct. 5.”

GETTY FILE IM­AGE

NHLI VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Has Clarke MacArthur played his fi­nal game in the NHL? The oft-con­cussed Sen­a­tors winger failed his med­i­cal yes­ter­day.

JEAN LEVAC/POSTMEDIA NET­WORK

Sen­a­tors GM Pierre Do­rion speaks to re­porters about Clarke MacArthur’s sta­tus yes­ter­day at train­ing camp.

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