OTTAWA, Ontario — At a local Canadian Tire store not far from the Ottawa Senators’ home rink, two massive ads were displayed in the sporting goods aisles.
One was of former captain Erik Karlsson, who was traded to San Jose in September 2018. The other was of Mark Stone.
Nearly a year after being traded from Ottawa to the Golden Knights, Stone remains a popular figure in the nation’s capital. He was cheered each time his name was announced during Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Senators.
“It was weird, for sure,” Stone said. “They took a chance on me from day one. I was no shoo-in to be an NHL hockey player, and this team helped me develop and helped mold me into the player I am today.
“It was unfortunate that I wasn’t able to end my career here, but at the time, Vegas has become home and it’s now the place that I want to play the rest of my career.”
1 goal, 1 assist
Stone registered a goal and an assist in his first game back at Canadian Tire Centre and made one of his trademark defensive plays to help the Knights win in Peter DeBoer’s debut as coach and snap a four-game losing skid.
The Senators’ former alternate captain was honored during the first break with a video tribute that featured several of his trademark “Expressive Mark Stone” goal celebrations.
“Those were the good times. I was fortunate enough to be part of two great runs here. One regular-season run (in 2015) and one awesome playoff run (in 2017),” Stone said. “Met a ton of good people. Still communicate with a lot of those people. A lot of guys spend their summers in Ottawa. It’s an awesome place to live, it’s an awesome place to have a family, it’s an awesome place to play hockey.
“With that being said, unfortunately a rebuild wasn’t something that was on my mind. I wanted to play playoff hockey. I want to be in the prime of my career with a chance to win the Stanley Cup. This is a team I felt I could do it.”
Stone was a sixth-round pick by Ottawa in 2010 and debuted for the Senators during the 2012 postseason.
As an NHL rookie in 2014-15, he had 26 goals and 38 assists and finished second in Calder Trophy voting behind Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
Stone helped the Senators reach the Eastern Conference final in 2017, but Ottawa missed the playoffs the following season.
Karlsson was traded away in the first major step of the Senators’ rebuild, and when Stone decided against signing a long-term contract extension before becoming an unrestricted free agent, he was dealt to the Knights in February for defense prospect Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round draft.
Was tough to leave Ottawa
Soon after, the Knights signed Stone to an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $9.5 million.
“I made a lot of close friends. I still talk to a lot of friends through golf, a lot of friends through public appearances, restaurant owners. Tons of awesome people in this city,” Stone said. “It’s tough to leave. I think you can ask (Kyle) Turris, Karlsson, (Marc) Methot, all the guys who’ve gone in the past two-odd years. We all come back here. We all enjoy it here. Just unfortunate the team was looking to go in a different direction and rebuild.”
Stone set up Paul Stastny for the opening goal 34 seconds into the first period and added his 17th goal late in the second period when he picked up a rebound and stuffed a wraparound past Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.
His 45 points are second on the team behind linemate Max Pacioretty (46 points).
Stone also helped save a goal about five minutes into the second period when he tied up Connor Brown’s stick to prevent the Senators’ forward from scoring into an open net.
“It was weird obviously coming in as a visitor and staying at a hotel. That wasn’t something that’s normal,” Stone said. “Once I got back to my place and saw Brady (Tkachuk) there, and saw him mum and dad and met with (Thomas) Chabot, I was comfortable. I felt comfortable from the second we landed.”