OTTAWA - The sting of disappointment hasn't left but the promise of better times ahead has defenceman Marc Methot and his Ottawa Senators teammates going into the off-season with confidence.
The Senators' players packed their bags Tuesday, two days after their season ended with a 2-0 loss to Montreal. That gave the Canadiens the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series in six games.
But there was plenty for the Senators to feel good about. They made history by becoming the first team ever to qualify for the postseason after being 14 points back.
"When I look back at our record from the last couple months of the season, I mean we did nearly the impossible in terms of getting in," said Methot. "Mixing that in with some incredible performances, individual performances from some guys, including Hammer.
"What he was able to do for us to get us in as a team was huge and you can't forget all those little things."
Much of Ottawa's success was the result of rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond, who went 20-1-2 down the stretch. He's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and ideally would like to remain with the Senators.
"I love the city of Ottawa and I would like to come back here," he said. "But at the end of the day there's two goaltenders on one-way contracts so we'll see what happens."
The other two are Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, meaning Ottawa will have a decision to make this summer.
"My only thought is to come here ready to go in training camp," said Anderson when asked about the possibility of being traded. "Be in the best shape I possibly can and earn my ice time.
"We have good players. That's a good problem to have. It makes everybody better because we have to push each other."
Hammond isn't the only player Ottawa must make a decision on this off-season.
Forward Erik Condra is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent while centre Mika Zibanejad, forwards Mark Stone, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Alex Chiasson and Mike Hoffman will be restricted free agents. Hoffman is the only one with arbitration rights.
Ottawa is expected to try and move the contracts of forwards Colin Greening and David Legwand as well as defenceman Jared Cowen. Greening played just 26 games this season while Legwand still has a year left on his deal but was a healthy scratch for the club's final two playoff games. Cowen found himself the odd man out on a crowded blue-line.
The Senators could also look at dealing veteran forward Chris Neil and questions exist regarding the future of defenceman Chris Phillips, who at age 37 still has a year remaining on his contract but recently underwent back surgery.
However Phillips believes he'll be ready to play come training camp.
"It was a tough way to finish off this year," said Phillips. "It was very exciting (the run), I basically turned into a fan. Got caught up in that and really enjoyed watching these guys.
"But it's definitely more comfortable being out on the ice than having to watch. And I plan on getting back there next year."
NOTES — Captain Erik Karlsson said he's been dealing with a nagging injury but wouldn't elaborate, adding only it wouldn't require surgery . . . Defenceman Mark Borowiecki is dealing with a sports hernia that could require surgery . . . Methot is expected to have elbow surgery for a bone chip . . . Hammond, Methot and forwards Clarke MacArthur and Mark Stone all received invitations to play for Canada at the upcoming world championship but had to decline due to injury. Defenceman Patrick Wiercioch also received an invitation from Canadian officials and accepted.