The 2009–10 Ottawa Senators season was the 17thseason in the modern Senators' history. After missing the post-season in 2008–09 for the first time since the 1995-96 season, the team qualified for the playoffs with four games to play with a win against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 1, 2010. The Senators drew the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and lost the series 4–2.
In early June, left winger Dany Heatley notified GM Bryan Murray that he wanted a trade out of Ottawa. According to reports, Heatley was dissatisfied with his role and ice time under new coach Cory Clouston.
On June 15, it was announced that team president Roy Mlakar's contract would not be renewed. Cyril Leeder, one of the principals in the 'Bring Back The Sens' drive in 1990 was named as team president. He had previously been president and chief operating officer of Scotiabank Place and the related Senators Sports and Entertainment Corporation.
At the NHL Entry Draft, the team chose defenceman Jared Cowen as their first-round pick, ninth over-all. Cowan had been projected as a top-five pick, but had suffered a knee injury during the 2008–09 season. Cowen is tall and is expected to play a 'shut-down' role in the future with the Senators.
In the days leading up to the July 1 free agency period, a prospective trade emerged for Dany Heatley with the Edmonton Oilers. Reportedly, the Oilers offered Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid. Heatley met with the Edmonton management and turned down the trade using a 'no-movement' clause in his contract. On July 1, the Senators were required to make a $4 million payment in advance of Heatley's 2009-10 salary, and the Senators had hoped to move Heatley before the payment. According to Slam! Sports, the Oilers were not on a list of teams acceptable to Heatley, the list of teams including the Rangers, Bruins, Canucks, Sharks, Kings, Red Wings, Flames and Blackhawks. According to GM Murray, teams were "sour" on Heatley and there were few offers.
The Senators made a major free-agent signing on July 6 when they signed former Montreal Canadiens forward Alexei Kovalev to a two-year contract. Kovalev's salary put the Senators at the salary cap limit. The Senators partially addressed this by trading goaltender Alex Auld to the Dallas Stars for a draft pick. By the date of Kovalev's formal introduction press conference on July 21, Heatley had not yet been traded and Kovalev expressed the wish that Heatley would return.
By the opening of training camp on September 12, Heatley had not been traded. Heatley reported and participated in camp activities. Heatley met with Clouston and Murray who hoped to persuade Heatley to drop his trade demand, which he did not. After the meeting, Murray became convinced that Heatley could not stay and had to be moved immediately. Heatley was traded later that day to the San Jose Sharks for wingers Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo and an exchange of draft picks. On November 3, it was confirmed that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk filed a grievance to demand that Heatley return a $4 million dollar bonus the Senators paid Heatley on July 1, part of his contract.
The Senators started the season with several changes from the previous season. Heatley was traded, Christoph Schubert was demoted to Binghamton and eventually waived to Atlanta; Brian Lee who had played most of the previous season with Ottawa, was also demoted. Newcomers included Michalek and Cheechoo from the Heatley trade, Kovalev, a free agent signing, and Matt Carkner and Erik Karlsson made the team on defence. Before the end of October, Karlsson was demoted to Binghamton and Lee promoted to Ottawa. First round pick Jared Cowen was returned to junior. Ilya Zubov failed to make the team and was demoted to Binghamton. Zubov first demanded a trade, then accepted a contract reassignment to Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The Senators retain his NHL rights.
In December, the Senators started to run into a streak of injuries. By the end of the month, the entire top line of Michalek, Spezza and Alfredsson was out with injuries.
On January 13, 2010, the Senators fired their goaltending coach Eli Wilson. In the weeks prior to his firing, both Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott had poor outings. After the firing, the Senators went on a franchise and all-time team record win streak. The previous record of the current NHL franchise was eight games, set in 2007–08. The Senators passed that on January 30, with a win over the Canadiens. The Senators then passed their all-time record of ten consecutive wins (set twice — in 1908–09 and 1910) with a win over the Vancouver Canucks on February 4. The streak ended on February 6 with a loss to the Maple Leafs.
The Senators return to the playoffs after failing to qualify in 2008-2009. Media predictions of where the Senators would end up ranged from fourth in the conference to out of the playoffs. The Hockey News placed the Senators ninth in the conference, while ESPN's John Buccigross predicted the Senators would end up in eleventh. Las Vegas odds put the odds of the Senators winning the Cup at 35–1. On April 1, 2010, while in fifth place in the division, the Senators qualified for the playoffs with a 4-3 shootout win at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Senators drew the defending champion Penguins as first-round opponents for the third time in the past four years. After the Senators won the first game in Pittsburgh, the Penguins took the next three to take a commanding 3–1 lead in the series. The Senators won the fifth game in overtime to force a sixth game in Ottawa. In the sixth game, the Senators took a 3–0 lead before the Penguins rallied to win the deciding game 4–3 in overtime to end the Senators season.
Note: GP = Games Played; TOI = Time On Ice (minutes); W = Wins; L = Losses; OT = Overtime Losses; GA = Goals Against; GAA= Goals Against Average; SA= Shots Against; SV= Saves; Sv% = Save Percentage; SO= Shutouts