With the initial free agency period underway, Ottawa's general manager Michael Hirshfeld has announced the three inaugural signings for his club on Tuesday, September 5. These signings were also the first announced in PWHL history. Ottawa has locked down forwards Emily Clark and Brianne Jenner, plus goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer, all of Team Canada, all Olympic gold medalists. Per Hailey Salvian of The Athletic, Clark's deal was the first done. The selection of these initial three players sets a tone for the Ottawa franchise. Hirshfeld looks to be building a team that is annoying to play against and highly skilled, backstopped by stability in net.
All three players are now signed to three-year deals with Ottawa. Salary terms will not be disclosed per the PWHLPA, but will be available internally and upon request to prospective players and agents negotiating a deal. According to Liz Knox, currently an advisor with the PWHLPA, the nondisclosure of salary and contract terms is in order to allow the future, complete PWHLPA player pool to vote on the matter of salary disclosure as a group.
Maschmeyer is a no. 2 goaltender for Team Canada and excels in that role. Assuming Ottawa intends Masch to be their #1 goaltender going forward, she's an incredible signing for the market that is new to pro women's hockey. Any woho fan in Canada knows her name already, and she's a steady presence in net who always gives her team a chance to win. Her last full regular season as a starter was with Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the CWHL in 2018-19, posting a 1.45 GAA and 0.935 save percentage in 20 games during the regular season. In the playoffs, Les Canadiennes beat the Markham Thunder in the first round best-of-three series backstopped by two Maschmeyer shutouts, but went on to lose 5-2 to the Calgary Inferno in the Clarkson Cup Final.
Emily Clark and Brianne Jenner are both experienced forwards who will anchor Ottawa's offense. Jenner is the sort of player who is always positioned well away from the puck, anticipating her opponent's passing lanes and being able to create offense in transition while making stunning passes of her own. Her last full pro season came in 2018-19 with the Calgary Inferno during which she scored 32 points (19G, 13A) in the regular season and 2 goals in 4 games during the playoffs en route to Calgary's Clarkson Cup championship.
Clark's style is a little bit more physical and she's no less of an offensive threat. 27-year-old Clark has never played a full pro-style season, such as in the CWHL, but put up 23 points (10G, 13A) in 20 games with Team Harvey's in the most recent PWHPA Secret Dream Gap Tour. The former Wisconsin Badger had two NCAA seasons where she was scoring at a pace of greater than one point per game, and always adds a goal or two for Canada in any international tournament she plays in.
In a Tuesday evening media availability, all three players expressed excitement to be joining the Ottawa team, citing that it's a great hockey city which has seen sold out crowds for women's hockey in the past, such as during the Rivalry Series.
Jenner, Clark, and Maschmeyer are already familiar with being teammates due to their time together on Team Canada. "Obviously there's quite bond between us. I think all three of us think super highly of each other," said Emily Clark. "I think that we have very similar values."
"I think just being able to have honestly grown up with Emerance, it's extremely special for the two of us," Clark said of Maschmeyer. "Being roommates and going into Hockey Canada program at the same time... and then with Brianne, honestly, I started off as a fan of Brianne, like many girls that watched that 2014 [Olympic] final. So to transition to her teammate over the last 10 years and now get to start something like this from scratch with her, I can't even put it in words really... but I can tell you that if I was Michael, I think I would honestly have hoped to land on these two as well."
Each newly signed player believed the team culture in Ottawa will be extremely strong. "I think we have an emphasis on team culture, and that's what really drew me in when Mike talked about team culture on our phone calls," said Maschmeyer. "I knew by him signing Emily – I said, you're on the right track. I think we're all on the same page when it comes to that. We wanna build a good character team, you know, a team that's skilled and gritty at the same time."
Jenner also spoke to how her conversations with Hirshfeld made her feel that Ottawa was the right team for her. "The emphasis on culture and environment – I think that's gonna be in integral to building a franchise, especially in year one. We wanna be a team that competes for a championship, but we also wanna be a team where players and coaches are excited to be a part of it and really create something special," she said.
Maschmeyer shared that her wife, fellow goaltender Geneviève Lacasse, will not play in the PWHL, so their future plans depended on where Emerance wanted to play. Ultimately, Maschmeyer decided she wanted to be part of Hirshfeld's vision. On selecting her as the franchise's prospective #1 goaltender, Hirshfeld said: "We looked at all of the potential goalies out there, and we really believe she's one of the best goalies in the world... We talked earlier about all the experience she's had in her career, and we think she's heading into the prime years of her career and her best goaltending is ahead of her."
Brianne Jenner spoke several times during the media availability about what the PWHL means for the future of the sport. "I dreamed of playing for Team Canada because that's what I saw on TV," she said. "I didn't think something like this was possible. And it's so exciting that that's never gonna be a thought for any other young player... We found amazing partners in this ownership group that believed in us and wanted to invest in us and to see it all come together. And I know we all kind of wish it came together earlier, but I think it's come together at the right moment. The perfect moment. The excitement around women's sports has never been greater."
On Wedensday, September 6, the PWHL's Toronto and Minnesota franchises also announced their first initial signings. Toronto has signed Sarah Nurse, Renata Fast, and Blayre Turnbull; while Minnesota has signed Kelly Pannek, Kendall Coyne Schofield, and Lee Stecklein. Press conferences about these signings will take place at 4:00 PM Eastern (Minnesota) and 5:00 PM Eastern (Toronto).
The Montreal signings are rumored to be announced on Thursday in Verdun, per Jared Book of Habs EOTP. Jeff Marek has also said that Team Canada head coach Troy Ryan will be the head coach in Toronto. These stories are developing, and we will have further info throughout the rest of this week. The initial free agency period, during which each team is expected to sign three players, concludes on September 10.