As we head into the off season and the very important free agent signing period it is time we take a look at how some teams are positioned in terms of salary commitments and fee cap space and what they might do in the off season. Today I’ll look at the Ottawa Senators and tomorrow I’ll take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.
To the best of my knowledge here are the players the Senators currently have under contract (excluding players on 2-way contracts that are not expected to make the team).
Key Restricted Free Agents:
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
Although the salary cap will be $44 million next season it is uncertain whether the Ottawa Senators will spend to the full cap level. More likely they will have an internal budget limit of no more than $38-40 million. That leaves about $20 million to spend this off season. Of the players under contract I am sure the Senators would love to trade Brian Smolinski and free up his $2.2 million. But who will take him? I suspect the best they can hope for is to get a mid-round draft pick in return or to use him as a throw in in a trade similar to DeVries in the Hossa for Heatley trade last summer. Whatever happens, I think there is a decent chance that Smolinski is traded to free up that cap space.
But that is only a small fraction of the Senators problems this summer. Star defensemen Chara and Redden both need to be signed and even if they can get them on a loyalty discount it might cost them close to $12 million. Spezza is going to want a substantial raise, possibly as high as the $4 million range, or maybe more if they try to get him on a long term deal. Those 3 guys could account up to $15-16 of the $20 million. They still need to sign a couple goalies. Emery will likely be wanting $1 million or more and Hasek might want a similar $1.5 million to last year. Neil, Vermette, Schaeffer and Pothier will all be looking for money in the $1-2 million per year range. And Martin Havlat might be looking for up to $4 million as well. All this means someone will have to go and all signs pont to Havlat. There has been some rumours of the Senators wanting to trade for one of the top picks. Could Havlat be packaged (with Smolinski maybe) in a deal for a top 5 pick in the draft? That would free up a lot of cash in the short term and give them a key component of the team in a year or two (if not next year). If they think they are going to lose Chara or Redden then maybe trading for and drafting Erik Johnson is an intriguing option. Stay tuned, the draft is only a couple days away.
All in all, John Muckler is going to have to do some creative player and contract management this summer if he wants most of his players to return. He won’t be able to keep the whole team in tact so who he keeps and who he lets go will be the biggest question on Senators fans minds this summer.