High five for Senators

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:40 PM ET

Slowly but surely, the Senators are starting to take care of business.

The NHL team announced yesterday it has signed forwards Jason Spezza, Chris Neil and Antoine Vermette, along with defenceman Christoph Schubert.

As previously reported by the Sun, defenceman Anton Volchenkov has agreed to a two-year, $2.6- million deal.

GM John Muckler said Neil, Vermette and Schubert all signed their one-year qualifying offers, which had to be returned to the Senators by Aug. 15.

Chris Neil is scheduled to make $585,000 (all terms US) next season, while Vermette will pull down $543,400.

Schubert has a two-way contract that is going to pay him the league minimum of $450,000 if he suits up for the club next season.

Spezza, meanwhile, signed a one-year deal believed to be worth $1.2 million. That's a raise over his qualifying offer of $900,000.

"We had talked about a longer term, but the numbers just didn't seem to make sense," said Spezza, who will return to Ottawa next week to continue his pre-season workouts.

"It wasn't hard to find numbers that made sense for one year and this allows me to just focus on getting ready for this season. We can look at what kind of season I have and then focus on getting something done on a longer term down the road. I'm excited to get ready for camp."

The player who got the biggest raise was Volchenkov, which is no surprise. He had signed a one-year, $1.2-million deal with Lada Togliatti of the Russian Super League and that forced the Senators into boosting his pay.

Volchenkov actually agreed to the deal last week, but sources say club officials in Russia requested that he turn his passport over to the team. Officials with International Management Group had to make sure Volchenkov's papers were back in his hands before the deal could be formally announced.

"Anton is excited to return to the Senators," said his agent, J.P. Barry, the co-managing director of IMG Hockey. "He believes that Ottawa currently has one of the very best teams in the league and are serious contenders for a Stanley Cup. He's looking forward to helping the Ottawa blue line be if not the best, then one of the best defence corps in the NHL.

"This is a pretty strong deal. I think this shows he can be their No. 3 or No. 4. This is a statement that he can be part of their top four defencemen. This was not a ploy ... He could have made more money in Russia on after-tax basis. He wants to play in the NHL because he knows this is the best league in the world."

The raft of signings is good news for Muckler and assistant GM Peter Chiarelli, who still have to deal with all-star winger Marian Hossa's demands for $7 million per season. That matter is headed to arbitration later this month.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com 


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