Is Marian Hossa worth as much as Jarome Iginla ... or even Vincent Lecavalier ... or should he be happy to get Milan Hejduk money?
The Senators and Hossa will meet with an independent arbitrator next Tuesday in Toronto, unless agent Jiri Crha and GM John Muckler can strike a deal before then.
The Senators say captain Daniel Alfredsson will be their highest-paid player at $4.66 million (all figures US) with the 24% rollback.
Hossa's influenced by the $21-million deal that Jarome Iginla got from the Calgary Flames.
"I know exactly what Hossa is thinking: He wants to be the club's franchise player and he wants to be identified as the guy who is the leader by being the top-paid player," said a league executive. "The Senators are trying to be careful about their spending and they believe Alfredsson should be their top-paid player. They can't afford to pay Hossa the kind of money he wants, but they can't afford to go into next season without him. They're stuck right now with where they go next."
Hossa was insulted by the club's first offer of a three-year, $11.9-million deal that would have paid him $3.6 million in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and $4.7 million in 2007-08.
The Senators then offered a two-year, $8-million deal which Hossa also quickly turned down.
Sources say Hossa may have accepted a deal similar to the three-year, $13.5-million contract Pavol Demitra signed with Los Angeles.
"All Hossa wants is what he considers to be fair. He was identified as one of the league's best bargains for the last three years and now he believes that it's time to cash in," said a league source who is familiar with the situation.
It hasn't helped the Senators that other teams are spending big. The four-year, $25.7 million deal Vincent Lecavalier signed with Tampa Bay on Tuesday will likely give Hossa even more resolve. While Lecavalier has a Stanley Cup and a bigger salary ($6.8 million a season), Hossa has better stats. In 2001-02, Lecavalier had 37 points while Hossa posted 66. In 2002-03, Lecavalier scored 78 points and Hossa had 82. In 2003-04, Lecavalier had 66 while Hossa posted 80. Sources say Hossa will be awarded between $3.7-$4 million in arbitration, but he could get $7 million as a free agent next summer.
The Senators will argue that Hossa should be compared to Colorado winger Hejduk. Hejduk, who is also represented by Crha, agreed to play for $3.7 million this season and he finished with 75 points in 2003-04.
"My prediction is this will be an ugly argument," said a league source. "The Senators might win in arbitration, but they're going to end up losing Hossa in the end if they don't make peace with him. That doesn't make them a better team."