Chiarelli pulls rug from under Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

The good news: Zdeno Chara didn't sign with the arch-rival Maple Leafs.

The bad news: His choice of a new home isn't much better for Ottawa.

Peter Chiarelli got the last laugh on the Senators yesterday and owner Eugene Melnyk must be furious.

The outgoing Ottawa assistant GM couldn't participate in contract negotiations, but he must have had a smile a mile wide when he found out Chara had signed a five-year, $37.5-million (all terms US) agreement with the Bruins -- the team Chiarelli will take over in two weeks.

Under an agreement with the league, Chiarelli is supposed to be employed by the Senators until July 15, but it would hardly be surprising if he finds whatever he's allowed to take with him to Boston sitting on the sidewalk today.

Because of conflict-of-interest issues, Chiarelli wasn't allowed to actively participate in discussions with assistant GM Jeff Gorton or give his opinion to a league mediator on matters that involved former Ottawa players.

But, if Chiarelli was working yesterday in his Scotiabank Place office next to Ottawa GM John Muckler, he must have been howling when word came down around 3 p.m. on the opening day of NHL free agency the Bruins had signed Chara.

Nobody connected to the Senators could be to be happy about this.

You can bet Melnyk wasn't in the mood for any Canada Day party at his palatial home in Barbados when he learned that Chiarelli -- a valued former employee -- is going to bring one of the most coveted defencemen in the league with him to Boston next season.

Melnyk said after another disappointing playoff loss in the spring that he would do "whatever it takes" to get this team to the next level and help the club win a Stanley Cup.

It was Melnyk, Senators president Roy Mlakar and Muckler who insisted that if Chiarelli was going to go to Boston, he shouldn't be allowed to participate in the free-agent period because he was well aware of Ottawa's plans.

However, when Chiarelli interviewed for the Bruins' job in May, he presented Boston with a detailed proposal, which included a list of the players he wanted to bring back, the free agents he wanted to chase and what his plan would be going into September.

No, Chiarelli wasn't allowed to have any discussions with Chara or his Boston-based agent Matt Keator regarding Bruins business, but he had been active with Muckler in trying to keep Chara in Ottawa.

The Senators made a choice Friday, deciding to keep defenceman Wade Redden for $6.5 million a season for the next two years.

After that, Muckler declared he was no longer going to try and keep Chara, causing the ears of GMs across the league to perk up.

There is sense among NHL insiders that the Senators didn't believe Chara would get as much as he did on the open market.

Last month, Muckler was upset at a report that suggested the Rangers were prepared to offer Chara an average of $8 million per season and the word is the boys on Broadway came close to that figure, but didn't quite go all the way.

The Senators knew it was going to be difficult to keep Chara when they decided to let him test the free-agent market, but they probably had hoped a team like Los Angeles, Phoenix or San Jose would have stepped up to make a deal with the 6-foot-9 giant.

EIGHT REMINDERS A SEASON

You see, every time the Senators play the Bruins -- and that's eight times a season -- in the next five years, they're going to be reminded of the one that got away.

Forty times in all ... that an all-star blueliner, who couldn't come to an agreement with the Senators, was simply allowed to walk away with no compensation.

It's going to hurt even more if Chiarelli gets the Bruins back on track and turns them into a playoff contender. He's made steps in the right direction by firing coach Mike Sullivan, hiring coach Dave Lewis and then dipping into the free-agent market to sign Chara and Atlanta centre Marc Savard, a native of Orleans.

Since Chara also has to get his change of address cards together, maybe he can call Chiarelli and ask him to pick up whatever equipment is left in the Ottawa dressing room so he can bring it with him to Boston.


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