Senators GM Bryan Murray is armed with a shopping list as the NHL's free agency period kicks off today at noon:
- A top-flight defenceman;
- A backup goalie for Martin Gerber;
- And a couple of forwards to round out the third and fourth lines.
Murray also reminded everybody yesterday that while he'll try to make a splash in the free-agent market, he's got a set amount of money he can spend, so he cautioned anybody who may be getting ready to buy a Senators jersey with Brian Campbell's name on it.
Murray will make a pitch to Campbell -- who expressed a desire to play in Ottawa to Sun Media yesterday -- but if the bidding gets up around the $7-million (all terms US) range, that might be more than the Senators can afford and they'll have to turn elsewhere.
"I don't know what the numbers are (for Campbell) at this point in time, but if the numbers are what I hear they are, it would be almost impossible," said Murray.
That won't stop Murray from making a cross-town call to Campbell's agent, Larry Kelly, to see if the club can get something done.
If the Senators are rebuffed by Campbell, other options include Rangers blueliner Michael Rozsival and Columbus defenceman Ron Hainsey.
Another possibility is Lightning defenceman Dan Boyle if Murray wants to make a trade. Sources say the Bolts have been trying to move Boyle and have held discussions with the Senators, but he'd have to waive his no-trade clause to make that happen. It's believed the six-year, $39-million deal he signed at the trade deadline is a sticking point for teams, as Boyle will be just shy of 38 when the deal expires.
Once the blue line has been taken care of, Murray needs to find someone to play about 30 games behind Gerber. It's believed Boston netminder Alex Auld tops the Senators' wish list, Phoenix' David Aebischer, Chicago's Patrick Lalime and Pittsburgh's Ty Conklin as options. None of the four should be too expensive.
Murray said the club's budget is limited. The Senators have about $15 million left under the salary cap.
"We don't have a lot. We have a chance to get some good players, but we certainly don't have money to throw around," said Murray. "We know from talking to our own players that the marketplace has really shifted. Teams are only going to have so many good players and then they're going to have to fill with role guys. That's just a fact of life."
Talks with winger Antoine Vermette and defenceman Andrej Meszaros are continuing, but both are looking for big money and Murray isn't willing to budge.
"I've talked to them. I've made proposals to both their agents and we'll continue to talk, I hope," said Murray. "I know where they're at and I also know where I am at."
Up front, the club's preference is to keep winger Cory Stillman, who made $1.7 million last season, but he's banking on making as much as $3.5 million a season on a three-year deal on the free-agent market. If that's the case, he'll be out of Ottawa's price range.
JUST THE STATS
GOODBYE, WADE: PAGES 36-37
A look at some of the defenceman the Senators might pursue today in free agency or via a trade:
Brian Campbell, San Jose, 29, GP 83, G 8, A 54, Pts 62
Michal Rozsival, NY Rangers, 29, GP 80, G 13, A 25, Pts 38
Ron Hainsey, Columbus, 27, GP 78, G 8, A 24, Pts 32
Dan Boyle, Tampa Bay, 31, GP 37, G 4, A 21, Pts 25