True grit time for Sens

Senators winger Martin Havlat pauses during a workout at the University of Ottawa Sports Complex...

Senators winger Martin Havlat pauses during a workout at the University of Ottawa Sports Complex yesterday. (Ottawa Sun/Geoff Robins)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Senators GM John Muckler shouldn't count on much sleep this summer. Not with so much to do ... and so little time to do it.

On the ice at a hockey school in Muskoka when he got the word the NHL lockout had been settled, Muckler had to be thinking about everything he has to put in place before September.

Though Muckler made bold moves last summer by hiring coach Bryan Murray to replace Jacques Martin and signing free-agent goalie Dominik Hasek to take Patrick Lalime's spot on the roster, there is still a lot of work ahead.

With 10 restricted free agents -- including Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Mike Fisher, Todd White, Jason Spezza and Anton Volchenkov -- to sign, the Senators have to get their own house in order and decide who they want to bring in.

"I know John Muckler has a lot of work to do, but I spoke with a GM today who only has three players under contract. I'm not sure that I would like to be in that position," said Senators president Roy Mlakar.

Muckler would like to change the chemistry on the Senators slightly and add more toughness. It's believed the league will give teams a one-time opportunity to buy out players and that's a possibility here.

Senators centre Bryan Smolinski, scheduled to make $2.24 million (all figures US) with the 24% rollback, and defenceman Greg de Vries ($2.28 million) are both candidates to get bought out if Muckler wants room to make moves.

A decision has to be made on the future of centre Todd White and it's not known if the club is going to willing to make him a qualifying offer of $988,000 to retain his services.

Sources say Muckler would like to add more grit at centre and might look for a veteran presence.

One possibility on the Senators' list is Hurricanes centre Rod Brind'Amour -- an Ottawa native. The club looked at him at the trade deadline last year, but his price tag of $5 million was too restrictive. He is scheduled to make $3.8 million with the 24% rollback and is a candidate to be bought out.

"I believe John Muckler is in a position where he wants a veteran presence.

"You need those types of guys with character when you get into the thick of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the going gets tough," said a league source.

Guys like Hossa, Havlat, Fisher, Spezza and Volchenkov might not be that fond of this deal. Their salaries will be restricted.

"Everyone is kind of in the same situation," said Spezza, who will be the No. 1 centre in Ottawa, replacing Radek Bonk who was dealt to Montreal during last summer's entry draft. "Not having a contract here, I'm hoping something will get done in a few weeks.

"It's going to be up to the agents to know exactly what is going on."


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