Sens pay the price

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

The new collective bargaining agreement could soon be costly for the Senators.

If reports that indicate the age of unrestricted free agency will move to 29 next summer are correct, then the Senators could be faced with the difficult task of trying to re-sign top defencemen Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden.

Under the terms of the new agreement, which is expected to be ratified by the NHL and the NHL Players' Association next Thursday, Redden and Chara will both be able to shop themselves around on the open market.

"You could really see teams dismantled by this deal," said a league source yesterday. "The Senators could be coming off a Stanley Cup victory and their two biggest defencemen could be gone. Nobody will like that.

"Teams with young players like Ottawa aren't going to stand to benefit from this agreement. It's not just Chara and Redden, guys like Chris Phillips, Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat won't be far behind either. You're going to lose control of these guys and they'll be able to move around."

Spending will be limited since the NHL will get a salary cap of $39 million (all figures US). But Redden and Chara, who are both scheduled to make $3.724 million under the new agreement, will want raises.

The Senators won't be alone with these kinds of troubles. The Boston Bruins will have a tough time keeping Joe Thornton, while the San Jose Sharks have Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart, Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan.

"Under the old system, players used to get their unrestricted free agency at age 31," said the source. "That means the NHL team controlled a player's rights for 13 years if that's what they wanted. That's not going to be the case anymore.

"Now you could start losing guys at age 29 and if this agreement is carried through its full six years, then it could be 25.

GAVE IN EASILY

"I cannot believe the NHL gave that in so easily on free agency. You can criticize the union all you want for accepting a salary cap, but I can guarantee the league is never going to get unrestricted free agency back to 31. That's not going to happen."

With young players like Hossa, Havlat, Mike Fisher, Jason Spezza and Anton Volchenkov to sign this summer, the Senators are going to be faced with dilemmas to keep everybody.

Senators GM John Muckler will not comment until the new CBA is ratified.

NOTES: The schedule won't be released until the deal is final, but the Senators are tentatively scheduled to open at the Air Canada Centre against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 5.


Photos