TORONTO -- They say old soldiers never die, but that doesn't mean they won't switch allegiances.
Sources say Senators GM John Muckler is expected to make a pitch for free-agent Maple Leafs winger Gary Roberts in an attempt to give Ottawa the upper hand in the battle with their hated provincial rival.
The 39-year-old Roberts, who will become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 1 and was scheduled to make $3.5 million (all terms US) last season, would be a nice fit for the Senators, especially considering how Roberts has hurt Ottawa in the playoffs over the years.
And while Roberts would like to remain with the Leafs, his agent, Rick Curran, told the Sun that he expects his client will be pursued by a number of teams.
"We haven't had any formal or preliminary discussions regarding Gary, but I would think he is going to be sought after by four or five teams that have an interest in a guy with his kind of character," said Curran.
"For a lot of practical reasons, he would like to stay where he is, but that's not to say he is not going to listen to what else is out there. He's the ideal veteran player for a lot of teams because he is such a big character guy."
A character that has earned Roberts respect around the league for his hard-nosed work on the ice and for his tremendous leadership off it.
Senators centre Jason Spezza has seen firsthand what Roberts has to offer and has tried to glean as much information as he could from the former 50-goal scorer during workouts in the off-season in Toronto.
"I've gotten the chance to get to know him by working out with him in the summer and I know he's such a quality guy and you can see what a great leader he is. He could help any team to be competitive. You would love to have a guy like that on your team."
Would Spezza like to see Roberts on his wing?
"I don't know what team wouldn't want to have a guy like Gary Roberts on their team," said Spezza, after arriving at the Westin Hotel for last night's NHL Players' Association meeting about the new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL.
Still, the Senators won't be alone in their pursuit of Roberts.
Panthers coach Jac-ques Martin is a longtime friend of Roberts from their days together with the OHL's Guelph Platers and -- when Martin was coach of the Senators --tried to lure him to Ottawa.
Ottawa, Florida and Anaheim are the most-often mentioned destinations for Roberts, but there will be a number of other teams looking for veteran help and he should come with a reasonable price tag considering there will be a $39-million salary cap in place.
"We haven't had any conversations with anybody regarding Gary Roberts," said Curran, who was seen having coffee with Roberts in the hotel lounge. "He's just such a leader and a guy a lot of teams would want to have on their roster because he gets the job done."