Roberts open to change

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

TORONTO -- Gary Roberts isn't sure if he'd make it up Hwy 401 to Ottawa alive if he decided to switch sides in the Battle of Ontario.

"I might get run off the road heading over there," said Roberts with a laugh yesterday.

The Toronto winger admitted his first choice is to stay with the Maple Leafs, but he wouldn't rule out signing with the Senators, or any other team, when asked about his future.

The 39-year-old Roberts, who will be an unrestricted free agent Aug. 1, said he doesn't know if he's part of Toronto's plans. Plus, he'll have plenty of other offers to choose from.

Not only are the Senators interested in signing the gritty winger, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Florida Panthers could be among five or six other teams after Roberts.

"Obviously I'd like to be a Toronto Maple Leaf," said Roberts. "I'd like to think I still have a couple of years left to play at a high level. Hopefully, I get that opportunity. I guess in the next week or so things will settle down and I'll get a real feel for whether I'm going to be here.

"At this point, I want to play hockey and wherever that has to be, I'll play. I'm not going to sit here and say that Toronto is the only team I'm going to play for. I'd love to be here. I love the city and I love the fans."

The Senators have other decisions to make before they sign any free agents. The club has to decide if they're going to offer buyouts to the likes of defenceman Greg de Vries and centre Bryan Smolinski.

That is doubtful since both were brought in by Senators GM John Muckler and both have contracts that de-escalate. Smolinski is scheduled to make $2.24 million (all figures US) next season while de Vries is at $2.28 million.

"I would like to stay in Ottawa," said de Vries. "I didn't get much of a chance to get a feel for the place because I was traded there at the deadline, but I would think it would be exciting to stay a part of it."

Smolinski will be watching to see what happens in the next 10 days or so.

"I would like to think that I'm part of the Senators' plans, but I know that a buyout is a possibility," he said.

The club also has to decide on the future of centre Todd White. A restricted free agent, he'll require a qualifying offer of $1.037 million, but there's been talk Muckler might ask White to take a pay cut to stay in Ottawa.

"I don't know what's going to happen," said White. "I would like to stay with the Senators. It's my home town and I've enjoyed my experience there. I guess that's something we'll find out about in the next few days."


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