Senators GM John Muckler will be back to work this morning ... and he'll have plenty to keep him busy this summer.
While his first order of business will be picking up the option on goaltender Dominik Hasek's contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 1, Muckler also has a few other pressing issues to deal with before play resumes.
With a new collective bargaining agreement ratified by the NHL yesterday, Muckler and assistant GM Peter Chiarelli will have their work cut out for them as the club prepares for the entry draft next Saturday in Ottawa.
"We have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it," said Muckler. "But we've been working on this for the last two months and we feel like we're prepared. I know it's going to be tough with the new CBA, but we feel like we're in a position to have success."
Here are Muckler's top priorities:
- The Senators will begin negotiations with 2003 No. 1 pick Patrick Eaves, who spent last season at Boston College, where he had 19 goals and 29 assists in 36 games. The club tried to woo the forward out of school last year, but he stayed because of the lockout. He'll have a strong chance at making the club this fall. While they're working to get Eaves signed, the Senators also have to get 2004 No. 1 pick Andrej Meszaros under contract. The 6-foot-1, 200-lb. defenceman had 11 goals and 30 assists in 59 games last season with WHL's Vancouver Giants. He could push for a spot on the blue line, which means a veteran might be sent packing. Both players are expected to sign by Thursday's deadline to get deals in place.
- Muckler said yesterday he's not going to be buying out any players. Defenceman Greg de Vries and centre Bryan Smolinski were both considered prime candidates to be bought out, but Muckler has decided otherwise.
- The Senators have to deal with restricted free agents Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Mike Fisher, Anton Volchenkov and Jason Spezza, among others. The club has to decide what it is going to do with centre Todd White. There has been speculation White won't receive a qualifying offer and will be asked if he'd like to stay at a lower price. The club has plenty of room in its budget to sign players, but negotiations could be difficult under the new system. The Senators have already committed $23 million (all terms US) in salary for next season and will probably come in around the $34-million range. "Our first priority is to get our players signed. There's some (like Hossa and Havlat) we might be trying to get signed to long-term contracts because we know with the new rules for free agency it's going to be difficult to keep your team together," said Muckler.
- Ritch Winter, the agent for unrestricted free-agent winger Peter Bondra, told the Sun this week in Toronto that his client intends to play next season. Bondra, acquired at the trade deadline in 2004 by Muckler, has expressed an interest in returning to Ottawa. "He wants to play, but it's got to be the right situation and I'm not sure what's going to happen in Ottawa. I would think there is going to be some interest there, but I can't say because we haven't had any formal discussions about it," said Winter. The Senators are expected to try and re-sign veteran defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn.