If Dominik Hasek can recapture his Stanley Cup-winning form, the Senators have themselves a heck of a bargain.
The Senators, as reported by the Sun on Tuesday, have officially picked up the option on Hasek's contract, but at the bargain-basement price of $1.52 million (all terms US) not the initially reported $2.28 million.
League sources confirmed last night that Hasek's deal would have been worth $2.28 million this year if there had been hockey in 2003-04, but with the NHL lockout wiping out the season, the option fell to $1.52 million.
$3.5M IN BONUSES
This doesn't mean Hasek can't hit the jackpot.
If he leads Ottawa to a Stanley Cup title, Hasek will earn $3.5 million in bonuses.
The good news is, because the contract was signed prior to the lockout, the bonus money would not count against the Senators' $39-million salary cap.
So for a guy who said he would retire if the NHL hadn't settled its dispute with the NHL Players' Association by this fall, the 40-year-old goalie could be in for a lucrative 2005-06 season.
And Hasek, who hasn't played a meaningful game in nearly two years, says he'll be ready for the start of training camp on Sept. 13.
"I know the first two weeks of training camp are going to be my nightmare. I'm not going to say I'm going to be crying, but it's going to be tough and once I get through that I'm going to be fine," Hasek said in a conference call from the Czech Republic with reporters.
"But I feel great. I'm still at the same weight I was at when I won the Stanley Cup with Detroit (in 2002). I've been doing something every day and I'm planning to go back on the ice on Aug. 15 so that I'm ready for action."
Hasek has played only 14 games in the last three years, but Senators GM John Muckler isn't worried.
"I spoke to Dominik for about an hour (Tuesday) and I really felt good when I hung up from that conversation because I could hear the passion back in his voice and that made me really excited," said Muckler.
"I know this decision (to bring Hasek back) is going to be a controversy all year, but I know Dominik Hasek and I feel strongly that he'll be able to get the job done. You don't worry about a guy losing his physical skills ... you worry about him losing his passion. I don't believe that's the case with Dominik Hasek at all. He wants to be at the top of his game and I think he will get it done."
Hasek, who had surgery to repair his groin last spring, said he has been working with a personal trainer and will be back on the ice in mid-August. He plans to arrive in Ottawa 10 days before camp.
"This is a completely different situation than last year because I know what I'm getting ready for and when I'm going to play," said Hasek.
He said it will be up to coach Bryan Murray to decide how much Hasek is going to play.
"I can't say whether I'm going to play 55 or 70 games because that's not up to me and I haven't played for a while," said Hasek. "I can tell you when I've played my best hockey, I've played about 65 games a year. I just want to make sure that I'm at the top of my game and I feel great. I feel like I can get there."