Keeping Chara a tall order

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

The Senators and defenceman Zdeno Chara have already cleared one major hurdle in negotiations on a new contract: He wants to stay and they want to keep him.

Now, all they have to work out are the details.

Informal talks between Chara's Boston-based agent Matt Keator and Senators assistant GM Peter Chiarelli took place Monday at the Corel Centre and the two sides have agreed to keep talking.

Getting Chara, 28, and defenceman Wade Redden -- who could both become unrestricted free agents July 1 -- under contract is a priority for GM John Muckler, but right now it's not No. 1 on the list.

GET READY FOR SEASON

"The focus is on getting ready for the season and being prepared to have a strong season," said Chara. "We agreed that eventually it's going to be something that we're going to talk about. But, right now, is not the time. All we're thinking about at the moment is the season.

""It was a good meeting. They agreed they want to keep me and they know that I want to stay here. "Hopefully, we're able to get something worked out."

Even with free agency looming, neither player is likely to be dealt by the Senators.

NORRIS TROPHY RUNNER-UP

If Chara has the kind of season that made him a runner-up for the Norris Trophy to Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer (then with New Jersey) in 2003-04, he could be one of the most valuable free agents on the market.

Making $3.724 million (all figures US) this year, there is speculation a team -- such as the New York Rangers -- might be willing to throw the league maximum of $7.8 million at Chara to get him under contract.

"Some of it is going to depend on how (Chara) adapts to the new rules, but if he has another Norris Trophy-type season ,then there are going to be teams that will go after him with big money," said a league source.

Brought to the Senators in the one-sided deal that sent Alexei Yashin to the New York Islanders (who also sent Ottawa the draft pick that turned into Jason Spezza) in July, 2001, Chara would like to stay in Ottawa.

"I really love being in Ottawa," he said. "I've had a lot of success here and I like being part of this team.

"This organization has been great to me and I'd really like to be able to re-sign here. We both agree that I want to be here and they want to keep me as part of the team. We'll see how it goes. At some point, we might be able to get something done."


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