Winger Vaclav Varada's future with the Senators is, at best, uncertain.
Before the NHL season started, Senators GM John Muckler told the Sun editorial board that under the new cap system teams could no longer afford to "have guys on the fourth line making $1 million."
That's exactly where Varada sits today, leaving his future in Ottawa cloudy. Skating on a line with Chris Kelly and Brian McGrattan, Varada played just over five minutes against the Lightning on Thursday night.
"Right now, he's having a tough time and part of the problem is he got hurt in training camp," Muckler said yesterday. "I still feel he's going to get his opportunity."
Naturally, this hasn't been easy for the 29-year-old Varada, who is pulling down $1.216 million US this season. He was brought in from Buffalo in 2003 because he has a reputation for being a pest.
But Varada has been hampered a knee injury he suffered in the first game of the pre-season on Sept. 18 in Toronto. That has made it difficult for him to battle for a spot on the left side of one of the top lines.
Not only was he unable to fight for his ice time and earn the trust of new Senators coach Bryan Murray, longtime linemates Radek Bonk (Montreal) and Marian Hossa (Atlanta) are both gone.
"This is a tough situation, but the team is winning," said Varada.
Murray said before last night's visit by the Islanders to the Corel Centre that Varada hasn't done anything wrong.
"All that's happened to Vaclav Varada is Chris Neil has played well ... better than our expectations and he has earned the ice time. That's why Varada is in this situation at the moment," said Murray.
"I know it is tough for him. I know he's not happy with the ice time he's getting and I can see it in his play. I'd like to find a spot for him, but I feel pretty comfortable with the way things are right now. But part of Varada's problem is the game has gotten better and speed is a big factor. Neil has played well. That's why he's where he is."
Dealing Varada isn't an option at the moment, but if his role doesn't increase, then it may become a necessity under the NHL's new system.