Sens won't go into red for blue line

BRUCE GARRIOCH, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 2:15 PM ET

Even if the salary cap does rise, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk won't break the bank to keep his team together.

Melnyk, who was in town last night to watch his team beat the Leafs 8-2 at the Corel Centre, told reporters he would like to keep potential unrestricted free agents Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara, but not if the price becomes too steep.

While there have been reports this year's league revenue will boost the salary cap from $39 million (all terms US) to as high as $45 million next season, Melnyk maintained the club needs to remain financially responsible.

If high-spending teams like Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia and Toronto, for example, throw big bucks at Redden or Chara, the Senators may not be able to re-sign their big-name blueliners.

"The salary cap is irrelevant to the Senators," said Melnyk, who is currently spending $35.4 million on the club's salaries. "We have a salary structure that we're going to follow here.

"We have a strong organization. We treat our players properly, we've got great facilities for them and we do everything first class. They have to decide if they want to stay here and have a chance at winning a Stanley Cup. If they want to take $1 million elsewhere, there's not much we can do."

Melnyk said the Senators would have to go to the Stanley Cup final if he is going to make any money this season.

"We'd have to be into the second round (of the playoffs) just to break even," said Melnyk.

That being said, he's pleased with the performance of the team, which sits first in the Eastern Conference with 48 points, and Ottawa fans.

"The response from the fans has just been terrific," said Melnyk, who's thrilled his club enjoyed its 12th sellout in 16 games last night. "You know, everybody was saying they were worried about the response of hockey fans after the lockout, but I know as a fan I really missed it.

"Even when the team didn't play for five days recently I missed it a lot. I was wandering around the house wondering what to do with myself. This has been excellent. The fans are even spending more money when they come to the games."

Melnyk was also in town for the second annual "Melnyk Skate for Kids." The owner hosted 100 underprivileged kids for a charity skate in the Corel Centre yesterday afternoon, held a pizza party and gave each child a pair of skates.

"It's a nice way to give back to the community," said Melnyk.


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