EVEN with the name of a bank on the building, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk isn't going to go on a wild spending spree.
After officially unveiling the name of Scotiabank Place before last night's game against Toronto, Melnyk maintained the club is going to be responsible in its spending.
While Melnyk feels the club has a better shot at keeping Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara because of the NHL salary cap, he's not going to overspend to keep players in the fold. The club's payroll is $35.6 million (all figures US) and it's not going to get much higher.
"We're still a small-market team, our ticket prices are 40% less than the leading teams and we're going to try to do everything we can to keep our players," said Melnyk, who spent yesterday in budget meetings with Sens president Roy Mlakar. "Right now, we're focused on the day-to-day operations and winning. I've left the re-signing of Chara and Redden in the hands of (GM) John Muckler."
But, Melnyk added the focus is on bringing home a Stanley Cup.
"We started off with one of the best starts and we had injuries. That's what worries me," said Melnyk. "We're not going to have Martin Havlat back until April, but we've got our big lines back together and hopefully we can get back to playing the way we did at the start of the season."
Melnyk said the Senators' 19 sellouts and the eighth highest paid attendance in the league -- even with the NHL's $39-million salary cap -- aren't going to make money unless the club gets to the third round of the playoffs.
"We've given discounts on our tickets and we've done everything possible to bring back our fan base and we've been successful," said Melnyk. "What we originally projected for has been surpassed and I can't be optimistic so I'm just hoping for the best."
NOT A BIG PROBLEM: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters there's no epidemic just because Columbus D Bryan Berard failed a steroid test. In fact, Bettman said by the end of the season all players in the league will be tested and the numbers won't be high. Mandatory testing kicked in last Sunday. "I don't really think anybody thought there wouldn't be a positive test," said Bettman. "But, I am told by the International Ice Hockey Federation that there were 150-to-200 tests last fall and this was the only positive. At this point, the record is clear that this is not a big problem throughout the league. But, we're going to continue with our testing plan."