The NHL's Eastern Conference regular-season champs may get a significant facelift before they hit the ice again.
After exiting from the playoffs with a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres Saturday, Senators president Roy Mlakar, GM John Muckler and coach Bryan Murray will soon begin looking at solutions to win a Stanley Cup.
A second-round playoff exit wasn't what the players were looking for ... and it's certainly far below what the team's fans expected.
"We know there are going to be changes," said Ottawa centre Mike Fisher. "There always is. We felt like we had a good group here and we had a team that could challenge for a Cup. This is tough right now because we had a chance and we let it get away."
Mlakar, Muckler and Murray will have to answer to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who wants badly for this team to win a title.
Here's a look at what could happen:
D Zdeno Chara: He won't be back. The Senators will try to sign him, but won't be able to afford the $7.8-$9 million he will be seeking as a unrestricted free agent (UFA). There's talk New York Rangers GM Glen Sather has been whispering to hockey insiders he's willing to make Chara the club's franchise player at whatever price it takes. Don't think for a second Toronto GM John Ferguson Jr. won't try to sign both Chara and teammate Wade Redden. The Leafs would love to have a Battle of Ontario with Melnyk at the bank.
D Wade Redden: Speaking of Redden, he's expected to stay. There's talk he could get $6.5 million on the open market, but it shouldn't cost Ottawa that much. The Senators have a strong relationship with on and off the ice with Redden and he likes the city.
G Dominik Hasek: His career is over. The biggest mistake the Senators made was not asking him to leave when it became clear he wasn't going to return. The adductor muscle saga turned into a sideshow. When that happened in Detroit a couple of years ago, the Red Wings told him to go home because they didn't want him around anymore. The Senators won't bring him back. Who needs the headache?
RW Martin Havlat: A restricted free agent with the right to arbitration. The Senators have a big decision to make here. He made $2.6 million this season, but missed 59 games with an injury. He was outstanding in the first round of the playoffs, but his production slipped against Buffalo. If he doesn't accept a long-term deal from Ottawa (and there's no reason to believe he will), he'll go to arbitration for a one-year deal. If that happens, expect to see Havlat get dealt, perhaps for goaltending help.
RW Daniel Alfredsson: He has three years remaining on his contract and has been a good soldier for the organization. Alfredsson is taking a lot of heat for not playing well in the playoffs, but if the Senators decide to trade him, there will be a lineup of teams trying to get him. The argument can be made the club has never won with Alfredsson wearing the 'C', but it would take a big deal for the club to move him. The Canucks, Stars, Leafs, Rangers, Sharks and Kings would be among the teams lining up. My own opinion: Alfredsson will be back.
C Jason Spezza: A restricted free agent, the Senators have a big decision to make here. He had a strong regular season, but, along with linemate Dany Heatley, struggled with consistency in the playoffs. He has a wealth of talent, but needs support in the middle. Tyler Arnason was brought in to be the No. 2 centre and couldn't keep up with the pace or stay in the lineup. If the Senators decided to deal Spezza, there would be no problem moving him. Chicago is among a group of teams that would like to have Spezza. But it still seems doubtful the Senators would give up a talented player they've invested a lot in.
While the Senators players will have plenty of time to reflect on what went wrong, team management will have to fix the problem, whatever it is.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Tyler Arnason, C; Ray Emery, G; Martin Havlat, RW; Chris Kelly, C; Brian McGrattan, RW; Mike Morrison, G; Chris Neil, RW; Brian Pothier, D; Peter Schaefer, LW; Christoph Schubert, D; Jason Spezza, C; Antoine Vermette, C.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Zdeno Chara, D; Dominik Hasek, G, Wade Redden, D; Vaclav Varada, LW.
Daniel Alfredsson, RW; Patrick Eaves, LW; Mike Fisher, C; Dany Heatley, LW; Andrej Meszaros, D; Chris Phillips, D; Bryan Smolinski, C; Anton Volchenkov, D.