Sens on clock to sign stars

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

June 15 is looming as a critical date if the Senators hope to bring back Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden.

Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, unrestricted free agents can talk to their teams, but cannot sign a contract between June 15 and July 1. And that could mean both Chara and Redden hit the free market.

Both Chara and Redden have indicated they would to return to the Senators, but neither has had significant contract talks.

"We've had discussions and I've made it clear to every newspaper, radio station and anybody else who has called that the best place for Zdeno Chara to play is Ottawa," said Chara's Boston-based agent Matt Keator.

"We're hopeful that we'll be able to get something done and we feel we can get something done as long it's for fair market value. There's no question that (Chara) has enjoyed playing in Ottawa and wants to stay there."

Senators assistant GM Peter Chiarelli was hired as the Boston Bruins new GM last week, slowing down talks with Ottawa's potential free agents. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, president Roy Mlakar and GM John Muckler were all part of a hearing in New York Thursday with commissioner Gary Bettman to decide on compensation for the departing Chiarelli.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Senators are going to be able to keep Chiarelli until July 15, but it's doubtful he'll play much of a role in negotiations because he's going to work for a rival.

Muckler met with the Senators' amateur scouts on the weekend in Niagara Falls to discuss the June 24 draft.

The reality is, if Chara, Redden and teammate Brian Pothier -- who is also unrestricted -- don't sign with Ottawa, they'd all be of interest to the Bruins.

MANY NHL TEAMS INTERESTED

Boston would hardly be alone on the market. A check of NHL markets indicates Anaheim, Florida, New York Rangers, Islanders, Vancouver, Edmonton, San Jose, Toronto, Los Angeles and Nashville could all be ready to jump in on the bidding for Chara and Redden.

The $7.8 million-a-year deal Brad Richards got from the Tampa Bay Lightning last week will likely have an effect on negotiations with Chara and Redden. If the Senators lose either player -- or both -- they could make a pitch for Vancouver D Ed Jovanovski.

LOOKING FOR HELP: A couple of names that have surfaced as possible replacements for Chiarelli are NHL VP Mike Murphy and former Kings executive Kevin Gilmore.


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