Big-money deal turns up heat

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have just added further fuel to the Battle of Ontario with the Senators.

But this one could be off the ice, with unrestricted free-agent defencemen Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara at the centre of the latest salvo.

As the Senators prepare to make Redden an offer he can't refuse in a meeting today in Toronto, it was reported last night the Leafs have agreed to a five-year, $28.75 million (all terms U.S.) deal with blueliner Bryan McCabe.

"Things just got a lot more difficult for the Senators," said a league source last night.

Sources say Senators GM John Muckler will meet with Redden and agent Don Meehan today in Toronto to present a long-term offer (3-5 years in length) to keep him in Ottawa.

Redden couldn't be reached for comment, but sources say he's not quite sure what to expect and will surely attract plenty of interest if he decides to test the market July 1. The talk is he'll be seeking $6.25 million per season after making $3.74 million last year. There were whispers the Senators might be willing to meet Redden's asking price because they want to get a deal completed now.

"If (Redden) likes the numbers something could be done quickly," said a league source yesterday. "The club will find out if he wants to stay in Ottawa and I don't think they're going to insult him."

Meanwhile, Chara isn't ready to call Broadway home just yet. His No. 1 priority is to stay with the Senators.

Upset with a Sun report yesterday that indicated the Rangers could be prepared to offer the unrestricted free-agent defenceman $8 million if he decides to test the market, agent Matt Keator maintained Chara doesn't want to move.

"The only team we're focused on right now is the Senators. (Chara) wants to stay in Ottawa and his No. 1 priority is the Senators," said Keator last night from Toronto.

WANTS TO STAY

"I don't know where this kind of speculation is coming from and it's not coming from us. This is just speculation and nothing else. We haven't held any discussions with any other team and we're not allowed any discussions with anybody else. We want to get a deal done with Ottawa."

On a more positive note, centre Jason Spezza underwent successful back surgery in Los Angeles Tuesday. He had the procedure to repair a small disc, but will be ready for training camp.

Spezza couldn't be reached for comment last night.


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