Big Z visits Melnyk's ranch

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Zdeno Chara got a guided tour of Eugene Melnyk's ranch in Ocala, Florida last week. But so far there have been no serious contract talks with the Senators defenceman.

While Melnyk wasn't at the ranch, Chara, who has a home in Orlando, dropped by with some friends.

Was this Melnyk's way of trying to get Chara to give up his right to unrestricted free agency and sign a long-term deal with the Senators?

"I don't think it was anything like that," said Chara's agent Matt Keator. "I know that (Melnyk) wasn't there. They talked on the phone a couple of times, but they've always had a good relationship and (Melnyk) has always been first class to (Chara)."

So how about the contract talks?

"We've had polite discussions, but we haven't gotten too far at this point," said Keator, who added that Chara's No. 1 choice is to remain in Ottawa.

More talks are planned between Wade Redden, another possible free agent, and GM John Muckler late this week, but sources say one major hurdle has been cleared.

Two NHL sources confirmed yesterday the league has agreed with the Players Association to drop the June 15-to-July 1 moratorium on signings for unrestricted free agents.

"Upon further reflection, neither (the NHL and the union) saw the benefit for (using it) this year," said a league source.

It's believed there was a disagreement between the union and the league over how the moratorium would be enforced.

NHL officials believed discussions could still be held during the quiet period while the union was of the opinion there wouldn't be any talks. The two sides have agreed to "revisit" the moratorium next year.

"This decision is going to help teams like Ottawa because they're going to have that two-week period to negotiate with guys like Redden and Chara," said the source. "If talks had been cut off on June 15, then the chances of them testing the unrestricted free agent market would have been better."


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