Get ready for the return of The Dominator next season.
Unless Senators GM John Muckler soon has a change of heart, there's a strong chance Dominik Hasek could be back with the club at training camp in September.
The Senators talked to Hasek, 42, and his agent Ritch Winter last month and sources say more discussions are planned next week.
While Hasek finished the year on the injury reserve list with a mysterious adductor muscle injury, he's preparing to play next season with the Senators and will be working with a personal trainer in the Czech Republic.
"It wouldn't surprise me if Hasek is back," said a league source.
The reality is the Senators' options are limited. As difficult as this might be for Ottawa hockey fans to stomach, Hasek may be the only choice if the club wants to keep enough money to sign defencemen Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden.
The Senators would like to find a way to keep both blueliners from becoming unrestricted free agents on July 1, but they won't have any chance if Chara wants $8 million per season and Redden is looking for between $6.25-$6.5 million a year.
There are whispers that Ottawa might offer both players similar deals and hope they decide not to test the market.
If both players remain in Ottawa, the Senators aren't going to have a whole lot of cash to spend on goaltending. Backup Ray Emery made only $450,000 last season and will be seeking a raise.
There are a couple of reasons that bringing back Hasek makes sense.
The word is Hasek is willing to play for between $750,000-$1.5 million next season, with a contract that will include incentives. In his last deal, Hasek made $1.5 million in base salary, but lost more than $3 million in bonuses due to his injury. He would want a similar deal, with heavy playoff incentives.
- The Senators want to compete for a Stanley Cup and Hasek has had a Hall-of-Fame career. He has the experience and has maintained he only wants to play for Ottawa. He had a .925 save-percentage at the time of his injury and a 28-14-0 record. Emery has shown he needs more time to be a full-time starter.
As noted in a weekend feature on free agency in the Sunday Sun, the market for goalies is limited.
ROLOSON'S PRICE HIGH
Dwayne Roloson, who played such a heavy role in getting the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup final before getting injured on Monday, can be had, but his asking price has gone up.
Another option is to deal for J.S. Giguere, but he is scheduled to make $3.9 million next season.
Florida is in the midst of trying to sign G Roberto Luongo, but talks have stalled because the Panthers don't want to give him a no-trade clause.
Sure, Hasek didn't suit up in the final 12 weeks of the regular season, but it's hard to argue with the numbers he did post while he was healthy.
After the Senators were knocked out of the playoffs, coach Bryan Murray told reporters it might be time to "move on" from Hasek. But it's believed the coach simply wants to make sure that the club has a reliable goalie to try to win a Stanley Cup.
The Senators could sign Hasek and then see what happens at next March's trade deadline.
A healthy and hungry Hasek could be a key ingredient for the Senators next season.