Eugene Melnyk wants a winner and he's willing to shell out for it.
After seeing his Senators come up just short in their bid for a first Stanley Cup, the Senators owner told Sun Media yesterday he will likely boost the club's payroll to the salary cap -- whatever it turns out to be -- to take another run at bringing the Cup home.
"My sense is the cap will go up. Everyone knows my commitment to continuing to build a championship team in Ottawa, so in that context, spending to the cap is always a necessary consideration," wrote Melnyk in an e-mail to the Sun yesterday.
Talk is the salary cap could rise from its current level of about $44 million (all terms US) to $48 million next year.
The Senators' payroll was unofficially just a shade under this year's cap at $43,544, according to NHLnumbers.com.
Melnyk will have a extra few bucks to throw around this summer after the Senators' long playoff run. The number usually mentioned is a gate of $1 million a game, but a good portion of that goes to the NHL, more so in the early rounds.
The Senators hosted nine playoff games this spring, making it to the final for the first time. Senators president Roy Mlakar has said in the past the team needed to get to the final to break even.
"Having a long playoff run, like we did this year, always helps financially," wrote Melnyk. "The team will do well this year, but the final numbers are not in yet."
The Senators already have commitments on the books for next year to the tune of $40.5 million.
The only significant free agent is goalie Ray Emery. He is a restricted free agent July 1 and could come close to tripling his 2006-07 salary of $925,000 after he emerged as Ottawa's No. 1 goaltender.
The Senators' unrestricted free agents and their 2006-07 salaries are: F Mike Comrie ($3 million), F Dean McAmmond ($725,000) and D Tom Preissing ($600,000).
Restricted free agents are Emery, F Oleg Saprykin ($1.064 million), F Chris Kelly ($725,000) and F/D Christoph Schubert ($525,000).
Maybe the most significant free agent is not on the ice, but behind the bench.
The Senators did not make any effort to sign coach Bryan Murray this season. That's looking like a mistake by Senators GM John Muckler.
Murray is poised to go on the open market July 1.
He has improved his reputation as a coach and it didn't hurt his reputation as a GM that the Cup was won by the Anaheim Ducks, a team Murray had a large hand in constructing when he was the GM there from 2002-04.
Muckler has another year to go on his contract as GM.
Melnyk wouldn't comment on the status of any contracts.