Lack of cash could mute Sens

Ottawa Senators Peter Schaefer takes Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara down at Scotiabank Place Jan. 27,...

Ottawa Senators Peter Schaefer takes Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara down at Scotiabank Place Jan. 27, 2007. (Ottawa Sun file photo)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

Unless the Senators make a trade or two in the next 24 hours, the only fireworks in Ottawa this weekend will be on Parliament Hill.

Senators GM Bryan Murray would love nothing more than to jump into the NHL's unrestricted free agent market tomorrow at noon when the bidding begins, but it's pretty much a no-go because Murray doesn't have much money to spend unless he can shed some salary.

Sources say Murray has been working hard this week to try to deal winger Peter Schaefer and the three years and $6.3 million (all terms US) remaining on his contract and goalie Martin Gerber, who has two years and $7.4 million left in his contract.

It's believed the Coyotes and Kings have mild interest in Gerber.

If there's only mild interest in Gerber, then moving Schaefer will be a tough sale.

Schaefer, at more than $2 million a season for the next three years, is coming off a disappointing 46-point campaign in which he scored only 12 goals.

If Murray can't move those two, then the potential of adding a Daniel Briere, Ryan Smyth, Scott Gomez or Chris Drury will be nothing more than a dream.

It's more likely Ottawa will focus on the second tier of free agents.

That could include forwards like Bill Guerin, Robert Lang or Dainius Zubrus..

Murray, who replaced John Muckler on June 18, is in a difficult spot.

The Senators have spent about $42 million on 16 players for next season and that's before a raise for goalie Ray Emery has been factored into the equation.

The NHL announced yesterday that salary cap will rise to $50.3 million this season from $44 million.

It's believed Smyth or Gomez top Murray's wish list, but they're going to get offers of more than $6 million a season, putting them out of Ottawa's range.

The Senators would like to keep centre Mike Comrie, who made $3 million last season, but Murray has indicated he just doesn't have the money. Expect to see the Maple Leafs and Capitals make a pitch for Comrie.

"The talks I've had with Bryan have been very candid," Comrie's agent, Ritch Winter, said yesterday. "He'd love to keep (Comrie). He was a warrior for that club in the playoffs and he played with an injury that would have kept a lot of players out. But right now, (Murray) is going to need to move some people to make that it happen for Ottawa.

"(Comrie) would love to come back, but it just doesn't look like that's going to be possible."


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