It can now be said that the Senators managed to escape the Summer of '07 relatively unmarked.
In one year's time, however, there looms the risk that they'll be hit so hard you won't even recognize them.
Over the past month, the Senators have lost unrestricted free agents Mike Comrie and Tom Preissing, but neither was a front-line player. They unloaded Peter Schaefer and in the process answered a pressing need by obtaining the bigger and more physical Shean Donovan.
Smooth move, as the money they saved on that contract swap helped them avoid arbitration with Chris Kelly, Ray Emery and Christoph Schubert, with the latter two agreeing to three-year deals.
FACING A BAZOOKA
The reality of the situation, however, is that the Senators were never in danger of being too seriously injured this off-season, especially with Emery, Schubert and Kelly possessing no bolting options.
If they were under fire, it was only from a pellet gun.
Next summer, the Senators face a bazooka.
Unless they find a reprieve during the cooler months, five players will be UFAs come next July 1, including stars Dany Heatley, Wade Redden and Mike Fisher. Donovan will also be free to fly as will Kelly, who the Senators should have tied up to a multiyear deal when they were extending the contracts of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov.
If that's not enough, the Oilers have proven there now lurks the possibility RFA Jason Spezza will be presented an outlandish offer sheet, to which Ottawa either matches or bids so long to its high-scoring centre.
It used to be RFAs were off-limits to other teams, but that was before the Oilers determined they couldn't lure UFAs.
Now, if Edmonton dangled a seven-year $50-million (all terms US) contract at Thomas Vanek and a five-year, $21.25-million offer at Dustin Penner, what might be waved in front of Spezza's nose?
Come to think of it, what would the Leafs give to steal such a prolific player from their archrivals -- especially with this likely being Mats Sundin's last year in Toronto?
Spezza, who is living in the Toronto condo he owns, would be a huge coup for the Leafs.
"There's only one team that has made offer sheets, but yes, a guy like Jason is certainly a candidate for that," said Senators GM Bryan Murray.
Meanwhile, it's not as if Spezza is salivating at the thought of a cash bonanza. He admits to being slightly amused at the big money dished out by owners who claim to be losing at least the cufflinks off their shirts, and, while not saying so, has to be wondering like everybody else: If 13-goal scorer Scott Gomez is averaging $7.357 million for the next seven years, what would a two-time 50-goal scorer like Heatley be worth on the open market?
Talk about a $64-million (over six years?) question.
"It seems to me," Spezza said yesterday from Hogtown, "that the owners are doing all right."
A 24-year-old who will make $5 million from the Senators this season, Spezza says he has chatted with Heatley this summer and that both of them -- while realizing the financial windfalls that await -- are more concerned with consistently performing at a high level for a number of years.
Spezza also says he has not dwelled on the offer sheets presented Vanek and Penner, or the chance he could be getting one at some point during the dog days of 2008.
"I kinda let the agents deal with (contract) stuff ... I'm not too worried about it," said Spezza. "I imagine that (the Senators and his representation) will talk throughout the year to try and get something going and use the last year of the contract to bring the average down (for cap purposes).
"If the numbers work out, I'm sure an extension can be fit into the cards."
Spezza's desire is to remain in the capital for a lengthy period, but points out the decision won't necessarily be his.
"As of right now, I'm really happy in Ottawa," said Spezza. "I like the way the organization is going, I like the guys, I love the city. But you have to leave your options open, too. You can't sell yourself short.
"I definitely want to try and stay in Ottawa. It's a matter of putting together something structurally and the team making a commitment.
"It's up to the team."