Success comes at high price

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Is this the Senators last chance?

That's the question being asked around Ottawa with the club getting ready to open the season tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

The Senators have been a powerhouse, but with winger Dany Heatley, centre Chris Kelly and defenceman Wade Redden headed for unrestricted free agency July 1, and centre Jason Spezza set to hit the restricted market, people wonder whether GM Bryan Murray will be able to keep this team together.

"With the cap, there could be changes along the way and we may not be able to afford guys," Murray says. "That's why you have to make the most of what is happening now.

"We may not be able to afford guys in the future. For all we know, the cap could go up a few million dollars and we could keep everyone.

"You don't want to put too much emphasis on it, but we know we have a good team and we know we have a good chance. You know you're not going to get too many good chances."

While centre Mike Fisher saved the club one headache by signing a five-year, $21-million extension during training camp, talks with Heatley were progressing to try to get a deal done before the season and the Senators might want to see what kind of year Redden has before making a final decision.

"We obviously want to keep everybody," said Murray. "We know that's going to be tough to do, but we're going to continue to work at it."

The fun doesn't stop with Heatley, Redden, Kelly and Spezza. The club also has to sign Antoine Vermette, Patrick Eaves, Andrej Meszaros and tough guy Brian McGrattan.

KEEP FOLD TOGETHER

One reason the Senators are confident they'll be able to do well this season is the fact they were able to keep virtually everybody in the fold. Only defenceman Tom Preissing and winger Mike Comrie were lost to unrestricted free agency.

"When you get that close to the finals you want to have that same group of guys and go back at it again," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips.

But Phillips laughs at suggestions the club won't get another shot at a title after this season. He remembers hearing a similar cry when the Senators lost Zdeno Chara to free agency last year.

"Everyone said that (it was Ottawa's last chance) two years ago and then we went to the finals the year after," said Phillips. "I guess you can say what you want and you can think about what might happen, but we have no idea about the factors that are going to be involved.

"No matter what happens, you hope they'll be able to keep a majority of the guys. It's always going to be the case that you're going to lose one, two or three guys every year."

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson likes the make up of the team and is confident of another successful season.

"We feel we have a good team and we'll see how we play, but hopefully we can stay healthy and have another great year," he said.


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