Expect Spezza in fold

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

For a guy who just shelled out $45 million US, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wore a wide smile for last night's "grip and grin" photo opportunity with winger Dany Heatley before the club's home opener.

Hey, why not?

Scotiabank Place is going to be sold out all season, the Senators are contenders again and the 2007 Eastern Conference championship banner was raised before last night's game against the Maple Leafs.

On top of that, all Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray heard over the summer was how they weren't going to be able to keep this team together.Yet before the puck dropped on the season Wednesday night in Toronto, the Senators had signed Heatley and centre Mike Fisher, who agreed to a five-year, $21-million extension a couple of weeks ago.

NEED MORE MONEY

"The credit has to go to Mr. Melnyk," said Murray. "He's always told me to do what I need to do."

To keep the entire team together, however, Melnyk and Murray are going to have dole out even more cash.

Less than an hour after Heatley signed his contract Wednesday, Murray was asked how he's going to deal with centre Jason Spezza, who can become a restricted free agent July 1, and defenceman Wade Redden, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

While many believe Redden, making $6.5 million, isn't going to be brought back unless he's willing to take a pay cut, Spezza, 24, is going to be an interesting case and that's why Murray had already had talks with Spezza's agent, Rick Curran, about a new deal.

Until Spezza knew what Heatley was doing, he wasn't divulging much about his future.

"I wanted to see what was going to happen with Dany," said Spezza. "He's a big part of the team, we've had some success together and, obviously, I'm happy they were able to get something done.

"Now, hopefully, we'll be able to work something out, but I'm no hurry. I wouldn't mind letting things go along a little bit here."

Former Senators GM John Muckler gave Spezza a two-year, $9-million deal a couple of summers ago, partially because the club was led to believe the Maple Leafs might be coming with a Group II offer that they'd be forced to match.

And after the way the Oilers gave offer sheets to Buffalo's Tomas Vanek and Anaheim's Dustin Penner, it's probably a safe bet that a team would make Spezza an offer.

Let's face it, Spezza is a Toronto boy and the Leafs would love to have him.

But Melnyk has shown in the last couple of weeks that he's not going to let anybody outbid him and he's determined to have a contender for a long time.

"We are going to commit all the resources we can to having a championship team every year," said Melnyk. "It's one thing to have a team that's a one-year wonder and then collapses the following year. That's not something we want do here in Ottawa.

"I know for sure the fans don't want that and, certainly, the players don't want that.

"This just reiterates my commitment to Ottawa, the fans and the whole organization, but also to the players because I'm going to give them all the resources they need."

Of course, everybody is going to have to fit in under the salary cap and there's always the chance it could go down from the $50.3-million threshold next year.

LOOKING FOR BIG DEAL

A league executive told me he believes Spezza's camp will be seeking the same six-year, $45-million deal that Heatley just signed.

Can the Senators afford to do it?

Spezza is leaving the business up to Curran.

"I pay him a lot of money," said Spezza with a giggle. "I sure hope he can take care of that part of the business."

Heatley was clear where he stands on the issue.

"We've had a lot of success," said Heatley. "He's a good friend -- on and off the ice -- and I'd love to continue to play with him for many years."

The way it's gone so far, nobody should surprised if Melnyk and Murray's next photo opportunity is to announce Spezza's signing.


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