Melnyk bucks NHL trend

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Eugene Melnyk calls it the "Stanley Cup discount."

The Senators don't have a championship, but the club's owner is convinced they're going to get an NHL title and that was the biggest part of his pitch to keep free agents Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher in the fold.

And if defenceman Wade Redden is willing to take less money to be part of the program as well, then he'll be welcomed back next season with open arms by GM Bryan Murray and Melnyk.

"The hometown discount is very important, but what I'm basically offering, and what this organization is offering, is even more than that, it's something I call the 'Stanley Cup discount,' " said Melnyk.

"It's not like we're not going to spend to the cap. All we want to be able to do is put together a winning team year after year. I said that at the beginning of the season. We're here to stay. You build through a nucleus of core players and then you build around them."

When Spezza, Heatley and Fisher signed their multi-year, multi-millon-dollar deals, it might be difficult to believe, but they all left money on the table.

Had they waited to go to free agency, they likely would have gotten more and Redden knows he could do the same.

Melnyk said he is happy the core is signed.

"I'm absolutely pleased and so delighted," said Melnyk. "These are young players that are great in the dressing room. They're obvious leaders and we can build around them for years to come."

BASIC TRAINING: Before battling for gold in Ottawa next December at the world junior championship, Team Canada will get a lesson in teamwork from the military. Hockey Canada announced yesterday that the 2009 world junior club will prepare for the championship scheduled for Scotiabank Place by training at CFB Petawawa. "When I look at Team Canada, especially the junior team, they do a tremendous job representing our country," said Hockey Canada president and CEO at Bob Nicholson at a news conference at Scotiabank Place. "But the military does it day to day. When we're looking at preparing our team, I think there's a lot of team building that we can do right in Petawawa and there'll be some benefits back to the military." Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's chief of the defence staff, said he's thrilled by the decision. "We build teams. That's our profession. Team Canada is going to build a team and we believe in setting missions, goals and objectives and then attaining those goals," said Hillier. "I think it's a very natural fit between us and Team Canada. Representing Canada with pride is something we take very seriously and it's the same for those hockey players." While at the base, the players will have the chance to participate in team-building exercises that will prepare them for difficult challenge of winning gold. The organization committee announced that 270,000 (68%) of the 397,000 tickets for the event have been sold.

MORE TEAMS NORTH: Melnyk said he would support the NHL's return to Winnipeg and Quebec City. "I'm a big fan of the province of Manitoba. My business (Biovail) was started there and I know there are some really great fans there," said Melnyk. "The problem is: What do you do? Do you build a 15,000-seat stadium and fill it, or do you building a 21,000-seat stadium that you have 10,000 people (attending). I think Winnipeg could support a team and it was a shame to see Quebec City have to move. I think there's more room (for teams in Canada)." Melnyk said the Canadian teams are a big reason that NHL revenues have grown. "A lot of the (revenues) are being made up in Canada," said Melnyk. "Look at what we've done here in Ottawa. We are selling out and the support has been second to none."


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