Cash flow woes for Sens

Senators GM Bryan Murray still has to sign Antoine Vermette and Andrej Meszaros. SUN MEDIA/Darren...

Senators GM Bryan Murray still has to sign Antoine Vermette and Andrej Meszaros. SUN MEDIA/Darren Calabrese

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

It might sound silly to say someone is running out of money when they have millions of dollars to spend, but that's the case if you are the Senators.

After GM Bryan Murray signed veteran defenceman Jason Smith to a two-year, $5.2-million (all terms US) contract Tuesday, the Senators have spent $46.9 million of their $56.7-million salary cap allotment.

That means Ottawa only has $9.8 million left to sign winger Antoine Vermette and defenceman Andrej Meszaros while it searches for a second-line winger and a puck-moving defenceman.

MONEY FOR DEADLINE

The Senators usually like to keep $1 million for injuries or a possible move at the trade deadline, so Murray is in a bit of a pickle as he awaits Vermette's arbitration case.

A league executive predicted yesterday that based on Vermette's 24 goals and 29 assists last season, he'll probably be awarded around $3.5 million in arbitration. The executive said the $3.75-million average salary R.J. Umberger, who had 13 goals and 37 assists last season, recently signed for with Columbus is a good comparison.

Vermette is in Mexico at teammate Chris Kelly's wedding and couldn't be reached for comment.

What often happens before arbitration cases are heard is the sides find common ground and a deal is struck.

League sources say Meszaros, 22, is asking for a long-term deal from the Senators worth up to $4 million per season and that's where talks have stalled.

The threat of a team giving Meszaros a Group II offer sheet as a restricted free agent also lingers.

With so much committed in salaries for next year, the Senators are vulnerable if somebody gives Meszaros an offer sheet, but Murray is confident he'll find a solution.

If Vermette and Meszaros get a combined $7 million in salary, it's not going to leave the Senators much wiggle room.

Teams have asked about Vermette's availability, but Murray has little interest in moving him.

LOOKING AT BELL

Ottawa, meanwhile, has done its homework on former 67's captain Brendan Bell and the Senators are considered the leading contender to sign him to a two-way deal.

Given the opportunity, a league executive predicts that Bell could be the puck-moving blueliner the Senators yearn.

Bell would likely start the season in the AHL with Binghamton, but there's a strong belief that he wouldn't be there long.

It's believed Carolina has also called to see if the Senators have any interest in Frantisek Kaberle, who is scheduled to make $2.2 million next season. The Hurricanes would want a forward in return.

The Senators held brief discussions with unrestricted free-agent centre Jason Williams, who had 13 goals and 23 assists for 36 points in 43 games with the Blackhawks last season.


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