Andrej's summertime blues

Andrej Meszaros is going to be counted on to play important minutes for the Senators this season....

Andrej Meszaros is going to be counted on to play important minutes for the Senators this season. (Sun Media/Blair Gable)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Andrej Meszaros is at home in Slovakia preparing for the start of Senators training next month.

But he's not sure which side of the Atlantic Ocean he's going to be on come mid-September.

While the 22-year-old blueliner fully intends to sign a deal with Ottawa and report for duty on Sept. 16 for medicals at Scotiabank Place, the two sides still have a bridge to gap in contract negotiations to ensure that Meszaros is going to be at training camp.

Though the collective bargaining agreement doesn't stop a player from going to camp without a contract, there are insurance issues -- but that's not a decision Meszaros would have to make until just before players are required to report next month.

"Right now, asking me if he's going to be in training camp, the only answer I can give is I'm not sure. But we've still got a lot of time and we're fully focused on trying to get a deal done," said Meszaros' agent, Gerry Johansson.

"Our No. 1 priority is to get a deal done with the Senators. That's where Andrej wants to be. I'd say at this point, we're optimistic that we'll be able to get a deal done, but I can't tell you that we're close. We've still got work to do to make this happen."

Summer-long talks between Meszaros' camp and Senators GM Bryan Murray to get a deal done have been fruitless despite hours of discussions.

It's believed the Senators have offered a contract in the range of $3.5 million (all terms US) a season on a long-term deal, but Meszaros is likely looking at something closer to the $4.5 million per year that Shea Weber received on a three-year deal with the Predators this summer.

OFFENCE NEEDED

Meszaros, who had nine goals and 27 assists while appearing in all 82 games last season, is going to be counted on to play important minutes this season -- especially on offence with the departure of Wade Redden to the Rangers.

The Senators already have $48 million of their $56.3-million salary cap committed for the 2008-09 season. Murray would like resolve the Meszaros contract so the club knows where it stands financially going into the season and then decide whether to add a forward.

Since Meszaros didn't have the right to file for arbitration, the only resolution is to get a contract done through negotiations.

Both sides are willing to stand their ground for now, but the reality is Meszaros needs to be in camp and the Senators need him there.

Meszaros has a standing offer of $4 million per season from a club in the Russian league and the possibility of getting a Group II free-agent offer still exists, but Johannson said the ideal situation is to get a contract done with the Senators.

"We're just going to keep talking and hopefully we'll be able to get something done," said Johansson. "I'm still optimistic that can happen. We've had good discussions. There's still three weeks before training camp (begins). That's a lot of time to get a contract in place."


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