Putting a cap on Alfie's deal

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

The NHL is close to settling the dispute over Daniel Alfredsson's salary cap hit.

After the Senators captain signed a four-year, $21.6-million deal last week, the NHL and its Players' Association were trying to decide how to deal with the $2.1-million bonus included in the contract to buy out the last three years of Alfredsson's previous deal that included option years.

While the league needs union approval, sources say they've come up with the following formula: The cap hit in the first three seasons of the deal is expected to include the bonus, for a total of $5.75 million per year. In the final year of the contract (2012-13), the cap hit will drop to $4.875 million, when Alfredsson's salary will be $1 million and the bonus paid off.

Alfredsson was one of the few NHLers left with a contract that included option years, so league officials weren't sure how to deal with the cap hit. The NHLPA isn't expected to dispute the solution, which will allow the league to approve Alfredsson's contract.

FOUND THEIR WAY ON ROAD

The Senators are calling it a step in the right direction. After arriving home in the wee hours of yesterday morning from Tampa with five of a possible eight points on their road trip, the Senators were buoyed by the fact they ended a four-game losing streak and started to play the kind of hockey expected from coach Craig Hartsburg. "We got better as the games went on (during the trip) and we're going in the right direction," said Hartsburg. "Now, we just need that to continue. There's a lot of areas where we can improve and keep getting better. We just need to keep the same mindset and be a pretty solid team." Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Bolts Saturday, the Senators are hoping better play will translate into victories on a consistent basis. "We have to be satisfied a little bit," said centre Jason Spezza. "We've played properly these last three games and we've played pretty well as a group and we did some good things. We're starting to come together a little bit as a team. Guys are finding their roles and where everybody is slotted in the lineup. We're definitely leaving this trip on a positive note. Everybody is looking forward to getting home and playing some games." Next up at Scotiabank Place are the Capitals tomorrow and Flyers Thursday. Expect G Alex Auld to make his sixth straight against the Caps. "He was consistent," said Hartsburg of Auld's performance on the road trip.

MOTIVATED VERMETTE

It didn't take harsh words from GM Bryan Murray for RW Antoine Vermette to realize he was struggling. Murray called out Vermette and C Mike Fisher to start scoring before the loss to the Lightning. Vermette responded with two points and the speedy winger was flying. As for Murray's "encouragement," Vermette said: "That's not something I wasn't aware of ... Obviously I want to contribute, especially when you're not winning as much as you want," said Vermette. "You want to help on a personal basis offensively, but if you go out there thinking you need to produce points, that's not usually the way you get that done." Fisher remains scoreless in 10 games, but did have chances Saturday.

NIKULIN RUSSIAN OUT?

The Baby Sens scratched prospect F Alexander Nikulin Saturday and expect him to return to Russia today. The Senators' fourth-round pick in 2004 (122th overall) told the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin that if he wasn't traded by yesterday, he was heading out today. "Kind of forced not to (play him). He's kind of forced our issue," Binghamton coach Cory Clouston told the paper. "He said he's played his last games here in Binghamton. I'm disappointed in that, because I still think he's got a promising future. Where the communication, and where the problem started, I don't know. But can it be rectified or fixed? Doesn't sound like it. But that's not my call." Assistant GM Tim Murray said the club can't find anyone to take Nikulin because of his threat. The Senators expect Nikulin to head to the Continental Hockey League.


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