Eugene Melnyk is putting his money where his mouth is ... again.
This time, it had better pay dividends.
The Senators owner said for next season, he's willing to once again spend to the salary cap -- which is expected to remain in the $56.7-million (all terms US) range -- to get the club back into the playoffs and on the road to being a Stanley Cup contender again.
While the Senators already have more than $48 million committed to salaries for nextnext season, GM Bryan Murray, who is heading into the final year of his contract, would like to sign a top-six forward and bring in another defenceman.
"To compete these days, you are pretty much committed to spending to the cap," said Melnyk, who met with the players in the dressing room following a team photo at Scotiabank Place yesterday. "(But) you can only do that for so long and you need a winning team to be able to support that.
"We're comfortable that we're going to have a very good team next year and a playoff contender. I'm committed to spending to the cap and I'm willing to assist in any way I can to ensure that we play the best we can and give Ottawa fans something to really cheer about and look forward to."
Murray is not surprised Melnyk is willing to spend.
"He has always suggested he would do as much as he could possibly do to help us be successful," said Murray.
"That's a real positive. When you are talking to other teams and you can take on a bit of money, it gives you some opportunity at least to make a deal that might be beneficial."
For now, Melnyk is taking a big hit -- financially and as an NHL owner who wants to win.
"The playoffs are the most lucrative part of any hockey organization," said Melnyk. "We'll take a substantial hit. (But) more important than the financial hit is the fact that we're going to be sitting around for six months. There's only so many barbecues you can have. It's going to hit us all in a month.
"When (playoff teams are) into the second and third round, we're all going to be sitting there saying, 'We could have been there.' Well, we could have. This is a 100-plus-point type of team and it's going to give the players a chance to reflect and, frankly, at one point, they're going to be angry and then they're going to get tough.
"They're going to be ready when it comes to the new season. This is a lesson for all of us not to take it for granted that we're going to be in the playoffs ever year and punch a ticket. It's not."
KARLSSON TOUCHES DOWN
Swedish D Erik Karlsson, the Senators' first-round pick in the 2008 NHL draft, arrived in town last night. He will undergo a physical today, have an elbow injury checked out and will attend the club's final two games -- here tonight and Saturday in Toronto. "We haven't talked contract and we're not allowed to," said Murray. "His contract (in Sweden expires) June 30." Murray said if Karlsson, 18, who played for the Frolunda Indians this season, signs with the Senators, he won't return to Sweden next season -- even if he doesn't make Ottawa's roster. "If he wants to come, we'll get him (signed)," said Murray. "There's never been that consideration (that he'll go back to Sweden). That's not the deal we'll make, probably."
MLAKAR'S FUTURE IN THE AIR
While coach Cory Clouston received a two-year deal, the future of Senators president Roy Mlakar is cloudy. Mlakar helped build the Senators into a powerhouse on and off the ice in his 13 years with the club and was voted CEO of the year by the Ottawa Business Journal in 2008. But his contract expires July 1 and Melnyk refused to address Mlakar's future when asked by Sun Media. "Roy and I have agreed that we would talk after the season and see where we go from there," said Melnyk. Mlakar will hold a press conference Monday to wrap up the season with Murray and coach Clouston.