Bonus hangs over Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Getting rid of Dany Heatley by today would be a bonus for the Senators.

While the Wild, Oilers, Kings and Rangers remain interested in landing the disgruntled winger, a league source told Sun Media yesterday that teams are waiting to see if they can get a better deal from Ottawa today with Heatley due a $4-million (all terms US) bonus tomorrow.

Though Senators GM Bryan Murray said he would be less likely to deal Heatley if owner Eugene Melnyk has to cough up the bonus, he backed off on those claims on the weekend. Murray indicated, however, a team dealing for Heatley after the bonus is paid might have to take back another player.

The Senators could ask a team to take on one of defencemen Jason Smith ($2.5 million), Alex Picard ($850,000) or Christoph Schubert ($900,000). A league executive confirmed that all three players are available, as is backup goaltender Alex Auld ($1 million).

At one point, the Kings told the Senators they were out of the discussions, but they remain interested. The Rangers, Oilers and Wild all want the Senators to lower their asking price before making a deal.

But the Senators don't appear ready to blink with the bonus looming.

"We haven't been successful at all in getting fair return," Senators assistant GM Tim Murray told Team 1200. "We know we're not going to get a Dany Heatley back by any means or are we going to get a 50-goal scorer back. Media outlets talk about us asking for too much ... that is completely not true.

"We haven't been close to a deal. We haven't been offered close to fair value or what we consider a good deal."

Tim Murray confirmed a Sun Media report that the Senators have given agents J.P. Barry and Stacey McAlpine permission to help broker a deal.

"Without being critical, they haven't been much help," said Murray.

Working on Neil

W Chris Neil's agent, Todd Reynolds, confirmed yesterday that he had contract discussions with Bryan Murray on the weekend and the sides made progress. There will be more discussions today to try to get Neil signed before he becomes an unrestricted free agent tomorrow. "We're going in the right direction, which is good, because it's better than having (the talks) go the other way," said Reynolds. Asked if the sides were close to a contract, Reynolds said: "No, but we're going to talk again (today)." Neil turned down a four-year, $6.8-million offer last week, but has made it clear he wants to stay in Ottawa. The Senators, meanwhile, haven't had any formal discussions with pending UFA C Mike Comrie and will let D Brendan Bell test the free-agent market after choosing not to give him a qualifying offer. Binghamton G Jeff Glass wasn't qualified, either. G Brian Elliott did receive a qualifying offer, which means he'll become an RFA tomorrow.

Exhibition Bolt

The Senators will play a pre-season game against the Lightning in Regina on Sept. 21st at the Brandt Centre -- home of the WHL's Regina Pats.


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