Heatley could temper Sens' plans

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

OTTAWA -- What happens with winger Dany Heatley could determine which rout GM Bryan Murray takes when he enters into the free-agent fray today.

While the Senators have committed close to $51 million (all terms US) in salaries next season, Murray would like to be a player on the free-agent market and sources say he'll likely make a pitch for Flames centre Mike Cammalleri when the bidding begins.

The Senators will likely call to see what kind of cash Detroit's Marian Hossa, Chicago's Martin Havlat and Minnesota's Marian Gaborik are expecting, but it's not realistic to think Murray can be a frontrunner for those kinds of players unless he deals Heatley and doesn't take back a lot in salary.

A player like Cammalleri might make more sense.

After finishing with 39 goals and 43 assists for 82 points in 81 games with the Flames last season, Cammalleri, 27, would like to move to the Eastern Conference as he is a Toronto-area boy.

The indications are he might be willing to accept less money to play in a city where he wants to be.

The Maple Leafs are going to make a pitch to Cammalleri, who made $3.6 million last season. The belief is he'll get a long-term deal in the range of $5 million per season.

Not only will the Senators and Leafs make a push for Cammalleri, the Canucks, Wild, Oilers, Habs, Rangers, Devils, Panthers and Sharks are all looking to improve their forward ranks as well.

If the Senators fail in a bid to sign Cammalleri, they could look at the second tier of forwards available. The club doesn't have any interest in Calgary's Todd Bertuzzi or Edmonton's Ales Kotalik, but it could look at players like Nashville's Steve Sullivan and Philadelphia's Mike Knuble.

Another player the Senators have long coveted is Carolina winger Erik Cole. He has decided to test the market and might be a nice fit with the Senators.

The Senators already have eight blueliners under contract, plus swingman Christoph Schubert. If Murray does make a pitch for a blueliner, it will likely be for Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin, who made $1.65 million in last season.

So long to Neil?

Senators RW Chris Neil is holding out hope he can reach a last-minute deal before free agency begins today. But Neil, who has played his entire NHL career in Ottawa, said he isn't afraid of shopping himself around. "I'm getting excited now. I was hoping that it wouldn't go this far. If that's the case, then bring it on, let's go," said Neil. "I take things in stride. Whatever happens, I play hard every night. I will step up and do whatever I have to do win. I will sleep well (last night). I wouldn't if I didn't think any teams were going to call, but I'm pretty sure teams are going to call and I'm quite confident that it's going to be more than one." Neil turned down a four-year, $6.8-million offer from the Senators. The sides held discussions again yesterday. Sources say the Maple Leafs and Sharks will both make calls to Neil and could be armed with more than $2 million per season. "I'd love to stay in Ottawa and that has been my goal from the start," said Neil. "I've been trying to negotiate something for awhile. It's not frustrating, but if I have to test free agency it means I probably won't be in Ottawa. (Murray) has his plate full with everything that has gone on (in Ottawa) and I have a lot of respect for him. It's a tough decision on both parts. It just hasn't worked out."

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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