REGINA -- Some of the Senators' training camp hopefuls are making life difficult for GM Bryan Murray.
That's not necessarily a bad thing.
With less than two weeks until the regular season opens, the Senators arrived for practice yesterday at the Bell Sensplex with four fewer bodies in camp as forwards Josh Hennessy and Martin St. Pierre and defenceman Derek Smith were assigned to Binghamton, and winger Mike Hoffman was returned to Drummondville of the QMJHL.
With 28 players remaining in camp, it's paring down the roster by five or six more that's going to be tough.
Forwards Peter Regin and Zack Smith, along with blueliners Erik Karlsson and Matt Carkner are all making their case to stay in Ottawa.
And if the Senators -- who face the Lightning here tonight -- think some of those players deserve to make the team, Murray might decide to move a player or two to lessen the team's hit under the $56.7-million (all terms US) salary cap.
At practice yesterday, the Senators' fourth line consisted of Jarkko Ruutu ($1.3 million), Chris Kelly ($2.125 million) and Chris Neil ($2 million).
That's not to say those three are candidates to be moved, but usually a team's fourth-liners don't have a combined salary of more than $5 million.
"What some of these guys have done is made (Murray's) job a little more difficult and they've made him work a little bit more," Senators coach Cory Clouston said yesterday. "It's not as simple as just making a junior team, where you're cut and you just fill your roster out.
"There's dollars to be included and contracts. Those are good problems to have when you have tough decisions to make and you have to get creative with contracts and creative with potential trades. It gives you more options and that's a positive for the organization that these young guys have made us look at different scenarios and have tried to make us piece together a different team than a month ago."
It would appear the 19-year-old Karlsson is all but a lock to make the team. Carkner, who made the trip, has brought an element of toughness the club badly wants on the blue line, something that certainly won't hurt his chances.
That means the club is going to have to decide where blueliners Alex Picard ($800,000) and Christoph Schubert ($883,000), who was skating as a forward yesterday, fit on the depth chart. Murray tried unsuccessfully to deal both players in the off-season.
Karlsson's cap hit would $850,000, while Carkner's would be $500,000.
Up front, Smith likely hasn't done enough to stick, but Regin has been impressive. Both players' cap hits would come in around $600,000.
Regin looked comfortable skating on line with Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno in Saturday's 6-1 win over the Canadiens, pitching in with a goal and two assists. The combination could start the season together.
"This whole camp is a test for me. It's nothing new. It's exciting for me that I have the chance to make the team," said Regin, who has a two-way contract. "It's a tough team to crack because of the numbers here, but I'll do my best and hopefully Iíll be here.
"I have to prove that I'm a two-way player that they can trust as a defensive player. I don't rush anything and I play a pretty solid two-way game. That's what I want to prove."