Sens owner talks Spezza's future

Owner Eugene Melnyk is looking forward to what he believes will be a bright future for the...

Owner Eugene Melnyk is looking forward to what he believes will be a bright future for the Senators. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

Next season starts next week for the Senators.

Owner Eugene Melnyk told QMI Agency in an end-of-season interview Friday that he’ll sit down with GM Bryan Murray to discuss changes after the club’s first-round playoff exit in six games.

While Melnyk gave both Murray and coach Cory Clouston a vote of confidence in getting the Senators to the post-season under “difficult circumstances,” the boss does want improvements.

“I think we have to tinker a little bit,” Melnyk said from his Barbados home. “I have a meeting with Bryan next week about how we’re going to accomplish that with things that are going to be difficult to get done under the (salary) cap.”

During the wide-ranging, 15-minute discussion, Melnyk said he isn’t sure what the future holds for No. 1 centre Jason Spezza, who had a poor playoffs and whose no-movement clause kicks in on July 1.

Asked if the club was going to spend another summer trying to trade a star — after the Dany Heatley saga of 2009 — Melnyk put the ball in Murray’s court. Spezza has five years left on a contract carrying a cap hit of $7 million per season.

“That’s going to be Bryan’s decision. There’s a little bit of misconception about how hands-on I am. I keep myself knowledgeable,” said Melnyk. “But at the end of the day, the people that I hire make the decisions because they’re accountable ... and it’s their responsibility.

“Do we talk about it? Do I want to understand what is the rationale behind it? Absolutely. That to me is important to know the logic behind any transaction. It’s their decision to make. If they came to me, ‘We want to do this or that,’ then I’ll ask all the hard questions. But ... it’s their decision and I don’t think I’ve ever overruled a decision.”

Melnyk confirmed he’ll spend to the salary cap, which is expected to rise slightly from $56.7 million this season. But that doesn’t mean the Senators, who already have $49 million committed to 17 players, will be able to keep everybody they want — especially looming unrestricted free agent Anton Volchenkov.

The blueliner rejected a five-year, $20-million deal offered before the Olympics. It’s believed Volchenkov is seeking $4.5-$5 million per season — a contract the Senators likely can’t afford.

“We’ll continue to talk with him, but under the cap system it’s going to be difficult to sign him,” said Melnyk. “The same goes with (Matt) Cullen. It’s all one big puzzle. I’m sure Bryan, with his experience and his scouting staff, will be able to sort it out.”

Melnyk was disappointed in the first-round playoff exit, but pointed to the loss of Filip Kuba (back), Milan Michalek (knee) and Alex Kovalev (knee) as big factors.

He said the club needs to make it to Round 2 to show a profit, but he’s confident the Senators will be competitive again next season.

“The first couple of days (after the exit) your stomach is turning because of the disappointment,” said Melnyk. “It’s a long year and this is what you wait for. You come so close, yet so far. It’s obviously disappointing ... It all comes down to who can have the most men standing going into the playoffs.”


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