Senators won't be buyers this summer

In a conference call with season-ticket holders, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk (above) and general...

In a conference call with season-ticket holders, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk (above) and general manager Bryan Murray described how the team will rebuild. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:19 PM ET

There will be no quick fix for the Senators.

Ottawa hockey fans shouldn't expect the Senators to break the bank in this summer's free-agent market.

Speaking on a one-hour conference call with season-ticket holders Wednesday, owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray both said they're "disappointed" with the way this season has gone, but the Senators' rebuild will centre around young players.

"What's important here: The one thing everybody in the organization realizes is that Ottawa fans are some of the most sophisticated in the league. They know their hockey," said Melnyk.

"They watch their hockey, they know every move and you're not going to pull any wool over their eyes. Some franchises will try to patch things together so they can kind of maybe get into the playoffs or at least give some hope.

"That's not what we're all about. We're about building a team and a foundation that is going to be competitive year after year after year and not just to patch things together so that we can sell tickets.

"We're in to win. That's what you're seeing in front of you and you're going to watch this unfold before your very eyes."

After dealing six players before Monday's trade deadline, the Senators now have 12 picks in the draft -- including five in the first two rounds.

GM Bryan Murray said the club is going to build through the draft and he doesn't expect the Senators will be a big buyer when free agency starts on July 1. It is expected they'll try to get a forward to play alongside Jason Spezza.

"This year, we might sign one free agent, but I would hope no more than that and let our young guys take charge and be important," said Murray, who added he will start contract talks with goalie Craig Anderson in the next few weeks.

Murray expects their top draft choice to play next year.

"This year, the draft is deeper than it has been in a number of years," said Murray. "I don't think there's a Sidney Crosby or (Alex) Ovechkin, but there are some very top- end players in the top seven or eight picks.

"There's very good depth in the draft, and we really feel having picks in the first two rounds of the draft are going to accommodate our needs going forward."

Melnyk started the call by telling fans he's optimistic about the future.

"I had tremendous optimism at the beginning of the year and I really felt we had a contender that would compete every night, that we would get into the playoffs and go deep," said Melnyk.

"Things just didn't happen that way. You have to make tough choices and tough decisions on what you do next.

"Out of all this, there is a silver lining: Now, we're as optimistic as ever because we have an opportunity through some great trades that we've done to pick up tremendous talent that's going to benefit us, not just 3-4-5 years from now, but next year, the following year and the year after."

Senators president Cyril Leeder said the club is trying to hold the line on ticket prices, with an average increase of 1.6%. Increases will range from 0-to-2.2%

"It's a modest increase and the first increase we've had in three years," said Leeder.

This summer, the Senators will release a heritage third jersey, which will include the old barberpoles to celebrate the team's 20th season, and the club is continuing its search for a new scoreboard.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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