Senators should target Konopka

Zenon Konopka is a free agent the Senators should look to add as a third- or fourth-line centre.

Zenon Konopka is a free agent the Senators should look to add as a third- or fourth-line centre.

TIM BAINES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 PM ET

OTTAWA - Before Bryan Murray decides to go on a Canada Day spending spree, heíd better pull out a shortlist of recent Senators free-agent signings and wash down a couple of Tylenols with water.

Alex Kovalev. Sergei Gonchar.

Ouch! Painful to Eugene Melnykís wallet. And painful to Senatorsí fans, who may have to take the patient approach rather than putting a Band-aid on a team that likely needs a couple of years to recharge and rebuild.

There certainly doesnít appear to be a quick free-agent fix. Mediocrity will be made into millionaires as some NHL owners seek a missing piece of the puzzle and others look to get to the $48-million salary-cap basement level come July 1.

The Senators have $20 million or so to spare under the $64-million cap, but Melnyk wonít be looking to give a big chunk of that out to a guy like Brad Richards, who some team will give $50-55 million or so for seven or eight years.

Nor are the Senators likely to crack the piggybank for a stud defenceman like Kevin Bieksa or a proven veteran goalie like Dwayne Roloson.

While the Senators need scoring support everywhere, there is a guy available, a former Ottawa 67ís star, who would provide a big boost. Zenon Konopka. The guy can fight. He can hit. He can win faceoffs. Heís a leader. Heís a good guy on and off the ice.

Heíd be a third- or fourth-line centre here. It seems like a no-brainer, assuming the price is right.

Long-ago Senator Brooks Laich (dealt away for Peter Bondra) would be a good fit. But if heís fetching four or five years at $3.5 million per season, itís too pricey.

Does Ottawa take a chance on injury-prone Tim Connolly? Or maybe a once-good Simon Gagne? Or inconsistent Michael Ryder? Maybe Ville Leino or Tomas Kopecky?

I love the deal for Nikita Filatov, one of those unfulfilled potential guys, who could fit into a top-six forward spot. Donít expect much from the Senators on July 1. Just sit back and watch other NHL teams get stupid. Itís good entertainment anyway.


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