Regardless of how the Ottawa Senators’ first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins ultimately turns out, the team has some pressing concerns that need to be addressed, all of which relate to payroll.
It’s no surprise the Senators are in a salary cap crunch, given the fact they have 10 NHL-caliber forwards, five defensemen and two goaltenders under contract for next season. There are a lot of teams in the NHL that would kill to have the Senators’ cap woes.
Assuming the cap stays about the same – initial reports are that it should go up by about $800,000 to $57.6 million next season – the Senators will have a cushion somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5 million going into the summer.
All of which looks great, but you have to remember that’s predicated on the assumption ownership will be willing to continue to eat Jonathan Cheechoo’s $3 million salary by keeping him in the minors next season. And when you consider they have to sign or replace restricted free agents Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester and Chris Campoli – and a huge unrestricted free agent in Anton Volchenkov – that cap space will evaporate in a hurry.
The most important of the signings is Volchenkov, given that the others are restricted and have far fewer options than the Senators’ best defensive and shot-blocking defenseman. There is little doubt Volchenkov will be looking for a substantial raise on his $2.5 million cap hit (he actually made $3.2 million in real money this past season) and a long-term deal that will include a no-movement clause and make him the Senators’ top-paid defenseman.