by Todd Anderson
Ottawa Senators general manager John Muckler announced today that restricted free agent Tyler Arnason has not been awarded a qualifying offer by the team. That will make the veteran centre an unrestricted free agent beginning on July 1.
"The one player we're not qualifying is Arnason," Muckler told reporters during a conference call. "I still think he's going to play in the National Hockey League and probably get a contract someplace else. Our assessment is that we could do better in the free-agency market or the trade market. We looked at our budget and we didn't want to have that $1.2 million (contract) handicapping what we wanted to do, or try to do. So we elected to not renew his contract."
Muckler didn't discount the idea of bringing back Arnason in the future.
"That's a possibility if he wants to come back. We had asked him if he wanted to take a reduction in pay. He refused to do that. So we thought it would be better for him, and better for ourselves, that he didn't return. We'll have conversations about him coming back. If he'd like to come back, he'll probably come back. If not, there's nothing we can do about that."
Receiving qualifying offers were Ray Emery, Martin Havlat, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, Peter Schaefer, Jason Spezza, Vaclav Varada and Antoine Vermette. Forward Brian McGrattan, who was scheduled to enter restricted free agency as well, has already been re-signed to a two-year extension.
During the conference call Monday afternoon, Muckler was also asked if he's looking into obtaining a new goaltender.
"We're still exploring all our options. We certainly have to make up our mind by July 1 whether we're going into the unrestricted free agents. Another option is a trade.
"Another option is to sign Dominik Hasek. I'm not saying we wouldn't sign Dominik Hasek even if we do those other two options I mentioned before. I've been thinking that maybe we end up with Hasek and we end up (Ray) Emery. And maybe we don't. Maybe we end up with three."
Much of the focus of this off-season has been on re-signing defencemen Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara to new contracts. With the deadline for teams to sign their prospective free agents coming on July 1, Muckler was asked how talks are going with the agents of the players.
"I'll tell you better at the end of the week. We've had conversations with both agents. They were good conversations. We think we're progressing and we'll continue to work at it."