Bryan Murray officially has more money in the pot to build a competitive Ottawa Senators roster for the coming season.
With the July 1 free agency deadline drawing closer, the National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association announced today that the salary cap for 2008-09 will rise to $56.7 million. That’s an increase of $6.4 million over last season.
“We heard all along (that it was going to be) approximately 56,” said Murray. “I’m not surprised. I don’t know how many teams will be able to go to that, but that’s the number we kept hearing for the latter part of the year.”
The Senators figure to be among the group that will make use of the extra cap room. Earlier this month, when asked about the impending rise in the cap, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said he was prepared to authorize Murray to spend to the limit “dollar for dollar.”
Murray further confirmed that today.
“The only thing about Mr. Melnyk, he has certainly indicated that we will do everything we possibly can to be a good team (and) a successful team,” he said. “If it requires the dollars to go to the cap, we have that ability.”
A little more than $1 million must be put aside, Murray said, for “injuries and call-ups during the year.” He’d also like to preserve some cash for use in potential trades during the season.
Much of what Murray will be able to do on the free-agent market figures to depend on the status of Group II restricted free agents Antoine Vermette and Andrej Meszaros, both of whom have been presented with qualifying offers by the Senators.
“If we sign Meszaros and Vermette, then we would have the need for one forward and one defenceman and a backup goalie,” said Murray.
There will also be an opportunity for some of the players on the ice at Senators development camp this week to help fill the void. Centre Cody Bass, forward Nick Foligno
and defenceman Brian Lee – all of whom finished last season in the Senators lineup – are at the top of that list.
“(Goaltender) Brian Elliott is going to get a good look, I would say, looking at him here (in camp),” said Murray. “There’s a couple of other guys that look fairly impressive out there that we’ll have to look at as pros, whether it’s in the NHL or AHL.
“But we’ll certainly look at them and hope that they’re guys that, in the future, will play in the NHL but may have to start in the AHL.”