Bryan Murray can’t wait to get his new-look Ottawa Senators into training camp.
He remains hopeful Andrej Meszaros will be among the group that arrives at Scotiabank Place on Sept. 16, when the Senators take their first step toward the 2008-09 season.
A new contract for the restricted free-agent defenceman is the only piece of unfinished business left over from a busy summer for the Senators general manager, whose team has undergone a serious revamp since it suffered a first-round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs last April at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The two sides have exchanged several proposals through the summer months but Murray admitted today “we’re some distance apart.”
|Jesse Winchester (left) and Shean Donovan take a breather during an informal Senators on-ice workout Thursday at the Bell Sensplex. The team reports to Scotiabank Place for training camp on Sept. 16. |
“We’ve made more than a fair offer,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know where we are exactly, but it doesn’t sound like we’re very close.”
There were conversations over the weekend but Murray said "it could be that (negotiations) won't happen (again) until next week." He added there is no "Plan B" at the moment to fill for Meszaros if the stalemate drags into the regular season.
With training camp set to open in less than three weeks, Murray believes it would greatly benefit both sides to have a deal in place by then. Especially with a new head coach, Craig Hartsburg, on hand to steer the team in a new direction.
“I hope (Meszaros) is in camp,” said Murray. “We’ve talked enough back and forth that we both know the importance of a young player being at camp.… I want every player here. What we’ve tried to do over the summer is change the makeup of our room and the character of our team.
“With a new coaching staff and a little different approach (compared) to where we were at last summer, I think it’s really important that everybody be at camp.”
Over the summer months, the Senators parted ways with veteran defenceman Wade Redden, goaltender Ray Emery and enforcer Brian McGrattan while bringing hard-nosed blueliner Jason Smith, agitating forward Jarkko Ruutu and goaltender Alex Auld
into the fold.
Three of the club’s top young talents – forward Nick Foligno
, centre Cody Bass and defenceman Brian Lee – finished last season in Ottawa and are expected to be in the mix when the Senators open their season Oct. 4 in Stockholm against the Penguins. Murray also feels forward Jesse Winchester
, signed as a college free agent late last season, has a chance to be an impact player.
The Meszaros situation aside, Murray likes what he sees in the season ahead.
“I think we have a good hockey team. I believe we have a good hockey team,” he said. “We’ve moved a couple of people aside that were regarded as more talented. In turn, I think we’ve brought into our room the type of person and player that, on the ice in critical game situations, will really perform for us.
“I know, in talking to a couple of our players, they really are looking forward to getting it going again after the short playoff run last year. I’m really excited about having a look and seeing (the team).”