The clock is ticking ever closer to the National Hockey League`s much-anticipated free agent open season.
When it strikes high noon on Canada Day, a frenzy of high spending figures to break loose almost immediately. Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray has his lists of wants and needs close at hand but knows the price of doing business will be steep – at least if the lucrative contract signed by forward Ryan Malone with the Tampa Bay Lightning on the weekend is any indicator.
“It appears it’s already started,” Murray said Monday of the inflated free-agent market. “It looks like it’s to the point now where you better have lots of money available. It’s incredible what we’re doing in our business but that’s the way it is.”
Murray admitted “we don’t have a lot” of money available to add free agents to his roster, adding “we have a chance to get some good players, I believe, but we certainly don’t have money to throw around.”
Given that situation, Murray said it might be a stretch to sign a highly coveted free agent such as defenceman Brian Campbell, the former Ottawa 67's star.
“If the numbers are what I hear they are, it would be almost impossible,” he said. “If you look at some of the in-house contracts that a couple of other teams have done, you know right now the market is really being pushed.
“There’s a limited number of top players available in free agency. There are a number of players available but to get the top guys, you’re certainly going to be pushed (financially). We know full well from talking to our own players that the marketplace has again really shifted. Teams are going to have so many good players and then they’re going to have to fill with role guys.
“That’s just a fact of life, the way the business appears to be developing.”
The Senators GM’s wish list hasn’t changed in the past week or so.
“I’d like to get a defenceman with some skill to make offensive plays,” he said. “We definitely need a backup goaltender, unless we decide Brian Elliott is the guy. I’d prefer not to have him on our team this year – at the first part (of it) in particular, I’d like to see him go down to (Binghamton of the American Hockey League) and play a lot of games.
“So we’re certainly talking about that area and there’s no question we need a couple of forwards that can play roles for us.”
Murray indicated he doubts any of the Senators’ current unrestricted free agents, including forward Cory Stillman and defenceman Mike Commodore, will sign on to stay in Ottawa before tomorrow’s free-agent deadline. He also doesn’t expect to have deals in place by then, either, with restricted free agents Antoine Vermette and Andrej Meszaros, but both have been presented with qualifying offers to keep them off the open market for the time being.
“I’ve talked to (Vermette and Meszaros), I’ve made proposals to both of their agents,” said Murray. “We’ll continue to talk, I hope, I think, but there’s nothing different there than there was last week.”