Let the posturing begin.
That was the message out of Ottawa on Monday when Senators owner Eugene Melnyk addressed the media in his year-end conference call.
As the conversation turned to Erik Karlsson — Ottawa’s high-scoring, Norris-nominated defenseman — Melnyk made it clear he wasn’t going to break the bank for the impending RFA.
“From our perspective everyone has to be reasonable,” he said. “All we can offer is opportunity, and that is to be part of a great organization with a shot. If you want to be part of that, our doors are open.
“We can pay you, but it has to be within a reasonable budget.”
Ottawa’s idea of “reasonable” might differ from Karlsson’s. It’s fair to think that, coming off a 78-point campaign and a Norris nomination, the 21-year-old Swede could be looking for money comparable to Drew Doughty ($7 million annually) or Tyler Myers ($5.5 million). Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen figures Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray will need to “open the vault to re-sign Karlsson,” possibly to the tune of $6 million per season.
But is Ottawa willing to do that? The team operated at nearly $13 million under the cap this season and, in addition to Karlsson, has a number of free agents to deal with: RFAs Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Jim O’Brien, Kaspars Daugavins and UFAs Jesse Winchester, Zenon Konopka, Filip Kuba, Matt Gilroy and Matt Carkner.
Melnyk told reporters the same thing Murray said in his exit interview — he’s not worried about negotiations and figures they’ll get a deal with Karlsson done.
Which begs the question: Does Karlsson think the same?