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?
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.
Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.
Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.
Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)
Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.
But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.
They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.
Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.
Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.
Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?
So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.