“Any idiot” can spend to the cap, says Sens owner

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Yesterday Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told the Ottawa Citizen he expected the club to break even, if not turn a profit, for the first time in a long time.

The key to the club’s financial turnaround was two-fold.

First, it cut salary.

Second, it won anyway.

Sort of like the Calgary Flames, except totally the opposite.

As it stands, the Senators are poised to make the playoffs with one of the lowest payrolls in the NHL.

“You can spend to the cap — it’s very easy. Any idiot can do that,” he said.

Melnyk would know. The Senators were essentially a cap team in 2009-10 when they lost in the first round, and payroll was similar last season when they missed the playoffs.

“The really elite teams are the ones that can (put in) elite management and elite coaching, that can put a competitive team on the ice year-after-year, and not have to buy that team,” he said.

However, the Sens aren’t an elite team yet, argues the Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan.

Ask yourself this question. Which team would you feel more comfortable chasing Stanley with this spring – the $64-million Pittsburgh Penguins, the $64-million Vancouver Canucks or the $51-million Senators?

Hey, the Senators could surprise some people — again — and do a bit of playoff damage. If they do, good luck wiping the smile off Melnyk’s face all summer long.

Realistically, it’s unspeakably tough to play giant-slayer four rounds in a row.

Scanlan references the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s who made the MLB playoffs with a rock-bottom payroll but never really threatened to win the World Series.

So, will Melnyk open his wallet when the time is right to put Ottawa over the top? Will he make the financial commitment to keep homegrown talent when free agency looms? Those are the questions Sens fans could be asking soon. Because you can cut salary — it’s very easy. Any idiot can do that.