As Nichols mentioned on The 6th Sens, Saturday should have marked a celebration for Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk: Three buyouts finally came off the books, totaling just under $2.43M in cap space (and real money, too). Neither of Jonathan Cheechoo or Ray Emery are being paid by the Senators anymore, and the team has also finished paying off the previous contract for Daniel Alfredsson (Nichols has more on that curious contract set up on his site, so read it if you'd like details).
Now, $2.43M isn't chump change; only three forwards on Ottawa's roster made more than that this season. It's a decent amount that could be used to net a good depth forward or an upgrade on the blue line, and, in either case, a player with experience could be had. It's basically found money for Sens GM Bryan Murray, assuming Melnyk is interested in spending as much next season as he has this one. So where should it be spent?
Despite their Cinderella season, Ottawa's still got plenty of needs among the forwards and defencemen. Up front, the only two true top-six wingers are Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson, so they'll need an upgrade there. A top-six winger will likely cost more than the $2.43M freed up (unless we find someone like Teddy Purcell or P.A. Parenteau to catch lightning in a can), but that money can be used in part for that position.
On the blue line, Ottawa looked too green this season--and if Filip Kuba walks in the off-season, they'll look even more vulnerable (and Sergei Gonchar isn't getting any younger). Even if Kuba is re-signed, the Sens would probably like to sign someone who's an upgrade over Matt Gilroy or Matt Carkner on the team's bottom pairing, unless they're supremely confident in the blue-line prospects (guys like Mark Borowiecki, Patrick Wiercioch, and Eric Gryba are at the top of that list).
Looking at the current roster, though, that $2.43M (and then some) will probably be spent on one guy in particular: Erik Karlsson. Karlsson's entry-level deal expires after this season, and his play this season has earned him a big payday. The extensions will take him into Mike Green territory in terms of his salary, and will likely be a mid-term deal worth over $5M or more per year. (Green's second pro contract was $21M over four years.) So that money might already be spoken for.
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