Senators players to Murray: Feel free to go on a shopping spree

In many respects, Ottawa Senators players are just like the team’s fans.

With general manager Bryan Murray, the team’s coaching staff and scouts all hanging out together in Times Square this weekend, the players can’t help but wonder what – or shall we say, who? — is on Murray’s shopping list.

NEW YORK – In many respects, Ottawa Senators players are just like the team’s fans.

With general manager Bryan Murray, the team’s coaching staff and scouts all hanging out together in Times Square this weekend, the players can’t help but wonder what – or shall we say, who? — is on Murray’s shopping list.

Buoyed by the return of captain Daniel Alfredsson, they wonder whether Murray can sway owner Eugene Melnyk to open his wallet a little bit wider to improve the roster.

It’s generally assumed the Senators internal player budget is in the $50 million range, well below the NHL’s 2013-14 salary cap of $63 million.

“Well, I already did my part to get Alfie back,” joked defenceman Chris Phillips, when asked if he provided Murray with a gift list before he left Ottawa. “I really have no part in that, but it’s always an interesting time of year to see what happens.”

Adding to the drama is the fact that teams with salary cap problems could be forced to trade quality players who have big money remaining on their existing deals.

Defenceman Marc Methot, who never strays far from social media updates, is well aware that countless marquee names will become available as unrestricted free agents on July 5.

“Anything that makes our team deeper, I’m all for it…as long as it doesn’t include me going somewhere else,” he said, with a laugh.

The players who could be be on the move are frequently changing, considering that top draft picks – perhaps even early first round picks Sunday – could be in play. As Saturday morning gave way to Saturday afternoon and talks picked up in the suites of Manhattan hotels, more options were presented. There will be even more on the table on Sunday, leading up to the start of the 3 pm draft.

“There are a number of players available,” Murray said Saturday, in a press briefing at the club’s hotel. “I have had a couple of managers suggest some names to me…there are a few that look like they might be moving if the right deal is available.”

Some of the questions that are resulting in the most buzz:

–Where will Vinny Lecavalier end up? When Tampa Bay bought out the remainder of Lecavalier’s contract, it immediately led to speculation that Lecavalier could end up going back home to Montreal. But would the NHL’s first overall selection want to face the intense media pressure? It is generally assumed that Lecavalier wants to stay in the Eastern Conference.

Once upon a time, the Senators were on the verge of acquiring Lecavalier – a blockbuster deal which would have sent Radek Bonk to Tampa – but it is difficult to see him coming to Ottawa now. The Senators are solid at centre, with Jason Spezza, Kyle Turris, Zack Smith, Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Jim O’Brien currently at the top of the depth chart, but Murray isn’t discounting anything.

“I think Vincent Lecavalier would be a good fit for most teams in the league at the right dollars,” Murray said. “But I haven’t put any feelers out about him, however.”

–There have been rumblings that the Senators have an interest in Edmonton Oilers winger Alex Hemsky. Hemsky, who turns 30 in August, has one year and $5 million remaining on his contract. On the surface, that would appear to be too high of a price tag for a player who has had long bouts of inconsistency throughout his career. If the Oilers demand is a top four defenceman, the Senators aren’t about to give them one, either.

–While the Senators also continue to look at the possibilities of trading for Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan – it’s generally conceded that the price tag includes an existing NHL player, a top prospect and/or a high draft pick – there are other teams in the mix that are driving up Ryan’s value.

–As far as non-Senators developments are concerned, there’s considerable buzz about what will happen with Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang. Letang, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, has rejected an eight-year, $54 million extension from the Penguins. While Letang’s agent, Kent Hughes, continues to talk to Penguins general manager Ray Shero, there’s a distinct possibility Letang gets traded. A Toronto-based report Saturday suggested the Maple Leafs could be interested.

It’s all making for great noise in the city where it’s all about noise.

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