Sens, Smolinski talking new deal

By BRUCE GARRIOCH — Ottawa Sun

Discussions have reached the critical stage between the Senators and unrestricted free-agent centre Bryan Smolinski.

Senators GM John Muckler said yesterday the club has held contract talks with Smolinski’s Los Angeles-based agent, Pat Brisson, and the two sides have agreed to meet at the draft festivities in Nashville.

Muckler arrives in the Music City today and has agreed to have a face-to-face session with Brisson sometime this week. So the Senators should know by Saturday whether they need to make a trade for help down the middle.

“We’ve had discussions with (Brisson),” said Muckler.

“In fact, we talked with him again today, but what we’ve agreed to do is to get together in Nashville and by the weekend, we should know where we stand with Bryan Smolinski.”

Meanwhile, winger Martin Havlat’s L.A.-based agent, Allan Walsh, told the Sun yesterday he and partner David Schatia plan to meet with Muckler and director of legal affairs Peter Chiarelli to discuss a new deal.

The Havlat talks have the potential to be the most interesting ones of the summer. Walsh also figures to bring up the name of goaltender Martin Prusek, another restricted free agent he represents. Prusek made $425,000 (all terms US) last season.

Though defenceman Wade Redden will be an RFA, he has rights to arbitration, which means his status could be settled quickly.

Havlat, who made $660,000 last season, totalled 24 goals and 59 points in 67 games.

“What we’re going to do is have a first meeting in Nashville to see where everybody is at,” said Walsh. “We want to see where they’re coming from and I’m sure they want to hear where we’re coming from on this.

“The priority for both sides is to get a deal done. Our discussions with Ottawa have always been very amicable. Martin Havlat wants to play in Ottawa. He loves the city and he’s enjoyed the success.

“We just want to get the right deal.”

HAVLAT UP FOR A RAISE

Still, it’s not known what kind of raise Havlat will seek. Under league rules, the Senators must present a qualifying offer of $726,000 to Havlat by July 1 to retain his free agency rights. That’s a mere formality, though.

It’s believed the Senators aren’t expecting the negotiation process with Havlat to be a simple one. That’s because the market for players coming into their second contracts hasn’t produced consistent results.

It’s possible a big-market team like the Detroit Red Wings could make a Group II offer to Havlat. But that hasn’t happened since 1997, when Carolina made a pitch for centre Sergei Fedorov. The Wings were forced to match the offer, which included a $26-million bonus for getting past the first playoff round.

The Senators are also less of a target now with deep-pocketed owner Eugene Melnyk coming on board.

As for Redden, there haven’t been any discussions between his agent, Don Meehan, and the Senators. But they’re expected to start this week. They will also discuss UFA winger Magnus Arvedson, another Meehan client.

“We’d like to keep all of our players,” said Muckler. “We know what our salary budget is going to be for players next year and we want to keep this team together.”