April 27, 2011 4:20 pm

Lombardi, Murray discuss impending free agents

Question: What will you look to do with the free agents?

LOMBARDI: “Well, there’s no real urgency in terms of, `We’ve got to get it done now.’ July 1 is still a ways away, but as a practical matter, the ones are the two unrestricted, Handzus and Ponikarovsky. The other guys, you’ve got your offer-sheet possibilities, but I think the most important thing right now is to evaluate where we are, what we have to get better at, where our holes are, and now start placing them in, start trying to project where some kids could be, whether it’s Schenn or Loktionov or some of these guys in the minors who can help us. Is there another Clifford there, that has a chance? Then we’ll get to the guys, and then there’s the (salary) number. The cap is going up, so obviously we’re in pretty good shape there. Let’s not kid ourselves. Part of this is, do we go short-term with Doughty for now, and keep it down, or try to go long-term? It’s similar to the issue with Jack Johnson. A lot of what you do is going to revolve around whether that is short-term or long-term. That will determine a lot about your space.”

Question: Have they given you any indication of what the salary cap will be?

LOMBARDI: “I believe it’s going to be around 63 million. That’s generally what we’re told. I’m not sure. I don’t want to be an idiot. We don’t know this for sure, but the preliminary analysis we’re getting is anywhere from 62.50 to 63 (million). That could be wrong, but that’s kind of what…they’re not telling you that, but they’re giving you an idea of what they think it’s going to be. So that’s not written in stone.”

Question: Looking at free agents, you will probably discuss this with Dean, but would you want Handzus back?

MURRAY: “Yeah. Yeah.”

Question: And Ponikarovsky?

MURRAY: “Yeah. Big body. A 6-(foot-)5 guy. I need him to score more, though. I relayed that to him, in the last talk I had with him on the morning of Game 6 here, in the morning skate, that this is the reason why (he wasn’t playing). It wasn’t because of poor play. I mean, he’s trying, he cares. He’s going to the net. He’s using his size most of the time. I just need more of what you’ve shown for seven years in your resume, a 20-goal scorer. What happened? He can do some good things. Handzus, he’s a real linchpin kind of a guy. He’s a leader. He’s a great example. He’s a professional in all senses of the word, getting ready, doing the work that needs to be done to be a player. The tough part for him (was that) I had to elevate him to a situation in the playoffs, because of circumstances. Somebody might look at it and say, `Jeez, I don’t know,’ but we know. He’s an important guy.”

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