Muckler: Get used to exodus of talent

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Money might not buy you love, but it certainly bought Martin Havlat his ticket to Chicago.

With the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement, Havlat is just one of many young stars that Senators fans are going to watch playing elsewhere after he was officially dealt to the 'Hawks yesterday.

Senators GM John Muckler told reporters that fans had better get used to the fact that under the CBA there are going to moves where the club doesn't get players of equal value in return.

"This is the new collective bargaining agreement and I guess we're being punished because we have too many strong players," said Muckler. "When you have a cap system, you are going to have movement."

Muckler said he had to deal Havlat before he left on his own.

"I watched Zdeno Chara walk away as an unrestricted free agent and I wasn't going to go through that again," said Muckler. "Martin Havlat was in the driver's seat as an unrestricted free agent next season and he had indicated he was going to play this season and then he was going to walk away.

"I'm really pleased that we were able to get a guy like (Tom) Preissing. He's an offensive defenceman who can move the puck. We're going to have a different defence and I think if you look at the (defencemen) of the Hurricanes, they were pretty mobile."

After the Senators were eliminated from the playoffs in the second round by the Sabres, Muckler decided he had to make changes. Blame was laid at the feet of management for the team's post-season shortcomings. Now, Muckler is putting it squarely on the players.

The Senators will look different:

* Chara, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1 is gone, but not forgotten. Preissing and free-agent signing Joe Corvo from the Los Angeles Kings have been added to help move the puck on the blue line.

* Havlat was only traded to the 'Hawks after a deal to send him to the Sharks for goalie Vesa Toskala. fell apart.

* Centre Tyler Arnason, who was brought in at the trade deadline, was told he was no longer needed and offered the chance to come back at a lower asking price. He said no thanks (much to the joy of a lot Ottawa fans) and signed a deal with the Avalanche.

* Goalie Dominik Hasek, who never recovered from an adductor muscle injury that kept him out of the final 12 weeks of the season, has been told his services are no longer required. The club signed free-agent goalie Martin Gerber from the Hurricanes and it's believed Gerber agreed to a contract only after he was assured that Hasek would not be returning.

Ottawa's biggest changes are on the blue line. Preissing is guaranteed a spot on the team next season and he's another puck-moving defenceman who is going to give the club a right-handed shot.

Sure, it's difficult to compare Preissing, a Colorado College grad who was plus-17 last season, to Havlat, but that's the way it is going to be. There is going to be a lot of pressure on Preissing to perform even if he's only making $600,000 US a year.

"I didn't really see this coming," Preissing yesterday. "I was glad when I heard it was a team like Ottawa because I believe they suit my style and this will just be a continuation of what I did last year in San Jose. I want to stay involved in the play and help out offensively."

This move will allow the club to keep its restricted free agents -- Peter Schaefer, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Antoine Vermette -- who have all filed for arbitration and they're going to get raises as a result.

But if fans think the Senators are going to use whatever money they saved to go out and sign free-agent centre Michael Peca, they can forget it.

Muckler said the club is bringing in prospect Alexei Kaigorodov as soon as the IIHF agreement is signed with Russia and the additions will stop there.

"We believe we'll still be a strong team and I'm confident that we've got balance through all four lines," said Muckler. "We've got our key guys like (Daniel) Alfredsson, (Jason) Spezza, (Dany) Heatley, (Mike) Fisher) and Gerber. We believe that (coach) Bryan (Murray) is going to be able to play all four lines."


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