Radek-al change for Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:13 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Radek Bonk was with the Senators for 10 years.

He didn't last 10 minutes with the Los Angeles Kings.

Only moments after being dealt by Ottawa to the Kings for a third-round selection in yesterday's NHL entry draft, the 28-year-old Bonk was sent packing to the Montreal Canadiens.

The veteran centre was accompanied by backup goalie Cristobal Huet to Montreal in exchange for goalie Mathieu Garon and a draft pick.

From the Senators' perspective, where Bonk eventually landed didn't matter because GM John Muckler was just happy to shed his $3.5-million (all terms US) salary. The move also confirmed the Senators weren't going to offer Bonk a qualifying offer July 1, which meant he would become an unrestricted free agent.

Muckler said there was a sense of urgency to move Bonk because if the club didn't get the third-round pick from the Kings, they weren't likely to get anything for the veteran forward.

Ottawa used the pick to select winger Shawn Weller, a U.S. high school player.

"If you're making $3.5 million, you've got to be a special player," said Muckler. "I thought Radek Bonk, in the two years I was with him, was a really good player two years ago. I thought last year he was inconsistent and we're going in a different direction.

"We didn't talk to many teams. We just felt that we wanted to make some changes and we feel that centre is an area where we're strong. We've got Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher is coming on. Bryan Smolinski and Todd White are there. We're going to try Antoine Vermette in the middle. It's not like we're weak in that area."

Habs GM Bob Gainey likes Bonk's 6-foot-4 frame and his defensive abilities. Bonk will be used as a third-line centre behind Saku Koivu and Mike Ribiero, and Gainey maintained he will figure out the money issue.

"Bonk is a good two-way player," said Gainey. "We were able to get a couple of assets and make our team better. We have no problem qualifying him at $3.5 million."

The move means Spezza -- who had to fight for ice time under former coach Jacques Martin -- can expect to play more under bench boss Bryan Murray. Muckler made that clear during his session with the media.

It also means Spezza will have an opportunity to play with high-scoring winger Marian Hossa.

"A guy like Jason Spezza has to be on the top two lines,'' Muckler said. ''This opens a spot for Spezza to play a more prominent role and that's another reason we made this move."

Florida GM Mike Keenan confirmed he received a call from Muckler about Bonk because of his relationship with Martin, the new Panthers coach, but passed on him.

"I don't think Jacques was at the table at the time," said Keenan.

Muckler said he might not be done dealing. He will not comment on reports the club is close to a deal with goaltender Dominik Hasek, and wouldn't say whether goalie Patrick Lalime will be dealt or receive a $2.85-million qualifying offer later this week.

Sources say the Senators have held talks with Colorado, Los Angeles, St. Louis and the Rangers about Lalime.

Muckler huddled with Avs GM Pierre Lacroix on three separate occasions yesterday.


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