But the pickings are slim.
The Senators took a big shot in the gut when it was learned yesterday that centre Mike Fisher will be out for an extended period with an MCL injury to his left knee.
Sources say Muckler, who decided earlier this month to pass up on a trip to the world junior hockey championships in Sweden, is busy working the phones trying frantically to find some help with Fisher and top centre Jason Spezza both injured.
But a league executive noted there are about "10 teams" in the same boat as the Senators -- looking for help up the middle.
The options are limited:
- The Phoenix Coyotes are listening to offers for Mike Comrie, Dave Scatchard and Mike Ricci, along with wingers Shane Doan and Ladislav Nagy. Comrie, with a $3-million salary, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Scatchard would help, but has two years left at $2.1 million. It should be noted Muckler has a close relationship with Phoenix GM Michael Barnett and coach Wayne Gretzky.
- The Canucks are still looking to move centre Brendan Morrison and his $3.2-million contract. But, a source told the Sun yesterday, Muckler and Vancouver GM David Nonis haven't spoken regarding a Morrison trade in months. The asking price for Morrison in October was either defenceman Anton Volchenkov or winger Antoine Vermette.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning are willing to move winger Vaclav Prospal, a natural centre. He makes $1.9 million, but the word is the Bolts have had several discussions with the Chicago Blackhawks and are close to finding a fit to get a deal done.
- Free-agent centre Jason Allison, who finished last season with the Maple Leafs had been staying in shape by skating in Toronto, has all but officially retired. He is at Mont Tremblant skiing with his family until next week and is then heading to Southern California to get involved in some business interests.
Muckler isn't dealing from a position of strength, but his hands aren't exactly tied either. At approximately $42 million in salary commmitments, the Senators are about $2 million under the cap.
With the schedule hitting the halfway mark next week, that can translate into acquiring a player with a $4-million salary even if the club doesn't give up somebody on the roster.
Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Columbus and Calgary have all made inquiries for centres this season.
Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond will get expanded roles against the Rangers tonight.
"The mental part is fine. I think it's the actual player on the ice being able to do the job that will now be given to him," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.
"Chris Kelly will be playing on our top line and Dean McAmmond is being moved into a regular rotation, these people have a chance. I always look as an opportunity for another guy to play.
"But we know full well when you lose (Spezza) and (Fisher), they're quality players in this league and they're hard to come by.
"We've been tested pretty good," said Murray. "Everybody has to do their job. If there are mistakes made, they'll be magnified more than ever."