OTTAWA - The Senators were interested in reuniting the Michalek brothers this weekend. That is, until they found out what it wouldn’t cost them.
Before he was traded to Phoenix for prospects and a pick, defenceman Zbynek Michalek was the topic of discussion between Senators GM Bryan Murray and Pittsburgh Penguins counterpart Ray Shero.
Murray would have liked nothing more than to put Zbynek on the same team as his brother Milan — the way Eric and Jordan Staal found themselves on the same side following a Penguins-Carolina Hurricanes trade Friday.
“He told me what the contract was and what he was going to do, and I said, ‘That’s great, but unless you take an equal contract back, I can’t do it,’ ” Murray told the Sun Saturday. “So I was never really in it.”
Zbynek makes a bit less than Milan, the Senators’ top goal-scoring winger. Zbynek has a deal that will pay him $4 million a season for the next three years.
Murray, you can guess, might have allowed his arm to be twisted if Shero would have wanted to bring Sergei Gonchar back to Pittsburgh.
“We have to find a veteran defenceman before the summer is over, but that’s it,” Murray said of strategy for the blueline going forward. “There’s no particular name. I’m going to look at the free-agent list on July 1, and if there’s something that appeals to us, we’ll make the call.”
The July 1 date might also start the ball rolling again on talks for Rick Nash, the Columbus sniper who still very much appeals to the Senators.
“I think it’s alive for a lot of teams,” Murray said when asked if he was still in the running for Nash. “From what I understand, they’re going to wait until July 1, and then they think the market is going to up a little bit after Zach Parise is signed, and then they’ll have more suitors and a bigger deal (and) they might get better assets.
Murray hedged when asked if he’s made Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson his best offer.
“They talked to me about young players they like in the organization, and I said when you’re ready to talk serious and maybe make a deal, we’ll talk,” said Murray. “I’m not throwing a whole bunch of names out there and letting them pick what they want to pick, by any means. We’ll see when the time comes what happens. They’ve told me they’ll definitely get back to me, to see if there’s interest in our part.”
HEAD GAMES: Senators third-round pick Jarrod Maidens can’t say for sure if he’ll be able to participate in the team’s development camp next week, or even attend rookie camp in September, but he does feel he’s “close” to recovering from concussion symptoms that have had him sidelined since November. “With the head, it’s tough, they can’t give you a timeline,” said Maidens. “They just say you’re your best doctor. Every head is different. All I can do is hope and pray I’ll get back soon. I’m optimistic and confident I will get back to who I am.”
FEEL-GOOD STORY: Ottawa media at the draft kept an eye on section 101, where Francois Brassard sat with his girlfriend and parents waiting to be selected. Brassard’s dad Marc, Le Droit’s sports editor, is a friend we all felt anxious for as he waited out the process. When Francois was selected by the Senators in the sixth round, there were numerous sighs of relief. How happy was Marc? According to Francois (in French), he smiled so wide that he “showed his teeth under his moustache, which I’ve never seen.”
There’s good reason why Francois, who bears a resemblance to former Senator Antoine Vermette, was called a “battler” by Senators scout Trent Mann. Since playing the equivalent of house-league hockey in bantam four years ago, he has bounced back from being cut a couple times to find his way to 15th on Central Scouting’s list of North American goalies heading into the draft. Chris Driedger, selected by the Senators in the third round, was 13th.
“When somebody like Patrick Roy picks you on his team, you have to assume there’s something there,” said Mann, referring to the Remparts coach and Hall of Fame goalie. “He’s going to start next year and get an opportunity to prove what people have been wrong about. He’s been passed over and passed over, and now he’s getting his chance, We’ll give him a chance.”
THE LITTLE BOYLE: Wonder how Timothy Boyle felt watching big brother Brian get pummelled by Matt Carkner in the playoffs? Apparently, he’s not holding a grudge. “He was happy,” Pierre Dorion, the Senators director of player personnel, said when asked about Boyle’s reaction to being drafted by the Senators in the fourth round. “I said (to him), ‘I hope now we’ve changed you to a Senators fan,’ and I don’t want to misquote him, but he said something like, ‘I know we had a tough series, New York and Ottawa, but if it was one team that was going to pick me, I’m all right with Ottawa.’ ”
THE LITTLE THINGS: The Senators were the only team we saw that had a nameplate ready for the back of each draftee’s jersey. How did they know who they were going to wind up with? Well, they didn’t, but Dorion had a pretty good idea. He estimated the team had between 50-60 nameplates made. “I know certain guys won’t be there when we pick,” said Dorion. “We just prepare for it.” And make the players they take feel extra special. “I was very proud of having my name on the jersey,” said Brassard. “I was kind of shocked, though.”