Stars up for farm work

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

BINGHAMTON -- The NHL Players' Association is not angry that six Senators have moved to the American Hockey League during the lockout.

While union officials might not like it if goaltender Dominik Hasek signs a minor-league deal with the Senators' AHL affiliate -- and that's not likely going to happen -- several players have the thumbs up to play.

Before Jason Spezza, Brian Pothier, Antoine Vermette, Anton Volchenkov, Josh Langfeld and Chris Kelly joined Binghamton, they made sure it was okay with the union.

"What you want to do is just make sure that you're doing the right thing and that you're covered for insurance," said Langfeld, a Senators hopeful who was signed to a one-way, $450,000 (all terms US) contract in the summer. "You just want to make sure that everything is okay and they have no problem with it.

"It's a little different in my case than it would be with a guy like Dominik Hasek. Let's face it, he's a little bigger fish in the pond that I am. I would be a guppy in this thing. He's more like a sturgeon."

With 700 players locked out, the players wanted to make sure they didn't ruffle any feathers by playing for the Baby Sens.

Spezza, Vermette and Volchenkov didn't have much choice. All three are under contract.

"Volchenkov did resist a little bit because he wanted to play in Russia, but after we spoke with him, he was fine with it," said Senators GM John Muckler.

"We just felt this was the best place for him. He learned a lot of English last year and he would have lost all of that if he had decided to play in Russia this year."

Spezza has welcomed the move. He did insist that if any of the Binghamton games are moved to the Corel Centre or the Air Canada Centre that he won't play out of respect for the rest of the players who are locked out.

"I spoke with the union and they actually changed some rules to allow us to play as well," said Spezza. "I just wanted to make sure everything was okay and I wanted to make sure the union knew I supported their position 100%.

'I WANTED TO PLAY'

"I just came down here because I wanted to play. I wanted to play in the AHL. But if it was going to be a problem, I could have played in Europe."

Spezza admitted he could have played in either Germany or Sweden.

Pothier, Langfeld and Kelly, all signed minor-league deals with the Baby Sens that will be voided once the lockout has ended. The union wasn't going to block them because none of them are established NHLers and they need playing time.

Langfeld had opportunities in Berlin and Inglestad in the German Elite League.

"I was just driving back from Minnesota to Detroit when I got the call from John Muckler saying that Binghamton was interested in having me back," said Langfeld. "I felt that it was a good move for me."

Hasek hasn't decided what he'll do once his conditioning stint ends.

He hasn't talked to the union about playing in Binghamton, but said: "I don't think they'll have any problem with me (practising here) right now."

Muckler said players are free to sign where they want.

"This is a lockout which means NHL players can sign here, they can sign in Europe or they can sign whatever league they'd like," said Muckler. "These players have been freed up to go play elsewhere. That's what the rules state."

TWISTED AROUND: Volchenkov left practice only three minutes into the first session yesterday after he reinjured an ankle he hurt during the World Cup.

Muckler said it wasn't serious and doesn't expect Volchenkov to be out for an extended period.


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