'He'll be with us'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

TORONTO -- John Muckler doesn't plan to start shopping for a new goaltender anytime soon.

Even though goalie Dominik Hasek has informed Muckler he won't suit up for the Senators next season if the NHL's labour impasse isn't settled by September, the Senators GM told the Sun yesterday he isn't the least bit concerned.

"He wants to play badly," said Muckler, who was en route to Binghamton, N.Y., after attending the NHL's board of governors meeting in New York Tuesday with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and president Roy Mlakar.

"I think he's just frustrated by the situation right now. I really don't take what he said seriously because I don't believe him. I believe he wants to play and he'll be with us next year. I'm not the least bit worried. All we can hope is this lockout will be over. The message at the board meeting was there will be a 2005-06 season. That means we're going to play."

NOT LOOKING

Asked if there was any reason to start scouring the free-agent market to see what goalies might become available next summer, Muckler said: "None whatsoever."

Muckler said he's had several conversations with the 39-year-old Hasek since the lockout started last summer. The two met recently to discuss the possibility of Hasek playing in the East Coast league this year.

But Hasek has visa problems which won't allow him to play in the U.S. and is planning a return to the Czech Republic. Muckler can understand Hasek's frustration, with the season now officially cancelled.

"We sat down and we talked about a number of things," said Muckler. "He mentioned that if there wasn't an agreement by September, he probably wouldn't play next year, but it wasn't much more than that.

"We moved on to other things. I know Dominik Hasek and I know he wants to play. He's told me and he's told everybody else how badly he wants to play. That's why I'm convinced he'll be playing for us next year.

"I haven't given up hope on him playing somewhere this year. I'm still looking for him. I don't know if that's going to happen. We're waiting to see."

Muckler said he knows why Hasek -- a father of two children -- has concerns.

'FANTASTIC SHAPE'

"He's in fantastic shape and he's ready to go," said Muckler. "I completely understand his frustration with everything that's happened. He's got two kids in school and he's got a wife he's concerned about and both of those situations are quite understandable.

"He's frustrated because he wants to be playing and he's a proud man. There are a lot of things in his life that aren't going very good right now. But I know one thing: He wants to be playing hockey."


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