Muckler in the market for some true grit

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

The Senators are hunting for grit on the NHL's free- agent market.

Sources say Senators GM John Muckler has an interest in Detroit's Darren McCarty, Boston's Martin Lapointe and Toronto's Gary Roberts, all of whom are eligible to hit the open market at midnight Monday.

While the Senators' priority is to retain their own players, they'd like to sign either McCarty, Lapointe or Roberts to fill a need for somebody who is willing to get his nose dirty come playoff time.

The interest in McCarty and Lapointe makes sense -- both were drafted by Senators coach Bryan Murray when he was the GM of the Red Wings. It's believed Lapointe was offered a one-year, $2-million (all terms US) deal by the Bruins, while McCarty was recently bought out by the Wings.

Roberts, meanwhile, has been a thorn in the Senators' side in the Battle of Ontario. All three are fierce competitors, but it's not believed the Senators can afford to get all of them under contract this summer.

"How can you not like any of those guys?" said a league source. "You look at those three names: Roberts, Lapointe or McCarty and you're looking at three guys who are going to make your team better."

AROUND THE BOARDS: The talk is Lightning C Martin St. Louis, a restricted free agent, has asked for $7.8 million since he's the defending league MVP. Apparently, Bolts GM Jay Feaster isn't amused ... Don't be surprised to see Tampa G Nikolai Khabibulin end up in a Detroit uniform this fall. The club isn't expected to bring back G Curtis Joseph and the word is the Wings are willing to give Khabibulin a long-term contract. The Rangers and Coyotes are also believed to be interested ... Talks between Mike Modano's agent, Brian Lawton, and Stars GM Doug Armstrong took place here yesterday. Modano is set to become an unrestricted free agent and there's talk the Habs might take a run at signing him to a three-year, $7.5- million contract. Don't forget Habs GM Bob Gainey spent a lot of time with the Stars organization and respects Modano's ability. If that happens, Montreal C Saku Koivu could sign with Minnesota.

RUMOURS DU JOUR: Talk won't go away that Atlanta C Dany Heatley wouldn't mind if the Thrashers traded him. The word circulating in the hallways is that Heatley, a restricted free agent, wouldn't have any qualms about being sent to his home-town Calgary Flames ... Speaking of the Thrashers, they quietly got rid of captain Shawn McEachern yesterday by announcing they wouldn't pick up the $1.52-million option on his contract. There's just one problem: Somebody forgot to tell McEachern. He read about his demise in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Asked if he was surprised, McEachern told the AJC's John Manasso: "No, I read it in the paper this morning." Watch for McEachern to be reunited with Islanders C Alexei Yashin. The club needs a trigger man for Yashin and he had a lot of success alongside McEachern for six years in Ottawa. Pittsburgh may also show interest ... There's talk in Denver the Avs will announce Monday they've signed both C Peter Forsberg and Vancouver C Markus Naslund, an unrestricted free agent. Of course, there's also talk the tandem could end up with the Rangers ... The Senators would only be interested in C Bobby Holik, who was bought out by the Rangers yesterday, if he comes at a reasonable price ... Don't be surprised if Toronto tough guy Tie Domi signs with the Penguins.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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