Are Sens putting up fight for toughness?

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

The Senators must think AHL penalty-minute king Brian McGrattan is ready for prime time.

Either that, or they're going to make a sudden pitch for former Hull Olympiques bouncer Peter Worrell and are being very secretive about it.

Surely, it's not that John Muckler and Bryan Murray have changed their minds about the need to make the team tougher.

There just had to be a good reason they didn't even bother to talk with Andre Roy.

"It would be fun, I really loved my time in Ottawa and it's not very far from my home (in St-Jerome, Que.)," Roy said earlier this week about a possible return to the Senators -- before he signed a three-year, $1-million (all terms US) a season contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"You always want to be part of a Cup contender, and if Ottawa makes a pitch for sure I'd listen.

"I've had lots of phone calls. Nine or 10 teams are interested, and there's a race between four that sound really serious. Last I heard Ottawa wasn't one of them."

By no means would Roy represent a major signing. He is what he is. A role player. A fighter. A physical presence with some offensive skills and some defensive shortcomings.

But he also now owns a Stanley Cup ring -- dressing for 21 playoff games with the championship winning Tampa Bay Lightning -- and he was a fan favourite here before Jacques Martin moved him out of town.

Landing him would have been a popular move by the Senators.

With Chris Neil still an unsigned restricted free agent, Zdeno Chara is the only Senator under contract who doesn't mind dropping the gloves and they need him on the ice.

MISSING GRIT

Maybe, just maybe, with Neil in tow they might be able to get by without a third.

What they absolutely do require, however, is the grit that could have been provided by a Darren McCarty (now a Calgary Flame) or Martin Lapointe (Chicago) -- but it's no surprise they didn't vigorously pursue either.

McCarty plays the right side, where they are already deep, and Lapointe, who despite making almost $3 million a year less than he did on his last contract, is still overpriced after landing $7.2 million over three years from the Blackhawks.

Meanwhile, the Senators could also use something to excite their fans.

The unprecedented free-agent frenzy that has dominated the headlines is exactly what the NHL needed. In many a city, the good folk who were hurt most by the lockout/strike are being tantalized with signings that represent new hope.

Aside from the pre-league shutdown addition of Dominik Hasek, a 40-year-old, injury-troubled goalie who has played only 14 games in the last three-and-a-half years, and the recent re-signing of minor-leaguer Denis Hamel who may or may not crack their lineup, the Senators have done nothing.

The Senators may be focused on re-signing their own free agents -- which includes restricted free agents Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Mike Fisher -- as they have a mere 11 under contract.

The team could even possibly be looking into trying to lock up Chara and Wade Redden, who both become unrestricted free agents after this season, and Chris Phillips, who will be unrestricted two years from now.

But this is a team that, when last we saw it, was again losing a first-round playoff series to the Leafs. It needs some outside assistance.

Hoping that your young core will be better this time around is not enough. The Senators need to make a positive move and bring in a new face or two, either by trade or free-agent signings.

Still on the market are the likes of Andrew Cassels, Teemu Selanne and Vincent Damphousse.

Or maybe they'd be best off just to see what it would take to sign Chris Gratton, a 6-foot-3, 220-lb. centre who had his $1.9-million contract bought out by Colorado, or unrestricted free agent Eric Lindros.

He wouldn't solve all that ails the Senators, but he would help answer any toughness questions still hovering over the team.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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