A team in transition

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

There has been a changing of the guard in Ottawa.

New look. New attitude. Same old Ottawa Senators?

Well, we're about to find out.

The Senators, who were everybody's choice to win the Stanley Cup last season, are in a bit of a transition mode after a second-round playoff ouster at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres last spring.

Some moves were made out of necessity, while others were forced by the collective bargaining agreement and the new rules for unrestricted free agency.

Eight players who finished the season with the club last season are gone. Whether it's going to help the Senators' quest for the Cup or not is a huge question mark, but owner Eugene Melnyk wants results immediately.

"We're going to be a different type of team," Senators general manager John Muckler said. "I don't have any question about that."

The biggest change was the loss of defenceman Zdeno Chara to the Boston Bruins as an unrestricted free agent. While the Senators did everything in their power to keep the 6-foot-9 hulking giant, they couldn't match the five-year, $37.5-million US offer he received from the Bruins.

Then there was winger Martin Havlat. Considered the most skilled player on the team, he was dealt to Chicago with centre Bryan Smolinski in a three-way deal with the San Jose Sharks.

The Senators didn't get back anything to match the value of the skilled Havlat, but they get Sharks' blue-liner Tom Pressing, along with prospect centre Josh Hennessy and defenceman Michal Barinka. More importantly, moving Havlat created some vital salary cap relief.

"I watched Chara walk away for nothing and I wasn't going to let that happen again," Muckler said of Havlat, who would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.

But the Senators didn't mind waving good-bye to goalie Dominik Hasek. Though he was the best netminder in the NHL for the first half of last season, an adductor muscle injury he suffered at the Turin Olympics never healed, leaving the playoff goaltending duties in the hands of untested Ray Emery.

Muckler simply couldn't afford to roll the dice with Hasek again this season.

Instead, the Senators cast the 42-year-old Hasek aside and decided to sign goaltender Martin Gerber, who has questions of his own to answer after he lost his starting job to Cam Ward with the Carolina Hurricanes last spring. Ward went on to backstop the Canes to the Stanley Cup.

But Gerber, who suffered through a stomach ailment that caused him to lose 20 pounds in the playoffs, has the trust of coach Bryan Murray. The two worked together in Anaheim a few seasons back and that's a big reason why Gerber thumbed his nose at places like Detroit (which later signed Hasek) and St. Louis to sign a three-year, $11.1-million deal with Ottawa.

BIG ROLE

"We want him to play a big role for us and I know what he is capable of doing," said Murray. "I believe he's going to be great for us. He's going to be a great teammate, he's going to make the players around him better and I believe he's going to do a good job stopping the puck. I think he's going to give the players confidence. You have to have that in your goaltending.

"It's going to take a while to get some chemistry, but we're confident that will happen."


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