'You can't keep losing'

Ottawa Senators GM John Muckler is busy working the phones in an attempt to acquire a second-line...

Ottawa Senators GM John Muckler is busy working the phones in an attempt to acquire a second-line centre. (Ottawa Sun File/Sean Kilpatrick)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Senators GM John Muckler has apparently seen enough.

Sources told the Sun that Muckler -- who won't be at the Verizon Center tonight as the Senators try to halt their three-game losing streak against the Washington Capitals -- has been frantically working the phones to put together a deal for a No. 2 centre.

Muckler will be in Toronto for tomorrow's GMs meetings and there's plenty of talk the Senators will be among a group of teams looking for immediate help.

While issues such as arbitration and scheduling top the GMs' agenda, this is also where talk is expected to heat up as teams evaluate their needs.

Besides the Senators, management from Calgary, Columbus, Chicago, Phoenix and Philadelphia are all looking for an upgrade as the schedule shifts into high gear before the Christmas break.

"You can't keep losing," said a league executive last night. "Sooner or later, you've got to get it going.

"Has Ottawa got a good team? Sure, they do. Have they got the talent to win? Of course. Can they keep waiting? That's the question."

How long can Muckler afford to wait? He's a man with great patience, but the Senators will find out exactly where they stand as they take on Washington, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Boston in a four-game trip that begins tonight.

"The problem is if they don't start winning, the options are limited," said another league executive. "You can't go out and remake your team in the middle of the season.

"That's the issue with the (salary cap) system. You spend your money in July and August and then you hope it works out in October. Otherwise, you're going to be in a lot of trouble."

If you look at the numbers, the Senators haven't had many issues defensively. The problem through the first 12 games has been scoring goals. You can't always rely on Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson to carry the load. But lately, it seems that if those players struggle, the team doesn't have a chance to win.

The Senators biggest need is a a proven second-line centre to play with Alfredsson. Muckler took a gamble on rookie Alexei Kaigorodov, who proved he couldn't play here and is back in Russia. So that allows the club to look elsewhere.

A few options that might be available:

- The Kings would like to move C Craig Conroy and his $2.3 million salary. Sources say Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi and Muckler have held brief talks, and interest has intensified.

- Watch Coyotes GM Michael Barnett. He is close friends with Muckler from his days with the Oilers in 1980s and the two have tried to find a fit in the past. Shane Doan isn't a centre, but contract talks in Phoenix have been put on hold because it's believed he wants more than $5 million on a long-term contract. An unrestricted free agent July 1, he could be dealt and would certainly give the Senators an offensive boost.

- The Vancouver Canucks have C Brendan Morrison, but if the Senators are going to acquire him, they have to free up some cash.

"The sense around the league is something is going to happen in Ottawa," said another league source.


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