Staying put tops Phillips' agenda

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Chris Phillips can't imagine wearing a jersey that doesn't have a Senators logo on it.

A decade has passed since that warm June afternoon in St. Louis when former GM Pierre Gauthier went to the microphone at the former Kiel Center to choose Phillips with the No. 1 pick ahead of defenceman Andrei Zyuzin.

But the Ottawa blueliner is aware the days when players -- like Detroit's Steve Yzerman and Colorado's Joe Sakic -- spent their whole careers with one organization just don't seem to happen anymore.

That's why Phillips can't help but sometimes wonder what is going to happen next for him. Phillips, set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, is making $1.675 million US in the final year of his contract and there haven't been any discussions on a new deal, although the NHL ban on teams speaking to their impending free agents was only lifted two weeks ago.

WILL NOT BE DEALT

"To my knowledge there haven't been any discussions," Phillips told the Sun before last night's visit by the Capitals to Scotiabank Place. "Being here since I was drafted and putting on the jersey then, it would be tough to put on a different jersey.

"In saying that, there aren't a lot of guys that are staying with one team their whole career. If there's a possibility of that happening (finishing his career with Ottawa), that would be great."

There is no question Phillips will not be traded at the Feb. 27 deadline. It's believed Oilers GM Kevin Lowe has called a couple of times to see if his old buddy John Muckler might be willing to send either Phillips or defenceman Wade Redden to the West. Lowe has been told neither player is available.

Any team would want a guy like Phillips, right? He's a heart and soul guy, plus, he gets the job done. That's why the Oilers aren't alone in their pursuit. The Canucks, Sharks, Bruins, Flames and Rangers are all looking for help on the blue line and would take Phillips in a second.

After losing blueliner Zdeno Chara to the Bruins as a UFA last summer, the Senators don't want to let Phillips just walk away and that's why Muckler plans to call his Calgary-based agent Stacey McAlpine before the end of the season to get discussions going.

"Do I hope there will be contract talks? ... Hope isn't the right word," said Phillips. "You don't want to be waiting every day and then nothing happens. I've always said that communication is healthy. We can find out where everybody is at and it would give us somewhere to go from (in the negotiations)."

That's where it's going to be difficult to determine Phillips' value. No, he's not the most gifted offensive player on the Senators, but it's easy to argue Phillips is one of the most valuable night in and night out for this team.

Senators coach Bryan Murray didn't hesitate when asked what pairing was going to be out trying to shut down Washington's Alexander Ovechkin? The answer was easy: Anton Volchenkov and Phillips.

Whether it's been Rangers winger Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby or Toronto's Mats Sundin, Phillips and Volchenkov have been called on to play a big role. That's the way it's been all season.

"It's been fun. Even though last year I was sort of doing the same thing in shutting down the top lines. I felt I was more in the supporting role of that job," said Phillips. "This year, I've embraced the chance to play a little more and I want to be the guy that gets that job done.

SETTLED IN OTTAWA

"You play against the top line and the best guys. You raise your level of play and it's a challenge to try to shut those guys down. I've kind of been given more of the lead role than the supporting guy. (Volchenkov) has done a great job and he's been a big part of that. I've just taken more responsibility and been given more in that role."

This might be the best time of Phillips' career. That's why he would like to remain here. He's settled in Ottawa.

"No question (he'd like to stay)," said Phillips. "I've been here since Day 1. It would be great if we can work something out. That being said, we've got to figure out where everybody is at and what the possibilities are."


Videos

Photos