Roberts might fit bill for Senators

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Will the Senators be players at the NHL trade deadline?

Senators GM John Muckler indicated yesterday that he'd like to add one more veteran as the club enters what could be a battle for a playoff spot down the stretch.

The Senators most likely will try to acquire a player by the Feb. 27 deadline who can provide leadership in the playoffs, assuming the club survives what has become an eight-team race for five spots in the East.

"We'd like to make a move, there's no question, but if we can't, it's not the end of the world," Muckler said prior to last night's visit by the Canadiens to Scotiabank Place.

$700,000 IN CAP SPACE

"We made a move for (Mike) Comrie (last month). We feel that was a good move for us. It gave the coaching staff more opportunity and more flexibility to move people around, which they've done. We've had success with that and, hopefully, we'll have it in the future. We'll see what happens between now and the deadline."

The Senators are sitting with salaries totalling $43.3 million (all terms US) and have only $700,000 left under the cap. There's a lot of talk Ottawa and Toronto will both make a pitch to the Panthers for veteran winger Gary Roberts once Florida coach and GM Jacques Martin decides he's going to become a seller.

For now, Muckler is pondering what direction to take:

* First, he's going to sit down with the club's pro scouts to identify which teams might be sellers at the deadline. St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Columbus, Florida and Boston are all possibilities. Then, Muckler will decide what player would fit best on his roster and if the asking price is reasonable

* It's expected some space will be created soon because the club isn't going to carry 22 healthy players forever. It's expected winger Denis Hamel will either be dealt or sent to the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton. His $450,000 contract won't buy a lot of room.

* As reported by the Sun last week, the Senators have started contract talks with potential unrestricted free-agent defenceman Chris Phillips, but Muckler won't guarantee Phillips isn't going to be dealt. Offers are expected to be exchanged between Phillips' agent Stacey McAlpine and Muckler in the next two weeks to see if the sides are in the same ballpark. Asked about Phillips' future in Ottawa, Muckler gave a long answer about where the club sits with its contracts for the next two years. Then added: "We haven't decided."

* The most often-mentioned candidates to be dealt by Ottawa are goalie Martin Gerber ($3.7 million) and defenceman Joe Corvo ($2.625 million). Both are making big money after signing as unrestricted free agents last July, but it's going to be difficult to find takers at the deadline.

Muckler said trade talk has picked up.

TEAMS UNDECIDED

"We have been busy for about a month looking at everybody's roster, looking at our own roster and looking at who is going to be available and who is not going to be available." said Muckler. "We get phone calls every day. A lot of teams are undecided whether they're going to be a buyer or seller because of the closeness of the standings. I don't think anybody can tell you what their plans are at this particular time."

Muckler said he won't make a deal just because the Senators haven't played their best hockey in the last couple of weeks.

"We were talking here two or three weeks ago, after we made the Comrie deal -- the media included -- about how much depth we had in the organization," said Muckler. "Now, we lost a game in Buffalo and it's doom and gloom. You can't be that fickle. I think (this team) is built to win. I think we are going to win. It's not a short-distance race, it's a long-distance race. We've got 82 games. We've got (26) left. I haven't changed my mind about our hockey club since Day 1. If I had, then maybe we would have made a lot of moves."


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