Forward thinking

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

BUFFALO -- The Senators are talking trade with the Florida Panthers.

But don't get too excited just yet about veteran winger Gary Roberts putting on No. 10 for Ottawa: The latest rumours, according to a source close to the Florida situation, have the Senators sniffing around blueliner Steve Montador, a fifth or sixth defenceman.

That would fit Ottawa GM John Muckler's usual approach at the trade deadline and that's to add one or two depth players without giving up a heck of a lot.

"I guess you have to decide how you're going to approach this," said one NHL insider. "Do you just want to add a little lace to the edge of your pillow or do you want to change some of the stuffing?"

Muckler, given his track record at the deadline, is definitely a "lace" kind of guy.

It's true his Senators are playing some good hockey right now -- winners of five in a row going into tonight's game against the Sabres -- but that shouldn't lull them into thinking they can't be better, not just for a playoff run, but in guaranteeing they get to the playoffs.

Despite their fine little winning streak, the Senators are still just seven points up on the ninth-place Toronto Maple Leafs.

The most glaring need right now is for a winger to play with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. Chris Neil has been playing in that spot lately and has done a decent job, but Neil is not a first-line player in this league.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson has played there in the past, but he's found some nice chemistry now with Mike Fisher at centre and Peter Schaefer on the other wing. Schaefer is playing his best hockey of the season right now.

There's no question the acquisition of a front-line forward would move the Senators from the ranks of the teams with a decent shot this year to among the favourites.

The big plum the Panthers have to dangle is Roberts, with some NHL insiders believing the next team to take a good run at him will be the Senators' opponent tonight, the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres have run into a bunch of injuries lately and Roberts -- like he would for the Senators -- would give them a solid veteran for a playoff run. They have backup goaltender Martin Biron -- an unrestricted free agent this summer -- to dangle, but he's only a real bargaining chip if he can be signed to a new contract.

The other thing working against the Sabres being a real player is Buffalo GM Darcy Regier's reputation for being a methodical executive not prone to quick or daring moves.

Roberts has made it clear if he is going to move it has to be closer to Toronto, where his daughter is going into her final year of high school next year.

He has the hammer in this situation with a no-trade clause and is also looking for a one-year contract extension to okay a deal.

One league executive contacted yesterday said Roberts' demand for a one-year contract extension would eliminate him from the bidding and will definitely narrow the Panthers' group of potential trading partners.

The asking price for Roberts is apparently an established player off an NHL roster.

The question for Muckler is if Roberts for this year and next is worth, say, an Antoine Vermette or Patrick Eaves?

The other intriguing player out there, of course, is St. Louis Blues winger Bill Guerin, who would look good alongside Heatley and Spezza, huh? He leads the Blues in scoring with 28 goals and 47 assists and is a +9, second-best on the team. Guerin's salary this year is $2 million, with a $400,000 performance bonus. If Muckler was to get bold and make a play for him, he'd have to move a roster player to make room under the cap.

The asking price for Guerin, a rent-a-player, is two first-round draft picks, one NHL executive told the Sun yesterday.

"That's too much. One first rounder is enough, but it's indicative of the marketplace right now in the leadup to Tuesday's trade deadline," said the executive.

"The sellers think they are in the driver's seat right now. They think there are a lot of buyers out there, but everybody is waiting for the prices to come down." 


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