How did Sens wind up with freakin' Saprykin?

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

They could have had Gary Roberts.

They got Oleg freakin' Saprykin.

Another trade deadline, another tepid response from Senators GM John Muckler.

With the battle-hardened Roberts out there for the taking up until midnight Monday night, Muckler decided the price was too high for the 40-year-old winger.

Roberts went to the Penguins -- a potential Senators first-round playoff opponent -- for 24-year-old defenceman Noah Welch, who's in his second year as a pro and playing in the minors.

The Senators couldn't do better than that?

Instead, Muckler sent a second-round pick to the Coyotes for Saprykin, 26, a guy Muckler described as an energy player, and a seventh-round draft pick.

They add a guy who gives them more depth and that's certainly a good thing. The two-month march to the Stanley Cup typically devours your resources.

Muckler stayed true to form at the deadline, refusing to part with the present or much of the future for the short term. He added a couple of depth players in Saprykin and defenceman Lawrence Nycholat, obtained from the Capitals. (To be fair, Muckler also made a move to get forward Mike Comrie. In the final reckoning, Comrie's contributions should also be included in Muckler's deadline evaluation).

Compared to what teams paid yesterday for the likes of Bill Guerin or Ryan Smyth, the price for Roberts seems relatively modest.

Why not, for once, take a gamble?

Would parting with a first-round draft pick and/or one young player irreparably harm the franchise?

Not likely. Not now.

With free agency the way it is under the new collective bargaining agreement, it's a lot easier to plug holes caused by the surrendering of a draft pick or prospect.

Were the prices high? Yup.

BAR SET HIGH

Too high for Muckler's liking? Yup, ever since the Predators gave up two players and two picks for rent-a-player Peter Forsberg.

"I was not ready to give up a roster player or a first-rounder," said Muckler. "The market was set by Nashville. Everybody seemed to follow suit. It was like a grass fire."

Muckler said he had talks with Panthers GM Jacques Martin and assistant Randy Sexton and left a proposal for Roberts on the table.

At 11:55 p.m. Monday, Muckler said he had one last conversation with the Panthers.

"They said the deal had to be made immediately and we felt the price was too high," said Muckler. "Toronto was still in it, too. We were the final three."

Muckler said he thought his offer was equal to what the Penguins gave up, "but we never really got to negotiate what the deal ended up being. They finally told us what they wanted and we couldn't meet it."

The rumours were the Panthers wanted winger Patrick Eaves or Antoine Vermette, but that seems steep given what they finally accepted.

Muckler steadfastedly stuck to his trade deadline philosophy, a strategy that sees him risk little and get little in return.

"I'm not gun shy at all," he said, looking back on his deadline deals. "Some of the players we traded for were very good players. It's taught me one thing and that's you have to have good chemistry and right now we have fantastic chemistry."

Muckler said he wouldn't compromise the Senators' future to make a move now.

"There's only going to be one parade, that's all," he said. "The rest (of the teams that make big deals) don't win. They aren't going to be successful. It's wrong. If you hurt the future of the organization, you're better off not doing anything."

When asked specifically about Senators fans wanting Roberts and being upset Muckler didn't get him, the GM replied: "I think a great number of our fans believe in what we're doing. There's a sellout every night. I think we have a pretty good hockey club and they do, too."

A lot of those fans, who saw Roberts almost single-handedly beat the Senators when he was with the Leafs, wanted him for his experience and his potentially good influence on the Senators' youngsters.

But Muckler said yesterday he thinks the experience gained by the Senators' core group of captain Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips and Wade Redden over the years in the playoffs will pay off.

"Everybody has to win their first Cup," he said. "Alfie, Phillips, Redden have been through the wars before. It's true they haven't won, but each year they get a little smarter, you know what to expect. I think we're prepared and will make a good showing.

"A lot of things have to go right. It happens to one team and I hope it's us."

That's all Muckler and the Senators had to sell yesterday.

Oleg Saprykin and hope.


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