One down, one to go?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

The Senators lost one player to free agency yesterday and if Bryan Murray doesn't want to lose another he'd better act fast.

Defenceman Tom Preissing officially walked away from the Senators, agreeing to a four-year, $11-million (all terms US) deal with the Los Angeles Kings that will pay him an average of $2.75 million per season -- a more than 300% raise from the $600,000 he made last year.

Centre Mike Comrie, meanwhile, would love to return to the nation's capital, but he's not sure how long he can wait for Murray to clear salary cap space to sign him -- an issue which Murray discussed with Comrie's agent, Ritch Winter.

Ideally, the Senators would like to move winger Peter Schaefer, goalie Martin Gerber and defenceman Joe Corvo to make room for Comrie and possibly spend a little money elsewhere. The Phoenix Coyotes, who sent Comrie to the Senators for Russian prospect Alexei Kaigorodov last season, and Kings may be interested in dealing with Murray.

It's believed six teams -- Washington, Carolina, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Atlanta and the Islanders -- have shown an interest in Comrie, who made $3 million last season.

The Sabres are badly in need of a centre after losing both Chris Drury (N.Y. Rangers) and Daniel Briere (Philadelphia) to free agency on Sunday. The Hurricanes are apparently also hot on Comrie's tail.

"I talked to a few teams (yesterday)," Comrie wrote in a text message to the Sun.

The departure of Preissing, who finished tied for third in the league with a plus-40 rating, didn't come as a shock. His agent, Ben Hankinson, said last week he wouldn't return

"We just weren't in the same ballpark," said Preissing from his Colorado home. "I pretty much knew things weren't going to work out there. I really wanted to go back to the West because I really know the conference.

"Los Angeles really stepped up to the plate and showed me that they wanted me. They put an offer on the table that we felt was strong. They're a team that's making the right steps to improve."

Murray's pursuit of a couple of free-agent wingers hit a wall.

Petr Sykora signed with Pittsburgh for $5 million over two years, while Slava Kozlov's price tag is reportedly worth $4.5-$5 million, likely putting him out of the Senators' range.

Bill Guerin, however, remains on the radar screen.

Murray is also getting close to having his coaching staff in place.

"I'm trying to get in a position to have it settled by the end of the week," said Murray.

PADDOCK TOP CHOICE

Current assistant coach John Paddock is still believed to be the leading candidate for the head coaching position and assistant Greg Carvel will return.

Former 67's captain Randy Cunneyworth is ready to leave the Sabres organization and is a candidate to join the Senators' staff.

Dale Hunter, head coach of the London Knights, is not in the Senators' picture.

BRIEFLY: The Senators will annouce today the signing of D Brian Lee, their No. 1 pick (ninth overall) in the 2005 draft, along with 2004 fifth-round pick RW Jim McKenzie. Lee went to North Dakota last season, while McKenzie attended Michigan State.


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