What's the deal?

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

It's not a case of if the Senators will trade for or sign a top-six forward, but when.

Senators coach John Paddock made that pretty clear yesterday when talking about the line combinations we could see when the Senators hit the ice for the first time in training camp today.

Apart from captain Daniel Alfredsson, Paddock doesn't see anybody in camp capable of playing alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley and he doesn't want to have to stack his top line. That lets the opposition load up their defensive assets against them (see: Stanley Cup final, Anaheim).

Senators GM Bryan Murray wanted to add a top-six player last spring when he was the coach -- Gary Roberts was the guy -- but then-GM John Muckler refused to make the bold move and that was part of the reason he lost his job.

Now Murray is in the GM's chair and will try to address the need his predecessor would not.

Paddock was blunt yesterday in assessing the situation.

"There are players (in camp) that offer different things. Heater and Spezz love playing with Chris Kelly and there's certain reasons for that, but it probably lacks a little bit of offensive pizzazz.

"Patty Eaves, is he going to be a top-six player for the rest of his career? I'm not sure he can score. Does he make things happen quick enough? Could (Antoine) Vermette be responsible enough defensively and not get too caught up in the offence?

"Unless you're an elite player like Alfie, it's a certain kind of player that can play there. We only have one Alfredsson.

"I think it's clear what Bryan means by we need another top six forward. Whoever it is to play with, it doesn't matter. We need another one."

The most obvious candidate at this point is Peter Forsberg, an unrestricted free agent, but he had off-season ankle surgery (again).

When and if he decides to play again, there will be a bunch of teams after him including the Senators, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks.

Until then, the Senators will have to make do.

The players have been divided into two teams for camp. On Team B with Heatley and Spezza are Kelly and Eaves, so they will likely see some time on the top line.

Alfredsson is on Team A along with Vermette and Mike Fisher (who is nursing a sore groin).

The Red and White scrimmage will take place tomorrow and offer a look at the possible combinations.

Vermette might have been a candidate to get a shot with Heatley and Spezza, but Paddock sounded lukewarm about the idea.

"He and Chris Kelly are two of the premier penalty killers as a pair," said Paddock. "Certainly in the penalty killing role, they are as inseparable as Heatley and Spezza are in other things.

"He has quite a role on the hockey club already and whether that expands to more offensive capabilities, I think he'll get that opportunity and we'll see what happens.

"(A bigger offensive role) is what he's always wanted and what people have said, but it doesn't always go that way."


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