Game on for Sens GM

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Since Bryan Murray joined the Senators in the summer of 2004, first as coach and then promoted last summer to general manager, you knew he was here, back in the Ottawa Valley, for one reason.

He wants a Stanley Cup to sit in a yard, maybe at his mom's place in Shawville, on a sunny summer's day.

He wants it now, for this summer.

So, after being frustrated by his predecessor's lack of will when it came to making the big, bold move nearing the NHL trade deadline, Murray kicked off this year's run-up to the deadline (two weeks from today) with the first big move by a contender.

This is the bill of goods, the vision, the course of action Murray must have undoubtedly sold to owner Eugene Melnyk last June when John Muckler was relieved of his GM's duties and Murray installed in his place.

After a couple of years in which Muckler's moves affected only the fringes of this team at the deadline (Tyler Arnason, Oleg "Freakin'" Saprykin), Murray made a move yesterday that immediately answered two of the core needs of this team that have become apparent as this curious season has unfolded.

ALMOST POINT A GAME

In 34-year-old Cory Stillman, Murray added a veteran who meets his demand for a top-six forward, a need Murray had identified since training camp.

Stillman is fast, and, since turning 30, has averaged close to a point a game in the regular season (229 points in 251 games). He gives the Senators Stanley Cup experience with back-to-back wins with Lightning in 2004 and the Hurricanes 2006, sandwiched around the lockout season. He is third on the Hurricanes in minutes played among forwards this season at 19 minutes and 53 seconds, behind only Rod Brind'Amour and Eric Staal.

In Mike Commodore, 28, Murray scoops up what amounts to the 'Canes' top defenceman. He was tied for the scoring lead among Carolina defencemen with 12 points and led them in ice time at 19:15.

Commodore gives the Senators a big, physical, stay-at-home blueliner who should help tighten up the lax defensive zone coverage from which the Senators have suffered this season. He might also make life at least a little unpleasant for opposition forwards around the Senators' crease where they have had a free pass most of the time.

Both players could be unrestricted free agents this summer and that's fine. Murray is trying to win now and worry about potential holes later.

Gone are young forward Patrick Eaves and mercurial defenceman Joe "Uh-Oh" Corvo. Murray said Corvo had made his desire clear to leave here and play in the U.S. If he couldn't handle playing here, he and the Senators are better off having him play somewhere else.

SALARY OFF BOOKS

It also doesn't hurt that Murray has relieved the club of the $5.5 million US Corvo would have made over the next two seasons, too much money to be paying a guy who was often going to be playing outside of the club's top four defencemen.

So, how do the acquisitions fit in moving forward?

Stillman looks like a natural on the left side of centre Mike Fisher. Coach John Paddock could play Chris Neil on the right if he wants a banger there or Dean McAmmond or Antoine Vermette if he wants speed. But that right wing spot beside Fisher and Stillman screams out for an upgrade (Murray's still got time, right?) That would allow Neil to form a third line with Antoine Vermette on the left and Chris Kelly in the middle.

That would also make it possible for McAmmond to return to centring the fourth line where he excelled last year and was a reason why the Senators made it to the Stanley Cup final.

Stillman vs. Eaves is a big win for the Senators today. Stillman is an accomplished veteran, a two-time Cup champion. Eaves, who is currently battling to come back from a shoulder injury, is a youngster who looks like he could be a solid third-line player. He'll still be playing when Stillman is done and those years when Eaves is playing and Stillman is no longer are what the Senators are giving up in that part of the deal.

Commodore gives the Senators more of what they need on the back end at this point, a physical presence in front of the net and a steadier, more dependable player. The right-shooter could slide in beside Wade Redden.

Are the Senators a better team today than they were yesterday morning?

If you have to think about the answer, you haven't been paying attention.


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