Vermette says trade speculation is tough

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Any day now, Antoine Vermette could be playing his last game for the Senators.

He knows this. He keeps reading it in the newspaper.

"It's not a fun part of the game," the fastest Senator and scorer of the team's second goal last night against the Flyers said of the many trade rumours that include his name. "It's tough. We're not like trading cards. From the outside, it's easy to say (the team) should do this, we should do that. But at the end of the day, we're not machines that play hockey. We make friends. Personally, I love the city and the team.

"At the same time, that's our job and you have to deal with it. You just have to focus on your game and not pay attention (to the rumours). We'll just go through these days and see what happens."

Vermette is considered Ottawa's most attractive piece of bait. He skates like the wind, possesses a dazzling array of skills and is just 25 years old. With Bryan Murray shopping at the GMs' meetings in Florida, there's no doubt Vermette's name comes up.

But who mentions it first? Murray or one of his rivals?

Surely, there are teams that covet the St. Agapi, Que., product. There is reason to believe Vermette has yet to scratch the surface of his offensive potential. With 14 goals, he'll be hard pressed to match his best season (21 in 2005-06), but yet some think he's capable of scoring 35-40.

It doesn't seem the Senators share that faith. Vermette doesn't get quite the same long looks on the big line others do. The coaches generally say it's because they are reluctant to separate him from Chris Kelly. That keeps Vermette in more of a defensive role.

Murray has identified his core with some long-term, big-money signings, and has had limited if any discussions with Vermette, who makes $1.075 million US and is headed for restricted free agency in the summer.

While Murray has to add at least one more significant player (he actually needs two more forwards, a defenceman and a goalie, but good luck with all that) it says here he should do his best to keep Vermette. Speed like his is too valuable to lose.

Trade D Andrej Meszaros instead.

STARTS AND STOPS

Reaching into his pocket for $300 last night was Jason Spezza, who had to put that much "on the board" in the dressing room as it was his 300th NHL game. It's up to the player where he wants the cash to go. Sometimes it's to the guy who scores the winning goal. Sometimes it goes to the "team fine fund" in a win. "For the guys to drink an expensive bottle of wine, on occassion, on guys hitting the milestones," Spezza said with a laugh. Pity poor Luke Richardson. The big defenceman will suit up for his 1,400th game Saturday in Pittsburgh, moving him to within 367 of the all-time leader in games played, a Mr. Gordie Howe. To find $1,400 for the board, assume Richardson would have to dig deep into hs jeans. "We might give Luke a break," Spezza chuckled ... Think the Senators were feeling some pressure entering this one? Didn't look like it, the way Kelly pulled off a leg kick before deking Martin Biron on the game's first goal less than three minutes in. All Kelly lacked was a Owen Nolan finger-point to the corner he was going.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Yes, the Flyers are pretty bad these days. But who are the worst flyers on the Flyers? Biron says Mike Knuble and Scottie Upshall. He found out Monday. Moments after the team flight left Philadelphia, the plane hit some clouds and pretty serious turbulence. "It was about as rocky as I've ever been on," said Biron. "It wasn't just 30 seconds, either. It was about five minutes, which made it seem like a half hour." While he said you wouldn't be able to print the stuff coming out of Upshall's mouth, Biron figured Knuble was even more scared. "He told me his socks were soaked," Biron said. The 35-year-old Knuble wasn't denying his fear. "I don't know who was the worst, I didn't see the whole plane and I wasn't looking around," he said. "It was bad. You couldn't help but think about (the TV show) Lost and wonder what island you were going to end up on."

IT MAKE YOU GO HMMM ...

Spezza was asked if he could see himself challenging Howe's very impressive record for games played. "I'm going to play until I'm 32, until my contract's over," he said. "Then I'm going to ride into the sunset." Upon further thought, he changed his tune. "The pace I play, I can go until I'm 50," said Spezza. "Us big slow guys can play forever." ... Not everyone was enamoured with last night's action. "This is such a boring game," esteemed Philadelphia hockey writer Tim Panaccio said in the press box during the second intermission, "that the guy beside me fell asleep."

PARTING SHOTS

A third goalie showed up midway through the Senators' morning skate, fuelling speculation Murray had made a deal and had decided on an interesting way of telling everyone, or either Jeff Glass or Brian Elliott had been recalled from Binghamton. Turns out the answer was neither. No, the masked man was Paul Shoanfield, a buddy of Emery's who usually sits in the stands above the media and watch's practice. Shoanfield has done some work for goalie coach Eli Wilson and there's some talk he was once a backup, or a backup's backup, with the 67's. Coach John Paddock says Shoanfield has been to "30 or 40 practices," but he meant the ones run by stength and conditioning coach Randy Lee for injured players. This was his first at a regular, full team practice, as far as anyone could remember. Anyway, Shoanfield went on the ice as Emery was coming off, 18 minutes into the official start time (Emery and Wilson were on earlier than the rest of the team) and he did a good job handling shooters.


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