Sens, Habs court Hossa

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The Senators and Canadiens are the frontrunners for Marian Hossa.

The whisper is Montreal GM Bob Gainey may have had a face-to-face meeting with Thrashers GM Don Waddell yesterday to see if they could close a deal.

While Ottawa GM Bryan Murray has also been hot on Waddell's trail as well, it's believed the Senators want rugged blueliner Garnet Exelby as part of any deal.

That's because the Thrashers are asking a lot.

Not only does Atlanta want winger Antoine Vermette or defenceman Andrej Meszaros as part of the deal, they want a prospect and the Senators' No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft.

Murray is reluctant to give up the pick. The draft will be held in Ottawa this spring and if he gives up another pick, he'll have to make a deal for a No. 1 selection in June.

Former GM John Muckler dealt the Senators' second-round pick in the upcoming draft to Phoenix for winger Oleg Saprykin last season.

Hossa said he wouldn't be against the idea of being sent to the Senators. He was dealt to Atlanta by Ottawa in July 2005 for Dany Heatley, just hours after signing a three-year, $18-million contract.

Hossa said the Senators would make the transition easy. "I played there before and I still have a lot friends there," said Hossa to a horde of media following a skate at the Bell Centre. "It would be easier to adjust. I know how it is to play in Canada. I know what to expect. It's not a problem to deal with the media pressure."

A source said the Anaheim Ducks, who were left out in the cold when Mats Sundin declared he was staying with the Maple Leafs, are also making a late pitch for Hossa.

The Sharks have been pushing as well and might be willing to offer up winger Jonathan Cheechoo.

The Bruins were also hot after Hossa, but sources say GM Peter Chiarelli pulled out of the running when he learned that Hossa has no intentions of signing a contract extension and will be purely a rental.

Waddell was hunkered down in a Montreal hotel room and didn't attend the club's skate yesterday. He was hoping to get the deal completed last night and was being urged by rival GMs to get it done as well.

Hossa is about the only guarantee to move on deadline day. Usually, there are trades a few days in advance, but that kind of action didn't take place this year. Last year, there were 25 trades involving 44 players on deadline day.

"The problem is the salary cap and the number of teams in the race," said a league executive. "It's hard to predict what might happen (today). There will be trades ... I don't think nearly as many as previous years."


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