Thin blue line for Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

The Senators' search for a puck-moving blueliner isn't going to be easy.

With little left on the unrestricted free-agent market, GM Bryan Murray will probably have to go the trade route.

While Tampa's Dan Boyle and Anaheim's Mathieu Schneider are expensive options, Carolina defenceman Frantisek Kaberle is being dangled by the Hurricanes and is scheduled to earn a reasonable $2.2 million (all terms US) a season for the next two years.

Carolina would want a winger in return.

There is a history of deals between the Senators and Hurricanes -- although the Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves trade for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore at the NHL trade deadline didn't work out very well for Ottawa.

Meanwhile, the Canucks might be willing to move blueliner Kevin Bieksa to Ottawa for winger Antoine Vermette, a restricted free agent who could be on the verge of receiving an offer sheet.

Bieksa is slated to earn $3.75 million a season for the next three years.

A league executive said yesterday that most of the blueliners available are guys who are unwanted by their teams.

"At this point, if you're making a deal, you're basically going to get players that are discarded by their organization. All those teams might want back is a mid-round draft pick," said the executive. "You wouldn't have to give up a lot in return, but you'd have to take on some money because teams are trying to move their problems."

PLAYERS ON BUBBLE

Players who are available and fit the bill include Adrian Aucoin (Calgary, $4 million), Philippe Boucher (Dallas, $2.5 million), Jay McKee (St. Louis, $4 million), Mike Van Ryn (Florida, $3.35 million) and Kyle McLaren (San Jose, $2.5 million).

Aucoin is coming off a bad year with the Flames, while Boucher is injury prone. McKee hasn't lived up to expectations in St. Louis after being wooed from Buffalo in 2006 as a UFA.

The underachieving Van Ryn and McLaren have been on the trade block for a while.

The other option is Toronto defenceman Bryan McCabe, who has told the Leafs he won't waive his no-movement clause. He still has four years and more than $21 million remaining on his contract -- which would be too rich for the Senators.

On the free-agent front, Carolina's Bret Hedican is a possibility.

"That's the problem with guys like (Brian) Campbell, (Ron) Hainsey, (Michael) Rozsival and (Mark) Streit being gone. You almost had to overpay those guys if you wanted to be in the ballgame and the Senators didn't want to overpay, so they're still looking," said the league executive.


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