Sens rising to defence

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

The Senators appear close to acquiring a defenceman.

Two league executives told Sun Media yesterday that Senators GM Bryan Murray could have a trade for a blueliner worked out in the next couple of days.

The whisper among NHL executives is Murray was busy working the phones yesterday with offers on the table for Sharks defenceman Kyle McLaren and Ducks blueliner Mathieu Schneider.

Though neither team wants much more than a draft pick in return, it might make sense for the Senators to deal for McLaren because the 31-year-old blueliner is much more affordable at $2.5 million (all terms US) next season, after which he could become an unrestricted free agent. Schneider, 39, is set to make $5.75 million next season, and then could also become a UFA.

BOYLE EFFECT

The Sharks are more willing to move McLaren after acquiring veteran defenceman Dan Boyle and his six-year, $39-million contract yesterday from the Lightning. San Jose has been offering up McLaren since last month's NHL entry draft in Ottawa.

A first-round pick of the Bruins (No. 9 overall in 1995), McLaren has never lived up to expectations since being traded to the Sharks in 2002. However, his big 6-foot-4, 230-lb. frame is attractive for the Senators.

As for Schneider, he has become expendable in Anaheim with Scott Niedermayer returning. Schneider, however, could be more difficult for the Senators to acquire because of his high salary and the interest other clubs have shown in the veteran blueliner.

Other defencemen being shopped around include Calgary's Adrian Aucoin, Carolina's Frantisek Kaberle, Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa, Dallas' Philippe Boucher and Florida's Mike Van Ryn. Unrestricted free agent Marek Malik, who played with the Rangers last season, is also up for grabs.

The Senators made aggressive pitches for Brian Campbell (who signed with Chicago) and Mark Streit (Islanders). The club also showed interest in Ron Hainsey (Atlanta) and couldn't convince Michal Rozsival to leave the Rangers.

Part of the reason any Senators deal for a blueliner has been put on hold is the fact the Thrashers, Blue Jackets and Canucks are all threatening to make Group II offers to defenceman Andrej Meszaros or winger Antoine Vermette.

The situation could become much clearer today. Vermette has until 5 p.m. to file for arbitration. If he does, he can no longer receive an offer sheet. Meszaros doesn't have rights to arbitration.

After signing free-agent winger Jarkko Ruutu (Pittsburgh) and goaltender Alex Auld (Boston), the Senators have spent about $42 million in salaries for next season. With the cap set at $56.7 million, that doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room if Meszaros and Vermette are signed.

However, a big threat of a Group II offer was taken off the table yesterday when the Canucks acquired Steve Bernier for draft picks from the Sabres. Vancouver GM Mike Gillis has been aggressive on the free-agent market (he offered Mats Sundin $20 million over two years) and the talk is he may have threatened Sabres GM Darcy Regier with an offer sheet.


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