Sens to jump for Jay?

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

A puck-moving defenceman the Senators so desperately desire could be on the NHL trade market this week.

League sources say the heat has been turned up on Florida Panthers GM Jacques Martin to make a deal for a centre. So he may finally be ready to dangle defenceman Jay Bouwmeester -- something Martin told several teams he wouldn't consider until next month.

The Panthers haven't had a No. 1 centre since they shipped Olli Jokinen to the Phoenix Coyotes in the off-season. Now they're in last place in the East and going nowhere fast, so Martin has been calling every GM in the league to see what's available.

"I've been talking to other managers, trying to make different moves,'' Martin told the Miami Herald.

"You get to a point where we need to send a message to our players that we're not going to accept this. We need better performances. If we don't turn it around, we're going to have to do something.''

Since landing in Florida after being fired as Ottawa coach in 2004, Martin has coveted Senators winger Antoine Vermette and his natural position is centre.

Ideally, Senators GM Bryan Murray would like to acquire a puck-mover without subtracting from the roster, although Christoph Schubert has been offered around the league and there may be mild interest from Columbus.

ALFIE WEIGHS IN ON MATS

No one knows when, or even if, Mats Sundin will return to the NHL. The includes fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson.

As Sun Media reported Saturday, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk tried to woo the coveted free agent during a lunch-hour meeting in Hollywood Friday, but it's doubtful the former Maple Leafs captain gave any indication whether he's even going to return to the NHL.

Sundin is set to start skating this week in Los Angeles and a decision on his future is scheduled to be made next month. However, nobody is certain he'll accept any of the 10 or so NHL offers to return.

"It's impossible to say (he'd like to come to Ottawa) because I don't even think Mats knows if he's going to play," said Alfredsson. "Once he makes that decision (to return), I think he'll look at the teams that are going to give him a good chance to win a Stanley Cup."

Alfredsson said the Senators have to start winning consistently if they're going to be an option for Sundin.

"Hopefully we can start winning a few and start moving up a few positions and get back to being a good team," said Alfredsson, who admitted he wouldn't be surprised if Sundin decides not to return.

It's believed the Senators are in a group of teams, which likely includes the Canucks, Rangers, Leafs and Habs, that will get serious consideration from Sundin. But many believe even if Brian Burke becomes Leafs GM, Sundin won't return to Toronto.

SHOT IN ARM FOR SPEZZA

Senators C Jason Spezza was breathing a sigh of relief after Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Rangers.

Not only did he score the opening goal in the club's first victory in seven games, but he was skating better, controlling the play and making plays with linemates Alfredsson and Dany Heatley.

"I have high expectations. I love playing here and I want our team to do really well. I know I have to be really good for us to be successful," said Spezza. "I knew I could be better than I've been and I can be better than I've been. I put a lot of pressure on myself and sometimes you've got to take a step back and start enjoying yourself again."

Spezza added that he was more comfortable on the ice.

"I knew I had to have a good game and we had to get out of this (slump), especially with not playing until Thursday (at home against the Leafs)," said Spezza. "I lost some confidence in my game for a stretch and then you stop moving. Confidence is big and I just felt if I worked my way through a game, then some good things would happen."


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