'Tender moment for Sens

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

As the Senators hit the halfway point of the season tomorrow night, several important meetings over the next couple of days will define the direction the club will take -- both on and off the ice -- for the second half.

Maybe for much longer.

It could be a tumultuous couple of days.

GM Bryan Murray -- still on the job despite a flurry of rumours of imminent change -- returned from scouting meetings last night and is expected to deal with the goaltending and coaching situations today.

It's not out of the question Martin Gerber, a healthy scratch Saturday night as rookie Brian Elliott got the start, has played his last game as a Senator.

Speculation is that Gerber will be placed on waivers with an eye toward sending him to Binghamton to take Elliott's spot, but no action is likely until Murray sits down and talks with Gerber, likely today.

It is also not clear if owner Eugene Melnyk will be willing to eat the approximately $1.8 million remaining on Gerber's contract to have him toil in the minors, though it would take his salary off the books at the NHL level.

Elliott's NHL salary is $758,000, but he is due to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

The best remedy would be to find a team willing to take Gerber off the Senators' hands, but his value in the league is virtually zero. However, a team that runs into injury problems might need an experienced backup.

Elliott was summoned from Binghamton and started the Senators' 2-0 loss to the Rangers Saturday night.

It's expected Elliott will also get the start tomorrow night when the Senators host the Hurricanes and perhaps Wednesday night as well in Atlanta to face the Thrashers.

PROMISED A SHOT

Elliott was apparently promised at the beginning of the season that if he went down to Binghamton and played well, he would be rewarded with an opportunity with the big club. After leading the AHL in wins, being named that league's goaltender of the month for December and being selected as the starter for the Canadian team in the AHL all-star game, Elliott lived up to his end of the bargain.

The Senators are living up to their end of it now by giving him a chance.

The Senators need to know if the 23-year-old is ready to play at the NHL level -- he certainly looked like it in the loss to the Rangers, supplying a big stop on a breakaway in the first minute of the third period -- and his status will decide Gerber's immediate future and perhaps that of coach Craig Hartsburg.

One NHL scout at Saturday's game said he thought the Senators put in a good effort, but they seemed at times to be working without much direction, particularly on the power play.

Meanwhile, Elliott's promotion has not gone unnoticed around the league.

LOOK TO STEVE MASON

"You could look at them promoting Elliott two ways," said one insider. "On one hand, you could say they've packed it in and are taking a look to see what they've got in the system. On the other, they could be hoping Elliott can come in and give them a spark.

"Who thought Steve Mason would do what he's done for the Columbus Blue Jackets in half a season?"

Mason, also a rookie, leads the NHL in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts, and has helped the Blue Jackets to within a point of the last playoff spot in the West.

An NHL source said Murray has been working the phones and the BlackBerry hard to try to make a deal to help his flailing club, but "the prices to do anything right now are pretty high. Does Murray do a deal now and pay that high price? For what? History says their chances of making the playoffs now are dead."


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