Gerber hits the highway

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Depending on which way a Senator is headed on Interstate 81, it can either be one of the most exciting or depressing drives of their lives.

Martin Gerber was living the latter last night.

The stretch of road between the Canadian border and Binghamton can be pretty desolate, especially on a January night with the temperatures looking like Chris Phillips' plus-minus.

Gerber, whose days with the Ottawa Senators appear to have ended, was on his way to the Binghamton Senators of the AHL after agreeing to a two-week conditioning stint.

The 34-year-old, whose inconsistent play led to his ouster, is in the final stretch of a three-year, $11.1-million US contract. He will continue to draw his NHL salary and it will still count toward the Senators' salary cap unless the assignment becomes permanent. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The solid play of rookie Brian Elliott (2-1, 1.69 goals-against average, .939 save percentage) since being recalled from Binghamton a week ago, coupled with backup Alex Auld's modest $1-million salary this season and next made Gerber the odd man out.

Elliott, who is making $758,000 but is a potential restricted free agent in the summer, will likely start his third straight game tomorrow night as the Senators shoot for their third straight win -- their longest winning streak of the season -- when they host the Montreal Canadiens.

GM Bryan Murray has been trying to trade Gerber -- there were talks with the Canucks when star goalie Roberto Luongo went on the shelf -- but there no takers.

That led to Gerber heading to Bingo for two weeks on a voluntary basis and see if a trade or maybe a loan to a European team can be worked out.

Frankly, since neither of those have happened, they likely won't.

"He's a man. He understands how the league works. When you play well, they like you. When you don't play well, they don't like you," said Murray, who expects Gerber to make his debut with Binghamton tonight when the Baby Sens host the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.

WAIVERS IN 2 WEEKS

"At this point, it's a voluntary thing and at the end of the (conditioning) assignment, if he's playing well, maybe he'll be inclined to stay."

If no other options emerge in the next two weeks, the next step will be to place Gerber on waivers. When he clears, he can be assigned to Binghamton on a permanent basis and the remainder of his salary will not count toward the Senators' cap.

Gerber has the option of not reporting, of course, but he would likely be suspended and forfeit his salary.

"Knowing him and talking to him, he will only play as hard as he can play," said Murray. "I hope he finds some satisfaction in that and for him, I hope somebody gives him a chance to play in the NHL."

The Bingo Senators (21-12-3-3) were having a strong season with Elliott, who was voted in as a starting goaltender for the AHL all-star game Jan. 26.

For the sake of the prospects down there, Murray would like Gerber to step in and help the team continue its success.

Gerber was coming off a 38-14-6 record in 2005-06 with the Carolina Hurricanes -- he lost his job to Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward in their Stanley Cup march that spring -- when then-Senators GM John Muckler signed the free agent July 1. The Senators were coming off the failed Dominik Hasek experiment and weren't sure if Ray Emery was ready to be No. 1.

Gerber was inconsistent in his 100 games with the Senators, compiling a 49-36-8 record with a 2.76 GAA and .907 save percentage. He could make brilliant saves in one period and then surrender one of those "How did that go in?" type of goals the next.

Gerber was brought here to be the No. 1 goaltender, but never got a firm grasp on the title. He lost his job that first season to Emery, who emerged from Gerber's shadow to help the Senators reach the Stanley Cup final. Gerber had a blazing start last season, but couldn't sustain it. This season, he struggled to beat out Auld for playing time. Gerber was 4-9-1 this season with a 2.86 GAA and .899 save percentage in 14 games.

Murray was reluctant to say Gerber had played his last game with the Senators. An injury could see him return.

But a Senators career that started with a signing on a hot day in July likely ended last night with a frigid drive through the dark upstate New York countryside.


Videos

Photos