Sens won't Neil down to winger

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

ST. PAUL, MINN. -- Push is about to come to shove between the Senators and tough guy Chris Neil.

While the rugged winger is out of the lineup after suffering a cut to his calf last Saturday, Neil might not be with the Senators much longer when he returns to action if he doesn't agree to a new contract before the March 4 NHL trade deadline.

Senators GM Bryan Murray told Sun Media yesterday that he's held talks with Neil's agent, Todd Reynolds, about a contract extension, but the sides aren't close to a deal and that could mean Murray will trade the 29-year-old Neil rather than risk losing him as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season.

"For both of our sakes I think it's fair that we have an answer (by the trade deadline)," Murray said. "I mean, if we're not close in dollars, then obviously we don't want to lose players for nothing if we can help it."

Neil, who is making $1.25 million (all terms US) this season, would not only be a valuable commodity on the open market, he'll also be a huge asset at the deadline. It's believed the Senators' asking price will be at least a second-round draft pick and possibly a prospect.

Reynolds confirmed he has spoken to Murray and maintained Neil's No. 1 priority is to remain with the Senators.

"(Neil) hasn't played for any other team in his NHL career," said Reynolds. "He loves playing in Ottawa. Everybody knows that. We're just going to continue to talk to see if we can get something done."

An NHL executive estimated Neil could get more than $2 million on the open market this summer, but it may difficult for Murray to pony up that much.

Murray said he knows what an asset Neil is and that he wants to stay in Ottawa, but it doesn't mean the Senators can do a deal at any price.

"We've had good talks. We haven't had any talks since we came on this road trip. All Todd has said to me is, 'Let's continue to talk,' " said Murray. "I told him I'm prepared to talk, but I can't do what you're asking. That was the last time I spoke to him."

Another milestone

Senators RW Shean Donovan, a Carleton Place native, has come a long way. He will suit up for his 900th NHL game tonight against the Wild, which isn't bad for a guy who has been a journeyman most of his career. "I guess 900 has come pretty quick," said Donovan, who is on his seventh NHL team. "I never thought I would play 900. Growing up, I never thought I would play in the NHL. It's nice and it'll be exciting to get to do that. It's taken me a little longer the last 10 games than I would have liked (because of a knee injury), but it's going to be exciting." The next goal for the 34-year-old is to make it to 1,000 games, which would come some time next season if he can stay healthy. "It's a great honour to play in the NHL and to get to play with some great players and to get to play with some great teams," said Donovan. "I'll be able to look back on it someday and I'll be happy I got the chance to do that." D Jason Smith is only three games of this 1,000th, which he'll play in on Tuesday against the Avalanche in Denver.

Off the glass

Expect to see the Senators stick with G Brian Elliott against the Wild. Coach Cory Clouston said he doesn't expect to make any lineup changes, but wanted to wait until after the morning skate today for any final decisions. Clouston has been pleased with Elliott's play. "We felt (against the Flyers) we wanted to play better for Brian. He has been there for us and the feeling on the bench was, 'Come on, let's be there for him,' " said Clouston ... This the Senators' first trip to Minnesota since Jan. 16, 2006, when Ottawa scored a 6-1 victory.


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