Re-sign or you're gone

Chris Neil may have played his last game for the Sens. (Sun Media/Blair Gable)

Chris Neil may have played his last game for the Sens. (Sun Media/Blair Gable)

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Bryan Murray is poised to make at least two more trades before next week's deadline.

And that could just be the start of it.

The Senators GM said yesterday that, while he will not ask any players with no-trade clauses on contracts that extend beyond this season to waive them, he's all ears for offers on anybody else.

"Not that I want to put pressure on anybody, but our performance this year has not allowed me to say there are any untouchables," Murray stated after his team -- which is 15 points out of the playoff picture with just 24 games to play -- practiced yesterday at Scotiabank Place. "I'll honour (no-trade clauses) as I have to, but if there's good reason to make a move on some other players, I will do that."

Those with "no trades" are Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher, Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips.

Filip Kuba has a no-trade clause in his deal, but he, Chris Neil and recently acquired Mike Comrie will be eligible to test the unrestricted free agent waters July 1. Murray will deal at least Kuba and Neil if he can't get them to agree to contacts before the March 4 deadline.

At this point, it looks like they're both as good as gone.

Asked specifically about the security of Jason Spezza, whose no-trade clause on his deal doesn't kick in until next season, Murray said: "He's our No. 1 centre. I'm not going to get into specific names. I don't think that's fair to the player, really, other than the guys that are unrestricted (free agents)."

A "he's going nowhere" would have been so much simpler, if it was definitely the case.

Murray spoke with Neil's agent, Todd Reynolds, yesterday. Reynolds confirmed to Sun Media Murray's earlier assessment that the two sides are "far apart" in negotiations.

"There's quite a gap," said Reynolds. "We have philosophical differences of where (Neil's) at in the marketplace."

LAST GAME AS SENATOR?

That could mean Neil, who is out with a lacerated calf, has played his last game for Ottawa.

"The earliest he'll probably skate is the latter part of the week," said Murray. "He probably won't play until after the trading deadline. I don't know that for a fact, but it looks that way. But everybody knows what Chris Neil is. Whatever way we go, I don't think (the injury) is a concern."

Murray said his phone line has been heating up of late and is sure to get hotter.

"I get lots of calls, I've made lots of calls. Through the week there will be a fair number of contacts with different managers," he said. "The teams that are in the (playoff) hunt are trying to reinforce themselves and the teams that are like me, on the borderline, will be talking about what we can do with the unrestricted guys.

"We'll try not to let happen what's happened with a couple of players in the past. That is, go away in July for nothing."

It's possible Comrie, who makes $4 million (all terms US), could also be moved and then even re-signed by the Senators after July 1.

Either way, it appears both the team and the player recognize the natural fit of having Comrie in Ottawa.

"He said if we brought him here in a deal, he would be very interested in staying," said Murray, who last week acquired Comrie and promising defenceman Chris Campoli from the Islanders last week in exchange for the Senators' second, first-round pick and Dean McAmmond. "I don't know what the dollars are, and they have to fit our budget. I told him what we would do is watch the final 25 games and we would talk. (Comrie's side) indicated to me that they now realize Ottawa is pretty good place to play, that he had a great experience here, that he wouldn't be anything other than reasonable as far as negotiating a contract and getting him to stay."

Kuba said he likes Ottawa and the Senators, adding that he hasn't been asked yet to waive his no-trade clause.

"We're talking right now," he said of negotiations with the team. "There was some contacts happened already, but there's nothing right now that's final."

While Kuba might be able to help a contending team, he could also be in line to get a significant increase on his $3-million salary for next season.

But not in Ottawa.

"Basically that's something we've talked about, possibly keeping him around," said Murray. "But he has to want to be here, and he has to want to be here at the contract I suggested. And if not I would entertain other thoughts."

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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