Neil not ready to punch ticket

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Chris Neil won't leave the Senators without a fight.

The rugged winger told Sun Media yesterday that his Toronto-based agent, Todd Reynolds, will travel to Ottawa in the next 24 hours to sit down with Senators GM Bryan Murray in one final attempt to get a new contract in place before Wednesday's NHL trade deadline.

Neil, 29, who is sidelined with a lacerated calf that's expected to keep him out of action for another week, confirmed the sides are far apart in negotiations, but remains hopeful both might be able to budge enough to get a deal in place to keep him in Ottawa.

"I still hold out hope that we can get something done," said Neil, who has played his entire seven-year NHL career with the Senators. "If both sides are willing to move a little bit, hopefully it will get done. It's got to be good for both parties, but hopefully (I haven't played) my last game in an Ottawa uniform."

Neil said he hopes a face-to-face meeting can resolve the issues. Still, there is a huge gap to bridge because Neil has been asking for $2.5 million (all terms US) a season on a long-term deal while the Senators' last offer was $1.6 million per season.

Neither side was optimistic a deal could be reached Saturday, but that could change quickly if they find common ground in new discussions.

"Hopefully, (Reynolds) will be able to sit down with Bryan and they'll be able to get something done. If not, I'm probably going to be moved," admitted Neil. "(Reynolds) knows my heart is in Ottawa and this is where I want to be. You can't sell yourself too short. It's not just me, but you've got to think of your family as well."

Neil said he will continue to skate on his own for the next week and hopes to resume practising next Monday.

The Sharks made a pitch for Neil last week, but weren't prepared to meet Murray's asking price of a high-end prospect and a second-round pick.

Neil may not be the only Ottawa player on the move:

* Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson took in Saturday night's Senators-Leafs game and sources confirm he was here to watch Ottawa forwards Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly.

The Jackets would like to add a top-six forward for their run to the playoffs, which means Vermette would be a candidate.

* The Senators are also going to find out today where defenceman Filip Kuba stands. He has a no-movement clause and his agent, Rich Evans, has told Murray that Kuba would like to stay in Ottawa.

The sides held contract talks yesterday and more are planned before the deadline. As reported by Sun Media yesterday, Kuba will likely demand a salary in the $4.5- million-per-season range.

Murray won't lose his unrestricted free agents for nothing, so the heat will be turned up on Kuba to reach a deal.

"I'm not nervous," said Kuba, who was brought to Ottawa as part of the deal that sent Andrej Meszaros to the Lightning last fall. "It's something new for me. I've never experienced this. We'll see what happens. There's a possibility that something will get done (with the Senators)."


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