Senators won't deal Spezza

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Don't count on Jason Spezza packing his suitcases and moving to a new city any time soon.

While there has been plenty of speculation that the 25-year-old Spezza, who will make $8 million US next season, will be dealt before his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1, 2010, Senators GM Bryan Murray says his star centre isn't going anywhere.

"He's a top-end forward," said Murray. "I watched him at the world championships and I thought he was really good. I believe Team Canada has to look at him as a real candidate for the Olympic team. Our judgment of Jason is somewhat fair: We see a level of play that he can get to some nights and other nights he's not quite there.

"I've watched him. He's in the gym every day. He's working with our strength coach. He wants to be a real top-end guy and be more consistent. To be there, he has to be stronger and he recognizes that. I don't see any need to do anything other than to get him to play at the top level every night."

Murray has other pressing issues on his plate:

- CHRIS NEIL: Murray revealed he made a new offer to Neil, who is scheduled to become a UFA on July 1, two weeks ago. There haven't been any discussions since, but Neil's agent Todd Reynolds did return a counter-proposal. "I don't think it's finished. We made a proposal and we're not as far apart as we were. Both of us moved and we are closer," said Murray. "I'm just waiting to see if they will make one more adjustment. If they will, we can do the deal. If they won't, we probably can't. There's been some movement. I think there's a possibility there now. Earlier on, I didn't think it would be there."

- OFF-SEASON NEEDS: After signing No. 1 pick Erik Karlsson, the Senators would like to bring in another high-end forward either through trade or free agency. "We'd really like to get a good forward," said Murray. "I think our defence is more than adequate now. It's very different than it was at the beginning of last year. We've made our commitments to four or five of them and if we can sign another we will, but my focus is to get a good forward." Murray plans to speak with lawyer Larry Kelly in the near future to decide what's going to happen with D Brendan Bell, who will be an RFA.

- MOVING UP IN THE DRAFT: Murray has talked with the teams at the top -- including the Islanders and Lightning -- to see what they might want for the Senators to move up from the ninth spot in the draft. "You always talk to people. I don't know that many people want to move. I'm sure for a price, there are some people who will let you move a few spots, but I don't think you will move to No. 1 or No. 2 by any means," he said.

- LUKE RICHARDSON: He is welcome to return as an assistant coach next season, but made a commitment to coach one of his daughters in hockey. If there aren't many conflicts in the schedule, Richardson will return.


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