Exercise in frustration for GM

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

The Senators were reduced to spectators on Day 1 of NHL free agency.

GM Bryan Murray spent the day working the phones, but it's tough to make a deal while handcuffed by having $51 million committed in salaries for next season and Dany Heatley holding the franchise hostage after nixing a trade to Edmonton at the 11th hour on Tuesday.

The bottom line is the club has little leeway. With a possible deal with the Edmonton Oilers pending, it was difficult for the Senators to get in on the bidding.

The Senators are hoping to bring in a top-six forward during the free agency period. They were forced to pass on C Mike Cammalleri, who signed a five-year, $30-million (all terms US) contract with the Montreal Canadiens. There was no way to fit a $6-million cap hit into Ottawa's salary structure.

There is the chance they could bring back UFA winger Mike Comrie, but they want him at significantly less than the $4 million he made last season. Comrie would have to accept a deal in the $1.5-million range to fit under the Senators' cap.

Ultimately, Murray wanted to bring in some new blood.

The Senators began the day believing Cammalleri, 27, was attainable. They would have been comfortable if the bigging in the $4.5-$5M range. Teams with more cap space simply upped the ante in what became a bidding war between the Rangers and Montreal.

Cammalleri ended up getting one of the biggest deals of the day.

Typically, Murray is not afraid to dive into the bidding wars, but he had a $32.5-million millstone hanging from his neck -- the money owed to Heatley for the next five seasons.

League sources say the Senators inquired about high-priced RW Marian Hossa, who accepted a 12-year deal with Chicago.

Murray also put in a call to agent Allan Walsh about speedy winger Martin Havlat.

The Senators had no chance there either, but it is ironic that the club tried to re-acquire two players who came up with Ottawa.

BLOCKED

Once those attempts didn't work either, it's believed the club held discussions with Nashville C Steve Sullivan.

The general belief was that Sullivan had no desire to move. The Predators were good to him while he struggled with injury issues and as it turned out, Sullivan accepted a two-year, $7.5-million deal to stay in Music City.

The Senators also looked at adding Mike Knuble.

The veteran winger opted to sign a two-year, $2.8-million deal with the Washington Capitals. GM George McPhee was able to sell Knuble on a team built around Alex Ovechkin.

Erik Cole took himself out of the picture by giving Carolina a hometown discount.

This was an exercise in frustration for Murray and now he'll spend the next couple of days looking at the lists to see who else might be available.

At the very least, Neil's return alleviates any need to go out and find a rugged winger.

The Senators may also still try to add depth on defence. They had targeted Francois Beauchemin, but his price is higher than expected.

Though he made only $1.65 million last season in Anaheim, Beauchemin is seeking a deal in the $4-million range.

The Senators would like to find a way to fit him in, but that's likely too rich for their blood unless they can move someone with a significantly large salary.

Pittsburgh veteran Rob Scuderi could also come into the mix.


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