Senators vets catch break

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

REGINA -- Senators GM Bryan Murray is willing to give some underachieving veterans the benefit of the doubt before final cuts are made.

But not for long.

The Senators intend to carry 21 players once the regular season begins, but Murray said yesterday he hopes some experienced players who are struggling in camp will be ready for opening night on Oct. 3 vs. the Rangers.

"Sometimes a veteran player has earned the right to be on your team even though he hasn't had a great training camp," said Murray. "What you do, is you allow the year to start, watch and then if that veteran doesn't upgrade his play to a point that helps you win, then you have to cut the ties.

"That's what happening in our league generally because the ties got cut and some young guys came along and beat them out. We're at that point, but we are handicapped a little by the contracts."

After facing the Lightning last night at the Brandt Centre, the Senators have only one pre-season game left -- Friday against Boston. Prospects Peter Regin, Erik Karlsson and Matt Carkner are pushing for jobs, but Murray can't afford to keep everybody and stay under the $56.7-million (all terms US) salary cap.

Murray could have decisions to make on defencemen Christoph Schubert and Alex Picard. Centre Chris Kelly has to step it up.

"It's a balance. I hope we don't have to make many guys wait if they're absolutely ready," said Murray. "We have some two-way contracts that we can play with a little bit. We've got a commitment to some players and to this point in time they've been outplayed. There are a couple of guys that I would really like to open the door for."

Pretty impressive

Bolts D Victor Hedman, the No. 2 overall pick in June's NHL draft, didn't play against the Senators, but Tampa coach Rick Tocchet was singing his praises. "I don't want to get too high, but he's terrific. He's a terrific hockey player. I knew he was as good as advertised, but I didn't know that for a 19-year-old how poised he is. He's the real deal," said Tocchet. "We've got to work with him and we've got to polish him up in spots, but we're ecstatic to have this guy. He's everything. I don't want to put too much pressure on the guy, but maybe not as nasty as Chris Pronger ... but Chris Pronger the way he pokes pucks away, defends and makes outlet passes."

Making the right moves

Senators D Chris Phillips didn't attend the NHLPA's meeting in Chicago last month, but would have supported the decision to oust union executive director Paul Kelly. "I don't think things would have changed the way they happened if I was there," said Phillips, the club's union rep. "It was deliberated for a long time. It didn't all just happen at that meeting. It's been something that has been going on for a while. Guys were just not happy with the direction and the way it was going. We have some pretty important things happening in the next couple of years and it's important to get on the right track."

Off the glass

Former Ottawa assistant coach Curtis Hunt is back as coach of the WHL's Regina Pats. Fired along with coach Craig Hartsburg in February, Hunt replaced Cory Clouston behind the bench in Binghamton. Hunt was offered the job full-time at the end of the season, but opted to return to Regina for family reasons. "I was disappointed with how it ended (in Ottawa). When I look at my part, and the picture, and the areas I was responsible for, I feel a lot of pride in the job I did," said Hunt. "It's a business of wins and you need to understand that. I had a chance to go to Binghamton. (That experience) makes a me a better person and a better coach." ... Senators D Jared Cowen, Ottawa's top pick in June's draft, suited up against the Bolts and was returned to Spokane of the WHL following the game.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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