Sens GM thinking defence first as trade deadline looms

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:41 AM ET

Bryan Murray is spending the weekend working the phones.

While Senators coach Cory Clouston cancelled the club’s practice Saturday at Scotiabank Place, there was no rest for Ottawa’s GM as Murray tries to bolster his roster before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

The NHL’s trade freeze will be lifted Sunday at midnight once the Vancouver Olympics are wrapped up, and it probably won’t take long for the first post-Games deals to get done.

“The amount of talk is increasing, but the prices are still high,” a league executive said Saturday. “My sense is you’re going to see some deals completed Monday.”

The Senators are thin on the blue line, especially with Chris Campoli sidelined for a month with a knee injury and the loss of Alex Picard in the Matt Cullen deal.

Murray would love to add a puck-moving defenceman for the stretch run — but that type of player is a highly sought-after commodity and could command a steep price. Murray would rather not give up a roster player, but defenceman Brian Lee could be available in the right deal.

It’s believed the Senators have talked with the Minnesota Wild about acquiring defenceman Marek Zidlicky. He has a cap hit of $3.35 million (all terms US) and could become a UFA on July 1. Seven or eight teams have shown interest in picking him up for the rest of the season, but sources say he is close to signing a three-year extension with the Wild in the $12-million range.

While Zidlicky — who suited up for the Czech Republic at the Olympics — could command as much as $5 million a year on the open market, he’s willing to take less to remain with the Wild and likely will.

So where do the Senators turn next? Ottawa wanted Edmonton’s Ladislav Smid in a potential trade for Dany Heatley last fall. Murray will likely take another run at the Oilers blueliner this week. Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini hasn’t been eager to deal the talented defenceman, but he does want to shake up his roster.

Another possibility is Atlanta defenceman Pavel Kubina, but not every GM is convinced he’s going to be dealt.

Thrashers forward Slava Kozlov, a potential UFA this summer, has already asked for a trade due to his lack of ice time. With his team in the playoff race, Atlanta GM Don Waddell doesn’t want to clean house.

Among other options, the Blue Jackets are ready to move Jan Hejda.

Hejda has one year and $2 million left on his contract, and he would be a good insurance policy if Ottawa loses Anton Volchenkov to free agency this summer.

Washington wants to deal defenceman Brian Pothier, but the asking price is a second-round pick.

Colorado’s John-Michael Liles has also been offered around. The Avs don’t want anything in return for Liles because they just want to get his $4-million salary off the books.

A league executive insisted Saturday Carolina’s Aaron Ward is going to end up with Ottawa. If that doesn’t happen, Murray might pursue New York Islanders blueliner Andy Sutton or Florida’s Dennis Seidenberg, who played well for Carolina during last season’s playoffs.

“There are some options if you’re looking for defencemen and guys who are going to get moved,” said the executive.

“You just have to decide what you’re willing to pay. This is going to be your typical trade deadline with a lot of moves. It will be busy.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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