OTTAWA - There are more than 700 players in the NHL and therefore it is unrealistic for Bryan Murray — whose off-season shopping list started out to have on it just a veteran defensive defenceman (check), but then grew to include a scoring winger (nice swing, but still a miss on Rick Nash) and now somebody to help Chris Neil with the physical stuff — to inquire about each one.
Still, Murray himself must be thinking the Senators missed the boat on B.J. Crombeen, a rugged 27-year-old former second-round pick with a modest salary ($1 million) the Blues virtually gave away (for a fifth-round pick) to the Lightning earlier this week.
From the outside looking in, Crombeen is exactly the type of player the Senators need. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound winger kills penalties, is solid defensively, likes to hit and can chip in with the odd goal. He was limited to 40 games by a broken scapula in 2011-12, but according to hockeyfights.com, he has had 65 scraps in the last five seasons.
Lighting defenceman Eric Brewer, a former teammate of Crombeen’s for three seasons with the Blues, told the Tampa Bay Times that the former 31-goal scorer in the OHL (Barrie Colts) is “a good guy to have around.”
Said Brewer: “He’s very team first, very much for the group, a good blue-collar player with lots to offer.”
In other words, he’s another Neil. Kudos to Bolts GM Steve Yzerman for the score.
To lend a helping hand, I’ve compiled a list the Senators should ask about in their quest for toughness. Keep in mind that I do not know which are “good guys to have around” and that I’ve omitted some, such as the Bruins’ Milan Lucic, the Sharks’ Ryan Clowe and the Devils’ David Clarkson, who are surely considered untouchables by their current GMs.
Also, I’ve overlooked defencemen. When one of them is in the box, it leaves five guys overworked. Besides, the Senators already have Marc Methot, Jared Cowen and, at some point, Mark Borowiecki to provide muscle on the back end. They are too soft up front.
Boston: Shawn Thornton. It’s highly unlikely the B’s would trade one of the top fighters in the league, who also just happens to be able to play. Plus, they’re already too close to the cap limit and Thornton is a steal at $1.1 million. But then I didn’t really think the Blues would peddle Crombeen, either.
Buffalo: Even Patrick Kaleta’s mom must hate him, but he is an effective pain in the ass. At the risk of disrupting dressing room chemistry, fake interest in Kaleta and ask Darcy Regier about Cody McCormick instead.
Colorado: I’d take shift disturber Steve Downie on my team, but so many others wouldn’t. Cody McLeod would be a nice addition.
Columbus: The hell with Nash. Two Blue Jackets who probably wouldn’t (or couldn’t) refuse a trade to Ottawa — Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll. However, both have recently signed extensions.
Dallas: He’s pricey ($4.1 million) and has some hard miles on him, but, oh, Brenden Morrow could be a huge coup.
Edmonton: You like Ottawa guys, Bryan? Throw an offer on the table for Ben Eager. If it’s not doable, what about Darcy Hordichuk?
Florida: Krys Barch was traded last season to the Panthers from Dallas. Maybe he still has his bags packed.
Los Angeles: Murray has been lucky with Kyles. Why not shoot for 21-year-old former second-rounder Kyle Clifford?
Minnesota: Cal Clutterbuck would cost a lot, but because he hits, fights and scores, I’d part with a package for him.
Calgary: Tim Jackman is worth no more than a late draft pick.
Chicago: Daniel Carcillo is a much tougher Kaleta and needs to be reined in at times. But he’s a nasty one.
New Jersey: Low-priced options might be Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton. Murray has had interest in the latter before.
New York Islanders: Matt Martin might do the trick.
New York Rangers: Mike Rupp is getting long in the tooth, but I’d part with a bunch to land Brandon Dubinsky.
Philadelphia: They have Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds — do they really need both Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito, too?
St. Louis: Chris Stewart has been rumoured to be on the block again. He’s tough and could play Top 6 minutes, killing two birds with one stone for Murray. Don’t know enough about Ryan Reaves, but he should come cheap.
Vancouver: Can barely bring myself to type the name Maxim Lapierre, and he’s more dirty than tough, anyway. But Dale Weise, who’s close buddies with Zack Smith, could be a low-end option.
Washington: I’d take Matt Hendricks in a second.
Winnipeg: Chris Thorburn? Maybe.
Some of the above might be nothing more than wishful thinking, but my Top 5 of suggested targets would be Clutterbuck, Stewart, Thornton, Clifford and Dorsett. All depends on what the Senators are willing to spend.
I also might have missed a few, but who doesn’t, right? At the very least, it’s a list to consider on a hot summer day.
No doubt the Senators are doing just that.