Sens plug hole in lineup

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 PM ET

OTTAWA (CP) - The Ottawa Senators were looking for a centre and they got one Wednesday, acquiring Mike Comrie from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for suspended Russian prospect Alexei Kaigorodov.

The 26-year-old Comrie is earning US$3 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. He had 20 points (7-13) in 24 games with the Coyotes this season. Comrie was in the lineup Wednesday in Ottawa's home game against Buffalo.

"We have been working on this for a long time," Senators GM John Muckler said Wednesday at a news conference. "This was the best guy available at the time. We have been talking to our scouts about this for some time."

With top two centres Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher out with knee injuries, Senators GM John Muckler has been working the phones over the past few days trying to find some help. He attempted to acquire Petr Nedved off re-entry waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers but the Edmonton Oilers beat him to the punch Tuesday.

Comrie was the next option and it cost a 23-year-old centre in Kaigorodov, who left the Senators for Russia earlier this season after refusing an AHL assignment. The Senators subsequently suspended him. The Coyotes already have a suspended Russian forward in Enver Lisin, who failed to report to Phoenix's AHL affiliate in late November and went home to Russia.

In six NHL seasons, Comrie has 110 goals and 127 assists 345 career games with Edmonton, Philadelphia and Phoenix. The Edmonton native was drafted by the Oilers in the third round, 91st overall, of the 1999 NHL entry draft.

He had a career-high 60 points (33-27) in 2001-02 with the Oilers as well as last season with the Coyotes (30-30).

"He should add some offence to this group," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "With the injuries the way they are, he's going to add something here. There's an offensive role for a player of this nature and (he) gives us strength down the middle."

The Coyotes had a surplus at centre after the return of Steve Reinprecht and Comrie didn't fit into their future plans this summer. The Senators were seen by many as needing a centre even before the injuries to Spezza and Fisher. Once everyone is healthy Comrie will likely be the No. 2 centre.

"I had a meeting with (Coyotes coach) Wayne Gretzky and (general manager) Mike Barnett at 9:30 (Wednesday) morning in Washington," Comrie said shortly after his arrival in Ottawa. "When you first learn that you're getting traded you have a lot of feelings and emotions that go through your mind, and I'm obviously thrilled and very excited at coming to Ottawa,"

"That being said, I'm going to miss a lot of close friends in Phoenix, but the challenge ahead of me is very exciting and I look forward to it."

The Senators are also missing centre Antoine Vermette, who remains day-to-day with a hip injury.

"Very seldom are you going to lose your (top three) centre-ice men," said Muckler. "We felt we needed a little more offence. The team has been playing very well. We just felt over the long run we needed a push on the offensive side."

Comrie will likely centre the second line once the Senators return to full strength.

"I know (The Senators) are a very high skilled team and they've got a lot of great players," Comrie said. "As a player joining the team, I'm excited because I know that they have a great chance of making a great run in the playoffs and I look forward to being a part of that."

A former GM of the Anaheim Ducks, Murray knows what Comrie potentially brings to the Senators.

"He seemed to be a thorn in the side of our team every time we would go in there," Murray said. "He's a skilled player, a point-getter. He's played pretty well in the NHL. He should add some offence to this group. We've been short in our ability to score. Mike gives us an upgrade."


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