Tough luck for McGrattan

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

At end of season meetings with management, Brian McGrattan asked for a trade.

Yesterday, with a nifty sleight of hand, Bryan Murray managed to unload the heavy weight to the Phoenix Coyotes.

In return for "Big Ern," the Senators received a 2009 fifth-round draft pick.

Murray had no intention of bringing the 26-year-old Hamilton native back.

"I'm pretty pumped," McGrattan, the Senators enforcer for the past three seasons, said last night from Toronto. "It'll be more of an opportunity for me to be in a lineup and play, to actually be a part of a team."

In Ottawa, he was fading from sight, fast. McGrattan, a 6-foot-4 right winger and one of the best fighters in the Eastern Conference, had two goals, eight assists and 287 PIMs in 143 games as a Senator. He averaged 4:13 of ice time per game his first season, 3:51 his second and just 2:52 in the 38 games he played in 2007-08. McGrattan was not happy with his diminishing role, and it showed.

'MAYBE I GOT COMPLACENT'

"Maybe I got complacent, not playing," he said. "You go 10-12 games in a row without playing, and then when you do get in the lineup you have one or two shifts, it's natural to get a bit down on yourself. (The Senators) gave me a shot to make a name for myself, but I know this is the best move for me."

In sweeping McGrattan out of town four days after buying out Ray Emery's contract, Murray acknowledged he was doing some spring cleaning.

"From my point of view, I want our team to kind of knock the label of a dysfunctional room, if that's the right word," Murray said. "With Ray and Brian and people like that, all I ever heard were the stories of all these guys doing different things ... I want a team of real character people, as best I can, and I want very definitely good people in our room.

"I think anything I read, and you guys wrote it, is that we had some issues in our room. I want to clean that perception up."

Murray also said McGrattan's departure will give Winchester native Matt Carkner a chance to make the parent club after spending a season (10 goals, 15 assists, 218 PIMs) in Binghamton. A defenceman by trade, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder would likely be open to a position switch if it meant playing in the NHL, Murray said.

The Senators will eye other "tough guy" options -- it's believed Eric Godard will be on their list unless he avoids unrestricted free agency by signing a last-minute deal with Calgary -- but Murray said they might just stick with status quo.

Somewhere, Chris Neil's hands just twitched.

"What I saw in the last couple of years is that it was great to have a heavyweight guy, but less and less were they getting played," said Murray. "I think you need gritty, competitive people. I think you need people the coach feels comfortable putting on the ice and they won't get hurt by doing that.

"You don't want to ever see (Dany) Heatley, (Jason) Spezza or (Daniel) Alfredsson get beaten up, or abused, or something happen that we can't address the situation. However, the way the game is now when you do that, you get an aggressor penalty, the guy's never on the ice against particular people and therefore, if you don't have gritty people in your lineup that just play and are available if a fight is required, then it's hard."

After emerging as a reliable penalty killer and fourth-line centre as a rookie last season, Cody Bass proved he can help pick up some of the slack.

""I'm not a fighter, but at the same time if I have to I will," Bass said at the Senators development camp yesterday. "I think every team will have the guys that if a game gets out of hand, guys will stick up for each other. I'm only a young guy, but I think that's a huge thing.

"When you have a team that's so close, it doesn't matter who you are, you're going to stick up for each other. I think that's what they're trying to look for this year. Hopefully, we'll have a real close team."

TOP 5 FIGHTERS

DON BRENNAN'S TOP 5 (AND-NOT-TOO-SCIENTIFIC) LIST OF ALL-TIME SENATORS FIGHTERS

1. Mike Peluso

2. Chris Neil

3. Dennis Vial

4. Brian McGrattan

5. Andre Roy


Videos

Photos