Chris-mas comes early

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Chris Phillips skipped the morning skate yesterday and instead took a stroll down to GM John Muckler's office.

As reported by the Sun on Tuesday, the Senators defenceman opted not to test the unrestricted free agency market and signed a four-year, $14-million US agreement that includes a no-trade clause.

While Phillips could have earned more money on the open market this summer, he preferred to stay with the team that selected him first overall in the 1996 draft.

"Right from the start, it was about trying to get something done to stay here," said Phillips. "I wanted to stay. I wanted to play hockey here. That was the focus the whole time. It wasn't about weighing options about what it would like somewhere else."

Asked why he wanted to stay in in the nation's capital, Phillips shot a question right back: "Why wouldn't I? It's a great hockey city, a great organization and it's the 10th year in a row in the playoffs. For myself, and in this locker room, I want to help be a part of bringing that hardware to this city."

Muckler is pleased to have signed both Phillips and the other half of his top defensive pairing, Anton Volchenkov, within the last 48 hours.

"I feel it's very important to get it done. It's very positive. Getting (Volchenkov) done and Phillips done, it sends the right signals and they're all positive," said Muckler.

Muckler said the no-trade clause was an important element in the deal because Phillips is giving up years of UFA status.

"(Phillips) has been a great soldier for us. He has taken on a big role for us and I thought it was important to get one of the key players signed," said Muckler.

"He gave us a bit of home-town discount. We wanted to show him that we're as dedicated as he is. He's become a big part of the community and a leader in this dressing room."

Captain Daniel Alfredsson was pleased with the signings as well.

"They've been a huge for us this year and it's important for us to keep them and the stability with this team," said Alfredsson. "When you can keep your best players, that's a plus."


Photos