Sens have ‘big reason for optimism’

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

The Senators gathered at Scotiabank Place Monday, before leaving the dressing room with bags of equipment in tow for another long summer.

While the Senators weren’t happy with their first-round ouster in six games by the Penguins, GM Bryan Murray was pleased the team returned to the playoffs and is hopeful the organization is back on the right track.

“There’s a big reason for optimism,” said Murray. “We had 94 points. A year ago we weren’t very happy with the way the team operated. We’re back and we have a number of young people coming into the program that look like they have a chance. Overall, the group competed really hard.

“I thought they did themselves very proud in the playoffs. I’m disappointed today, but as I look back I’m probably okay with what I see going forward.”

With $49 million (all terms US) committed to 17 players next season, the Senators aren’t going to be able to make many off-season changes unless Murray can pull off a huge trade.

As reported by the Sun Monday, it appears defenceman Anton Volchenkov will leave the team as an unrestricted free agent this summer. He turned down a five-year, $20-million offer following the Olympics, as his camp feels Volchenkov can get upwards of $5 million a season on the open market.

“I don’t know whether or not I’m going to be able to get him signed,” Murray said. “With cap numbers, it’s going to be very difficult. We all have to work with budgets and numbers.”

Murray admits losing Volchenkov would hurt.

“I don’t think you ever replace the shot-blocking and the contact player that he is,” said Murray. “We’d have to look at filling that spot. We’ve got a couple of young guys who will come to camp and be serious candidates to make our team.

“If we can’t do the numbers that Anton’s people are looking for, then we have to go find a guy that can play a defensive role for this team.”

Volchenkov said he hasn’t ruled out playing here.

“There’s always a chance (he’ll be back),” said Volchenkov. “I like Ottawa. I’ve played seven years here. I know there (is the possibility) of a new place, but my first choice is Ottawa.”

Chris Phillips, Volchenkov’s defensive partner, said he will try to convince the “A Train” to stay.

“Hopefully, they’ll be able to work something out,” said Phillips. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times.

“I definitely plan on continuing to talk to him about possibilities of what’s on the table and where he’s at.”

If Volchenkov leaves, Murray will have to hit the market for another shot-blocking defenceman. Coach Cory Clouston plans to sit down with the GM later this week to discuss changes.

“(Volchenkov) is a warrior. He plays a lot of minutes against top lines,” said Clouston. “He’s not the most gifted and skilled player. He’s a guy that battles every night. We started to play more like him as the playoffs went on as a team.

“We talked about the 46 blocked shots (in Game 5). That was kind of a double-edged sword. We liked that, but it also shows we were defending a lot more than we liked.”

Clouston just finished his first full season behind the bench. He wasn’t willing to grade his own performance, but admitted he was far from perfect.

“I thought we did some really good things,” said Clouston. “We knew (Pittsburgh) was going to be a tough battle, but it just looked like we started to wear down (in Game 6).”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos