Muckler pushes it to limit for Arnason

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

There were, to say the least, a few anxious moments yesterday for Senators GM John Muckler.

As the clock was about to strike 3 p.m. on the NHL's trade deadline, Muckler sent prospect winger Brandon Bochenski and a second-round draft pick to the Windy City for centre Tyler Arnason.

"I got this deal done with about five minutes to go. That's the closest I've ever come (to the deadline) and if this deal didn't happen, there wasn't anything else," the relieved Muckler told reporters.

Yes, it was that close.

Trying to get ready for the playoffs, Muckler has been looking for a second-line centre all season and he was determined to get one before the deadline.

After being given the thumbs down by Florida Panthers GM Mike Keenan on centre Olli Jokinen three days ago, Muckler started looking in other directions.

JOKINEN A NO-GO

Yes, Muckler admitted Jokinen -- who signed a four-year, $21-million (all terms US) deal yesterday to stay in Florida -- would have been "everybody's first choice" if he'd been dealt at the deadline, the club is happy to get Arnason.

"The Panthers made it clear they were going to make a big attempt to sign Jokinen about three days ago, so we didn't call them again. Mike Keenan told us he was going to sign him and he did," said Muckler, who is believed to have offered a top draft pick and a prospect for Jokinen.

"We had been talking to (Keenan) for a while. The first time we discussed it was at the GMs' meetings in Nevada (last month) and we had a lot of discussions since then. I made a proposal then and he turned it down. Since then, we hadn't really gotten into any names and started looking elsewhere."

The 26-year-old Arnason, who makes $1.2 million and is a restricted free agent at the end of this season, is a skilled, play-making centre.

Now, Muckler isn't going to start telling coach Bryan Murray what to do, but don't be surprised if the Senators move Bryan Smolinski to the wing if Arnason plays tonight in Atlanta. When winger Martin Havlat returns from a shoulder injury, it's expected he'll play on a line with Arnason.

"You only have so many opportunities and we feel like this team has a chance to win a Stanley Cup. We've been looking for a second-line centre and we felt like Arnason was the best choice," said Muckler. "I really felt like we needed to get a player who was skilled ... He was plus-five on the Chicago Blackhawks this season and that says something about him as a player."

Arnason had some off-ice issues in Chicago a couple of years ago and his character had been brought into question, but Muckler doesn't have any concerns.

"He's going to be in a different role here in Ottawa and that's going to help him," said Muckler. "What happened in Chicago was he was expected to be a leader every night and I just don't think Tyler Arnason fits that type of mould as a player.

"He comes here and we're just expecting him to play a role as a second-line centre and I believe he's going to be able to fulfill that role quite nicely. This is going to be a good change for him."

Earlier yesterday, Muckler and Blackhawks counterpart Dale Tallon were at an impasse.

WANTED VERMETTE

Sources say the Blackhawks were insisting on getting centre Antoine Vermette in return for Arnason and Muckler made it clear that wasn't going to happen. Finally, the 'Hawks decided they were willing to settle on Bochenski, who wasn't going to have a spot on the club's roster with the emergence of rookie Patrick Eaves.

"They called back and we were able to get the deal done just under the wire," said Muckler.


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