Neil, Murray can't talk it out

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Senators GM Bryan Murray has made one final pitch to rugged winger Chris Neil.

But it likely won't make any difference.

With Wednesday's trade deadline fast approaching, Murray held a face-to-face meeting with the 29-year-old Neil to try to keep him in Ottawa. But both sides remain far apart financially.

It's believed Neil's camp is seeking a long-term deal in the $2.5-million (all terms US) per-season range. It's also believed the Senators countered with $1.5 million.

Neil, making $1.2 million this season, is a potential unrestricted free agent July 1, which means the Senators must get him signed -- or traded -- in the next five days or risk losing him for nothing.

"There have been no changes from either side with respect to their positions since negotiations began," said Neil's agent, Todd Reynolds, in an e-mail after Neil and Murray's chat in the GM's office Thursday.

Murray hasn't been prepared to budge on Neil with the Senators already committed to pricey salaries next season. Plus, no fewer than 10 teams have shown interest in the gritty winger.

League sources say the Sharks, Bruins, Red Wings, Canadiens, Oilers and Penguins have all called Murray about Neil, who has spent his entire seven-year NHL career here and would like to stay.

"I'm getting a lot of calls," Murray acknowledged.

A league executive told Sun Media he believes the asking price for Neil is a high-end prospect and a second-round pick in the 2009 draft.

Right now, teams aren't willing to ante up that much, but the executive said that will change closer to the deadline.

KUBA'S SOUGHT AFTER, TOO

Neil isn't the only attractive option on the Ottawa roster.

Sources say Filip Kuba has also been drawing interest from the likes of the Devils, Canucks, Flyers, Blackhawks, Flames and Wild.

All those teams are looking for a puck-moving defenceman and may become even more serious about Kuba once decisions are made on the futures of fellow blueliners Chris Pronger (Ducks) and Jay Bouwmeester (Panthers).

The Senators have held talks with Kuba's agent, but they haven't led anywhere.

Kuba, also a pending unrestricted free agent, controls his destination with a no-movement clause, but there's no reason to believe he wouldn't waive it for a Cup contender.

While both Neil and Kuba contract talks have stalled, Murray vowed he won't lose them for nothing.

"Ultimately, they're the ones that make the decision. I'm not the one that makes the decision," said Murray, who also plans to meet with Kuba.

Defenceman Christoph Schubert will likely be dealt to clear the crowd on the blue line (the Senators had been carrying nine blueliners).

There were scouts from 11 teams in town for Thursday's game -- and there should be even more here tonight for the game vs. the Maple Leafs, whose GM, Brian Burke, wants to unload contracts.

"The action hasn't really started to heat up yet," said the league executive. "You might have 10 teams after Chris Neil, but there are a lot that are just kicking tires and they're not going to show what they really want to give up until Wednesday morning."

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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