The Ottawa Senators won’t pay the same steep price he feels some teams already have in order to bolster their lineup for the stretch run. “After talking to our scouts and talking to our coaching staff, yes we do have a game plan and yes we’d like to do certain things, but the prices are too high right now,” Muckler said Monday following the Senators’ practice.
The trade deadline is Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.
On Sunday, Muckler saw the Thrashers – a possible first-round playoff opponent of the Senators – get a boost in their push for an Eastern Conference post-season berth by acquiring veteran forward Keith Tkachuk from the St. Louis Blues.
In return, Atlanta gave up forward Glen Metropolit, first-and third-round picks in the upcoming entry draft and a second-round pick in 2008. The Thrashers will also give up a first-round pick in 2008 should Tkachuk re-sign with the Thrashers.
Atlanta GM Don Waddell, whose job is rumoured to be on the line pending the Thrashers’ fortunes, justified his move by stating, “the future for us is now.”
The Nashville Predators also paid a similar price to snatch Peter Forsberg from the Philadelphia Flyers little more than a week earlier.
While Muckler, whose own future could depend on the Senators’ playoff fortunes, didn’t mention specific teams or names, he’s obviously critical of those moves.
“I just can’t get myself past the fact that, if you get knocked off in the first round a it’s the wrong thing to do,” he said. “I’m not knocking other general managers, but I just feel that for our club at this time, it’s the wrong thing to do.
“You look at some (teams), maybe the pressure is there to win because they’ve never been in the playoffs.”
Muckler said he’s in the hunt for a forward that can play on coach Bryan Murray’s top three lines by Tuesday’s deadline as well as an extra defenceman after recognizing the way teams like Carolina and Buffalo needed more bodies to go deep into the playoffs last year.
However, the Senators have the fourth-youngest roster in the NHL in terms of average age according to their GM and he sees their window of opportunity to win extending well beyond this season.
As a result, he’s more hesitant to part with picks that may prove valuable down the road and insists he won’t part with any player off his current roster despite the pressure that’s coming to produce a winner in Ottawa, particularly from fans and the media.
“One thing about the trade deadline is you also have to think about the future of the organization, where it’s going. The first thing you don’t want to do is injure that progress,” the 72-year-old said.
“We have told everybody that I’ve talked to, and I’ve talked to numerous general managers, that we do want to enhance our team, but we don’t want to delete any of the players that we have now.”
Murray said following Forsberg’s trade that the message management sent to the rest of the Predators – that the organization will do anything to help their chances – may be the most important aspect of any deal.
The Senators, who are in Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Tuesday, have said to be interested in veteran forwards such as Gary Roberts and Bill Guerin over the past several weeks, but Muckler is said to have balked at the asking price of both of those players.
But if Muckler won’t pull the trigger on any deals, Murray and the rest of the Senators insist they’re content in keeping with the status quo.
“We have a competitive team, we know that,” Murray said. “I think the guys have worked fairly hard throughout and we’ll just play the bodies that are there and I think we’ll compete real well.”
Centre Jason Spezza added: “We do think we can win, whether we get a guy or not. We have to approach it differently (than Atlanta or Nashville). We have a chance to win over the next three or four years, this being one of the years, too.”
Given that Muckler’s own track record is less than impressive in recent years, where he’s acquired players such as Tyler Arnason, Peter Bondra and Greg de Vries to little impact, he said he’s not big on deadline deals.
“The majority of them are failures,” he said. “I’m not afraid to make one this year if it doesn’t cost me the future. I just think they’re bad deals.”