OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators boast one of the league’s most explosive trios in Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson.
But it’s what was missing after his Big Three that led Sens GM Bryan Murray to pull the trigger on a four-player trade Monday, acquiring winger Cory Stillman and defenceman Mike Commodore from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward Patrick Eaves and defenceman Joe Corvo.
“I’d like to see a few more than three guys scoring a lot of the points here and I think that’s an area I tried to address,” Murray said after picking up a pair of veterans who were a big part of the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup victory in 2006.
Despite leading the Eastern Conference, the Senators’ lack of scoring depth became painfully obvious recently when both Heatley and Alfredsson were lost to injury and the team floundered, winning just three of 11 games before its recent two-game win streak – a streak that coincided with their return.
So if the Senators had any aspirations of returning to the final for a second consecutive season, Murray felt it was necessary to make a move.
“I think it’s a message again to the community that this team wants to win the Stanley Cup and does this put us closer? I believe so,” he said.
Stillman’s 21 goals so far this year with the Hurricanes mark the eighth time in 13 seasons he’s eclipsed the 20-goal plateau and the 34-year-old is expected to slot in on the team’s second line immediately.
“I think that’s a natural place to start,” Senators coach John Paddock said. “This is a guy who’s used to playing in the top six forwards, that’s one reason we acquired him, and he addresses that need when we’ve talked about a goal scorer.”
The Peterborough, Ont., native, who had 46 points in 55 games this season, waived his no-trade clause to OK the move to Ottawa and the Senators will be on the hook for just the remainder of his US$1.75-million salary, making him a relatively inexpensive top-six addition.
It’s no secret that Murray has been looking to make changes for some time, particularly after it emerged over the weekend that he’d approached defenceman Wade Redden to see if he’d be interested in potentially waiving his no-trade clause only to have Redden say no.
Now, with the subtraction of Corvo’s contract, which had two more years at $2.75 million each remaining, the Senators also left the door open for further deals. Both Stillman and Commodore are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
“We’re going to keep talking. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it or any question about that. We’re still going to try to do a couple of things,” Murray said.
“The bottom line is we have a little flexibility that we didn’t have before.”
The addition of Commodore also gives Ottawa a boost to its back end, bringing both size and experience to a team that ranked 22nd in goals-against Monday and still harkens back to last season’s Stanley Cup final when it was pushed around by a bigger, stronger Anaheim Ducks team.
At six-foot-five, 228 pounds, the 28-year-old native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., has been earmarked to play alongside the more-offensive-minded Redden.
“We wanted a more physical presence in the back end and I think he’s a real competitive player with size,” Paddock said. “We said after the playoffs last year that size matters.”
Stillman and Commodore were with the Hurricanes in Boston, preparing for their games Tuesday against the Bruins, when they learned of the deal. They returned to Raleigh, N.C., to pick up their passports and Murray said they’ll arrive in Ottawa on Tuesday, too late for the morning skate but in time to be in the lineup that night when the Senators play host to the Buffalo Sabres.
In Eaves and Corvo, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford acquired a forward who’s struggled with injuries this season but has shown a scoring touch in the past and a mobile defenceman who possesses a heavy shot.
The 23-year-old Eaves, a native of Fairbault, Minn., has played just 26 games this season because of recurring shoulder injuries and had four goals and six assists. He did score 20 in just 58 games in his rookie season in 2005-06 before slipping to 14 goals last year. He’ll be a restricted free agent after this year.
Corvo, 30, from the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill., is the key to the deal for the Hurricanes.
Members of the Ottawa media jokingly tagged him with the nickname of Joe (Uh Oh) Corvo because of his high-risk offensive style, but his offensive potential could help the Hurricanes’ power play, which ranks 17th in the league. He has six goals and 27 points this year.
“We’re very happy to address one of our needs, making our defence more mobile and adding a player like Joe that can play on the power play,” Rutherford said. “Also, we view Patrick as a real character player, a real good young player that can fit into our style of play.
“With that being said, it’s very tough to say goodbye to guys that we’re part of winning a championship and Cory and Mike were true professionals and were a big part of us winning the Stanley Cup. So this is a tough deal, but one that’s necessary.”