CALGARY – In a trade deadline twist, the Ottawa Senators acquired a player who had just dealt a blow to their playoff aspirations.
Less than 24 hours after Ales Hemsky scored twice against the Senators in Edmonton, Ottawa acquired the 30-year-old winger for a pair of draft picks.
“I said to him ‘didn’t you get the message that I was trying to trade for you?'” Senators general manager Bryan Murray told reporters at a downtown Calgary hotel Wednesday.
At 27-24-11, the Senators were 12th in the Eastern Conference prior to facing the Flames at night, but just eight points separated Ottawa from fifth.
The Senators also ended trade rumours swirling around veteran defenceman Chris Phillips by announcing a two-year extension worth $5 million.
Hemsky is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in July. The Senators paid a third- and a fifth-round pick to the Oilers to get him for the remainder of the season. Oilers GM Craig MacTavish confirmed the Oilers would retain some of Hemsky’s salary, which is $5.5 million this season.
If Hemsky fits in well with the Senators, they’ll look to re-sign him, said Murray.
“An offensive type player, a guy with good puck skills, certainly can play in the top six forwards,” Murray said. “We think he can make plays, score some points for us down the stretch.
“It wasn’t my plan to get an unrestricted free agent. Part of it came down to the price. Obviously a lot of it came down to the price.
“The couple of picks we gave up for Hemsky gave us a little better chance to evaluate the guy and we didn’t have to pay the huge price we would have otherwise.”
Hemsky was a first-round draft pick of the Oilers in 2001 and has spent all his 11 seasons in the NHL with them. He scored Edmonton’s first and second goals in a 3-2 win over Ottawa on Tuesday. They were his first since Jan. 12.
The six-foot, 185-pound forward played junior hockey across the river from Ottawa with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Hull Olympiques. Hemsky had nine goals and 17 assists in 55 games for the Oilers this season.
“I expected I would be moved,” Hemsky said upon his arrival in Calgary. “They talked about it in the summer. I kind of prepared for that. I knew it would happen. I just didn’t know where. It’s Ottawa and I’m pretty excited for the challenge. Those guys are battling for a playoff spot. I’m happy and try to help them make it.”
Hemsky, from the Czech Republic, had six goals and 11 assists in 24 playoff games in 2006 when Edmonton lost the Stanley Cup final in seven games to Carolina. The Oilers haven’t made the post-season since then.
The Senators also traded minor-league, right-winger Andre Petersson to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenceman Alex Grant. Petersson, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Senators in 2008 and appeared in one NHL game.
Grant, a 25-year-old from Antigonish, N.S., has seven goals and 20 assists in the AHL for Norfolk. Grant also scored two goals in two games with Anaheim.
The Senators interpreted Murray’s moves Wednesday as an endorsement of their post-season possibilities.
“We know as the games tick by we can’t afford to lose hockey games,” captain Jason Spezza said. “It’s encouraging to see Bryan trying to add somebody to help us get that push towards the playoffs.
“It re-emphasizes how important this next stretch is for us and that the expectation is for us to get into the playoffs.”
Phillips, 35, was the first overall pick in the 1996 draft by Ottawa. After 16 seasons as a Senator, the stay-at-home defenceman is a face of the franchise. He and Murray signed a contract extension at the team’s hotel in Calgary on Wednesday morning.
“With the uncertainty of this day, if nothing happened, what the alternatives were, that weighs on you,” Phillips said. “Very excited to get something done.
“The multi-year was a big part for me and to also do it in Ottawa, I’ve been there my whole career. I’d love nothing more than to be part of bringing a championship to Ottawa.”
In other moves, the Senators put defenceman Joe Corvo and forward Cory Conacher on waivers. Conacher was claimed by the Buffalo Sabres. Corvo went unclaimed and was loaned to the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves.
The Senators acquired Conacher from the Tampa Bay Lightning at last year’s deadline in exchange for goaltender Ben Bishop.