OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators were silent at the NHL trade deadline but general manager Bryan Murray believes the roster he’s assembled can still make some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Murray completed all of his work before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline, acquiring defenceman Andy Sutton from the New York Islanders on Tuesday and forward Matt Cullen prior to the Olympic break.
“Getting Matt Cullen, a very versatile forward and a guy who can play in our top six . . . I think now we’re 14 or 15 forwards deep, so if we are in the playoffs and make a run, I think we’re fairly well protected in that area,” Murray said Wednesday.
“And (Tuesday), being able to obtain Andy Sutton, a big guy and defensive-type defenceman, provides some depth for us in that area, but more than that – I think he’ll be a real element on our hockey team. He’s big and strong, tougher around the net.”
In possession of one of the NHL’s worst power plays, the Senators were believed to be interested in possibly obtaining some help on the blue-line for those situations.
Murray admitted he spoke with several other teams throughout the day but didn’t find anything to his liking.
“There are guys out there that would have been interesting to our team, but obviously we couldn’t pay the price to get them here and I feel fine about that,” Murray said.
The lack of deals Wednesday could be also be good news to the Senators when it comes to their ability to retain one of their most-prized assets in defenceman Anton Volchenkov. He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Earlier this week, Murray admitted talks between the team and the Russian blue-liner’s agent, Jay Grossman, on a contract extension weren’t looking good.
But rather than entertain offers to move the 28-year-old in order to avoid the risk of losing him for nothing July 1, Murray is hoping talks will continue.
Volchenkov is earning US$3.2 million in the final year of his deal and has a salary cap hit of $2.5 million.
“I had a couple of calls about Anton and I have talked to his agent a couple of times today,” Murray said. “We didn’t get anything done, but we are talking and that’s a good thing. I told him in my last call that I was not going to trade him.
“I’ve said all along and I’ve said to our staff that what I want to do here, by adding Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton and by acquiring enough depth I think, is give our team the best chance come the latter part of the year and then in the playoffs. The message would have been kind of mixed if I’d gone out and moved a player like Anton.”
With Volchenkov and the addition of Sutton from the New York Islanders, the Senators now have two of the league’s top shot-blocking defencemen.
“I like the move,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said of the trade for Sutton. “I don’t know much about him except playing against him and he’s a hard-nosed player who plays hard, blocks shots, hits and is hard to play against. It’s obviously a good addition for us.
“Bryan’s given us two players that have been around for a while in Cullen and Sutton to help us and give us more depth, so I definitely like our team.”
The six-foot-six Sutton didn’t arrive in time to play in the Senators’ 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday in their first game back after the Olympic break. But he practised Wednesday morning and will make his debut, wearing No. 5, on the road Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The native of Kingston, Ont., called the chance to join the Senators an exciting one.
“I’ll be 35 soon and I’ve played for some expansion teams and some teams in a rebuilding phase, so it’s a great opportunity to play for such a solidified group like this,” Sutton said.
Cullen, who Thursday will face the Hurricanes team that traded him to Ottawa, hasn’t got off to the best start with the Senators. They’ve lost two of the three games he’s played so far and, after using him on the wing, coach Cory Clouston moved him back to his natural centre position to start Thursday’s game on a line with Ryan Shannon and Chris Neil.
“Fortunately, it’s only three games and there’s a lot of hockey left before the playoffs come,” Cullen said. “It’s an adjustment and it takes a little bit to get comfortable with everything. Hopefully, (Thursday) will be the start.”