THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA — The lone deal by the Senators before Tuesday’s NHL trade deadline brought some grit, leadership and experience to Ottawa, but whether it brings any job security to under-fire coach John Paddock is yet to be determined.
The floundering Senators acquired 34-year-old right-winger Martin Lapointe from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft hours before the 3 p.m. ET deadline.
However, the acquisition of the two-time Stanley Cup winner was somewhat overshadowed by talk of the changes that Ottawa didn’t make.
Rumours out of Boston, where the Senators were scheduled to play the Bruins on Tuesday night, suggested Paddock’s job is on the line and general manager Bryan Murray hardly quelled the speculation when he met with reporters back in Ottawa to explain his team’s deadline-day dealings.
"You have to win in this business and I’m disappointed we’re not playing better and winning more often," Murray said. "I think people are allowed to say what they want to say and have opinions. I got several phone calls today from fans that were wondering why I didn’t (trade) a certain goaltender or a certain other thing, but that’s the norm.
"When you don’t win, you get questioned and it’s not a fun job some days, but we believe we’ve got a good group here and some of the better players have to play considerably better."
Paddock took over from Murray behind the bench in the off-season after the latter stepped into the GM’s role following Ottawa’s trip to the final.
When asked if Paddock’s job was safe, Murray replied, "I think winning makes everything safe." And when asked if he’d envisioned any scenario where he’d return to coaching, he said, "Oh, I haven’t even addressed that."
The Senators, who were knocked out of top spot in the Eastern Conference by the New Jersey Devils on the weekend for the first time all season, went into Tuesday having won just two of their past seven games. The deadline came just hours after they were hammered 5-0 at home by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, a performance Paddock called a "total embarrassment."
After acquiring left-winger Cory Stillman and defenceman Mike Commodore from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 11, the Senators were said to be in the hunt for further scoring help up front, more toughness, and possibly a goaltender since the team’s decision to anoint Ray Emery as the No. 1 goaltender over Martin Gerber appears to have backfired both on the ice and with the fans.
Murray said he made the Atlanta Thrashers an offer for forward Marian Hossa and heard through TV that the ex-Senator landed in Pittsburgh for what Murray called a "good return" for the Thrashers.
"I thought (Ottawa’s offer) was a fair deal, it just didn’t work out," he said. "I think the first-round pick (that Atlanta received in addition to forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen and prospect Angelo Esposito) probably topped the package off."
.He also confirmed he held discussions with the Blackhawks about netminder Nikolai Khabibulin and his US$6.75-million salary, but "the money. It happens too often. Business gets in the way with the salary cap and the money going forward."
Ottawa also held several talks with the Buffalo Sabres regarding defenceman Brian Campbell, but being a Northeast Division rival prevented the Senators from having a realistic shot. Campbell was dealt to the Western Conference’s San Jose Sharks.
Centre Chris Kelly was one player the Senators were willing to part with. He becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer and is believed to be looking for more money than Ottawa wants to pay.
.In the end, the Senators got Lapointe, chosen with the 10th overall pick in the 1991 NHL draft by Murray, then with the Detroit Red Wings.
The native Ville Ste.-Pierre, Que., who’s played parts of 15 season with the Wings, Boston Bruins and Blackhawks, had three goals, four assists and 47 penalty minutes in 52 games with Chicago this season in the final year of a three-year deal that paid him US$2.4 million annually. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"I’m excited obviously," Lapointe said. "It’s great news and my family and is excited about it. I want to bring some grit to the Senators and if they want some leadership in the locker-room, I’ll do that." Lapointe is expected to meet up with the team in Philadelphia on Wednesday and be in the lineup Thursday when Ottawa plays the Flyers.
His arrival helps offset the loss of rugged right-winger Chris Neil, who Murray said is out for four to five weeks with a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee.
"I said to him, we can end our careers together maybe," Murray said.
"Marty’s a terrific man. When he came as a young player, I saw character galore in him. He hasn’t changed. He’s maybe lost a step. He plays with great determination and grit, a real character guy. I really like the fact he’s won and his presence in the room will help us and help the leadership group. He’s not afraid to step on toes.
"That’s only part of what we need, but we certainly needed that gritty kind of guy that will show up at critical times in games."