MONTREAL – The Ottawa Senators lost a good deal of toughness over the summer when Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner left as free agents. So players welcomed the news Wednesday that general manager Bryan Murray made a move to help make the team tougher.
Murray acquired Matt Kassian from the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Kassian will join the team in Ottawa on Thursday and will not be in the lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
“We’ve added an element to our team that we feel, as an organization, is very important. It’s something that we thought we lacked as a group and we’ve addressed that,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said Wednesday. “This is an element we felt we were missing on our team with the decisions that were made in free agency in the summertime, with Konopka and Carkner taking advantage of opportunities that were presented to them. We just felt that element is still important to us in the game and we wanted to address it as soon as we could.”
Kassian, 26, is listed at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 232 pounds and is no stranger to the penalty box. In 28 career NHL games with the Wild, Kassian has nine fighting majors. Kassian did not play a game with the Wild this season and was playing for the Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League at the time of the trade.
“I think he’s going to fit in,” said Senators forward Guillaume Latendresse, a former teammate of Kassian’s with the Wild. “He’s a good guy to be around.”
The Senators were not shy to point out that the arrival of Kassian will help them in a Northeast Division that features two teams known for their rough style of play, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. This season has also seen the Buffalo Sabres make an effort to beef up.
“I think we needed a guy like that to take care of things on the ice when we needed it. I think he will help us,” defenseman Marc Methot said. “Physically, with a couple of teams in our division like Toronto and Boston, it’s not always easy. They have some tough players on their teams, so this will help us. It just adds another guy on the ice so we have a bit more respect.”
One player Kassian’s arrival may help the most is Chris Neil, who said he won’t be changing his style in any way just because another tough guy has arrived. The 33-year-old wing correctly pointed out that he has played with a number of enforcers in the past and has stuck to his game of agitating the opposition and dropping the gloves when he deems it will help his team.
“We like going out and sticking up for one another when the time’s right and when something happens,” Neil said. “You look at Toronto, Boston, Buffalo; they’re tough teams. We had a tough team last year, and it definitely helps. When you put someone with that kind of size in the lineup, other teams are aware when he’s on the ice.”