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Senators excited about Gilroy's offensive upside

Monday, 02.27.2012 / 5:44 PM / 2012 Trade Deadline

By Erin Nicks - NHL.com Correspondent

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Senators excited about Gilroy's offensive upside
Ottawa looked to upgrade its offense on the defense corps with a trade deadline deal that sent Brian Lee to the Lightning and brought back Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy.
KANATA, Ont. -- Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray didn't do much wheeling and dealing at the trade deadline, but he did decide to make a swap on the blue line, trading defenseman Brian Lee to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday afternoon for Matt Gilroy.

The Senators had looked to Lee, a Moorhead, Minn. native and the No. 9 pick in the 2005 Entry Draft, to bring some offense to their defensive core, but Lee did not produce the numbers Ottawa had hoped for. Lee scored 5 goals and 28 points in 167 games with the club and has yet to play a full NHL season. The 24-year-old has 1 goal and 8 points in 35 games this season.

Gilroy was a Hobey Baker award winner at Boston University in 2009. The 27-year-old signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Rangers later that year. Gilroy has 9 goals and 43 points in 180 career games with the Lightning and Rangers.

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"I'm a little bit surprised, I didn't know it was happening today, but I'm excited to be part of a playoff team right now, and hopefully I can move the puck up the ice and maybe score a couple of goals," Gilroy said via conference call.

The newest Senator figured it was just going to be an average day when he received the news that he had been traded.

"I was at the mall with (now ex-teammate) Teddy Purcell," Gilroy said. "I was just walking through and my phone rang, and it was (Steve Yzerman). He told me I had been traded to Ottawa, and then I heard from the Sens about 30 seconds later."

The defenseman is looking forward to meeting his new teammates in Boston, where the Senators face the Bruins on Tuesday night, and he's already familiar with at least one of his new teammates.

"I've played against Bobby Butler a ton (in college), so it shouldn't be too bad of a transition," Gilroy said.

Gilroy will likely wear No. 97 in Ottawa, a number he chose to honor his brother.

"I wear 97 for my brother Timmy who passed away when we were young," he said. "When we got to the rink when we were kids, the only number we knew was 99 because of Gretzky. Of course, we got there late and someone had already picked that. So I picked 98 and he picked 97. After he passed away, I made a promise to my mom that I'd always wear that number no matter what and take it as far as Timmy would've. It's just a nice reminder for me every night to put that on, and for my family to see it."

While his initial conversation with Murray was brief, Gilroy appreciated the sentiment of the call.

"I'm thrilled," he said. "I talked to (Murray) only quickly. He said I was the guy he wanted -- he wanted a puck-mover down the stretch, and it's nice to get a phone call like that ... someone wants you and sees you as a part of their team."
 
"We believe that Matt has matured," Murray said. "Watching him in his first couple of years, he was a little sporadic. But he's upgraded his game and brings that puck-moving dimension to the game."

Murray admitted Gilroy has been on his radar for some time.

"We were involved (in trying to sign him when he came out of college) -- we weren't involved obviously at the same financial level as the Rangers," Murray said. "I think that coming out of Boston University and being a New York guy, there was a real preference to stay in New York. Now he's found like a lot of pros do that you're inclined to move around more often. Even today, coming to a hockey market, where he's already gotten a bunch of calls from the media, he's excited about that and thinks he can jump in right away."

Murray insisted time and again that he was not looking for a rental at the deadline. Despite the fact Gilroy will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Murray believes this period should be looked upon as a low-risk audition for both sides, with the potential for an extension to come before July.

Matt Gilroy
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 17
SOG: 60 | +/-: 2
"That was the approach we took right away when we started this with Matt," Murray said. "He gets a chance to look at us; we get a chance to look at him. We think if he likes what he sees of our group, and in reverse if we like what we see in his game, we do have a couple of veteran guys who are offensive-minded who are reaching a time in their career when they'll move on, and we'll need another person who can fill that need for our team.

"I believe he'll be a top-six guy. If you look at what Brian was playing the past little while -- whether Matt is plugged in with Chris Phillips or Jared Cowen, I believe he'll be one of their partners."

After five years of watching Lee play off and on with the big club, Murray was forced to admit he was never going to be a core member of the Ottawa blue line.

"We appreciate what Brian did here," Murray said. "We think he's growing as a player. We think he'll grow there and have a chance with Tampa. Steve (Yzerman) is trying to rebuild the defense down there. I think he'll get plugged in, and then it will be (about) using his ice time to be important and that opportunity there for him. I think knowing Brian, he'll grab it and be a regular player.

"Everyone judges in his own way. At times Brian thought he should've been part of the team. Our coaching staff felt that over the course of time he was in and out (of the lineup) because maybe he wasn't giving the offensive contribution that some others could give. Having Matt Carkner -- we wanted to play him because of toughness, size and strength. I think Brian's taken some time to develop his body, develop his game. I hope for his sake that he gets a chance now to be a regular player."
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