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Analysis: Veteran guile intrigues Ottawa

by Dan Rosen

In the first big splash of the NHL trading season, the Ottawa Senators picked up a pair of Stanley Cup winners while dispatching a young forward and a mobile defenseman to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Heading north to Ottawa are veterans Cory Stillman, a 34-year-old left wing who had to waive his no-trade clause, and defenseman Mike Commodore, 28. Moving south to Carolina are defenseman Joe Corvo, 30, and 23-year-old right wing Patrick Eaves.

It's clearly a trade that could benefit both teams as they pursue spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs, although the immediate gain could be seen on Ottawa's end only because Eaves is still nursing a nagging right shoulder injury.

"It's a message to the community that this team wants to win a Stanley Cup," says Bryan Murray, the Ottawa GM. Does this put us closer? I believe so, just because of what we've added in these two individuals."

Ottawa also gained some flexibility in its off-season dealings, considering both Stillman and Commodore are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Eaves could be a restricted free agent, but Corvo is signed through 2010.

"We're pleased to acquire a very good, young player in Patrick, and address a need for a mobile defenseman who can move the puck on the power play like Joe," Carolina GM Jim Rutherford told "We are very thankful to Cory and Mike as two great contributors to the Hurricanes, including during our Stanley Cup run of 2006."

For Ottawa, the trade is a sign that while the team is in obvious win-now mode – it leads the Eastern Conference with 72 points – GM Bryan Murray wasn't completely thrilled with the makeup. It's the Senators first shakeup since losing to Anaheim in last year's Stanley Cup Final.

Stillman should give the Senators offensive depth, for which they've been desperate. The forward had 21 goals, including 10 on the power play, and 25 assists in 55 games this season.

Stillman also has a history of showing up big in the playoffs. He helped the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup two seasons ago with nine goals and 17 assists while appearing in all 25 playoff games. He also won the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.

"He's a very competitive goal scorer and he, I believe, addresses our need for a guy who can play in our top six forwards," Murray said. "It gives us an offensive punch and a second power play if not the first at some point in time. And, I think he brings great leadership to our room."

Commodore adds grit to the Senators defense, a direct contrast to Corvo's puck-moving style. He had a team-high 74 penalty minutes this season for Carolina, and a combined 251 the previous two seasons. He added 12 points this season, but it's his tenacity and physical presence that the Senators crave.

"Big guy, competitive, gritty, and just defensively a real solid battler," Murray said. "I think our presence around our own net has been lacking a little bit and Mike brings that dimension to the hockey team."

For Carolina, the trade shows that Rutherford both wanted to get younger and more mobile on the back end. It's a deal for now and the future.

Eaves, out for the last six games with his injury, could establish himself as a capable second-line scorer the way Stillman was for Carolina. He had 32 points last season, and he's known for his versatility.

"I sure feel bad having to give up a guy like Patty," Murray said. "I liked him as a person and I think he has a chance to score goals in this League and be a good player, but deals are always a give and take. We had to address some of their needs and they helped us address ours."

Stillman was on the left side with center Eric Staal and right wing Erik Cole. Since Eaves is a right wing, coach Peter Laviolette may have to do some shifting around.

Corvo should help Carolina's sagging power play by providing offense to a team that sorely needs it from its back end. Nobody on Carolina's defense has more than 12 points this season, and its power play is No. 17 in the NHL, clicking 17.5 percent of the time.

Corvo, meanwhile, had 27 points, including 21 assists, for the Senators. He led the team's defenseman with 15 power-play points, including a goal and 14 assists. He had 40 points for the Kings in 2005-06, and 37 last season, his first in Ottawa.
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