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Lehner trade difficult but necessary for Senators GM

by Arpon Basu / NHL.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray was convinced he would not be satisfied once he traded away one of his goaltenders.

He was right, in a way.

The Senators traded Robin Lehner and center David Legwand to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday for the No. 21 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Though Murray was happy with the return and being able to shed Legwand's $3.5 million salary for the 2015-16 season, he did not like the idea of handing a promising, young goaltender to an Atlantic Division rival. But in order to get the return he wanted, that was the compromise Murray had to make.

"It's OK. We get a first-round pick; it's how we use the first-round pick, that's part of it," Murray told the team's website after the trade. "We know full well, and I talked to [Sabres GM] Tim [Murray] about this a number of times during our trade negotiations, that we believe, and we believe very strongly, that Robin Lehner is going to be a top goaltender in the League.

"I didn't want to put him in Buffalo, I wanted him to go out west, but I couldn't get a deal done to our satisfaction. So he ends up in Buffalo and playing against the Ottawa Senators for a number of years."

Murray said Lehner, who turned 24 on Wednesday, attracted far more interest from other teams than starter Craig Anderson, who is 34 and has three more years left on a contract with a salary cap charge of $4.2 million, according to war-on-ice-com. Lehner is signed for two more years at a cap charge of $2.225 million and will be a restricted free agent when the contract expires in 2017.

"It's difficult, but we made a decision that Craig Anderson was the No 1 guy last year," Murray said of trading Lehner. "He's got three years left on his contract, he's more experienced but also has proven to be a real legitimate No 1 goaltender, probably one of the top 10 in the League."

Goaltender Andrew Hammond's emergence out of nowhere this season to lead the Senators into the Stanley Cup Playoffs while Lehner and Anderson were injured created this logjam in the Ottawa net. Murray was convinced by what he saw that Hammond was ready for a full-time role in the NHL.

"Andrew Hammond came in at the end of last year when we were in trouble goaltender-wise, and he stepped up, went 21-2 or whatever it was down the stretch and got us a place in the playoffs and showed to me that he's a competitive, legitimate goaltender for the NHL," Murray said. "So with Robin being out during that stretch, he kind of became the guy that maybe became more available in our mentality. He's a valuable commodity, we knew that, and he has a bright future, we knew that. But the judgment was that was the right thing to do."

Sabres GM Tim Murray said a condition of the deal imposed by Ottawa was that Legwand had to be included. Bryan Murray explained that shedding Legwand's salary was an important component of the trade, but it was also because of young players such as Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar showing this season that they are prepared to play bigger roles on the team.

After the Senators fired Paul MacLean as coach and replaced him with Dave Cameron, younger players such as Pageau and Lazar took on bigger roles; Legwand, who counts $3 million against the NHL salary cap, often found himself playing a fourth-line role.

"A very big part of the deal was that we had to move a veteran player and his money in the deal," Murray said. "The emergence of Pageau and Lazar being able to play center ice in the future for us allowed us to trade a center iceman. David was one of those veteran guys who will go to Buffalo and play a good role for them, and in turn it gives us the relief to sign our players, get us back on budget and allow us going forward to play young people."

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