OTTAWA - Senators coach John Paddock said he's expecting Ottawa to be buyers ahead of Tuesday's NHL trade deadline and that made for some anxious young faces around the team's dressing room Monday morning.
"It's part of the business, but it's probably a nervous time whether you see your name in the paper or not," Paddock said before adding somewhat ominously, "there are some deals nobody has an inkling about."
Ottawa GM Bryan Murray is believed to be pursuing another forward to add to the league's highest-scoring offence along with more size and grit, either up front or on the blue-line, particularly since rugged right-winger Chris Neil is likely to miss significant time with a knee injury.
Murray already pulled the trigger on a four-player trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 11, a move that saw left-winger Cory Stillman and defenceman Mike Commodore arrive in Ottawa with right-winger Patrick Eaves and defenceman Joe Corvo leaving in the other direction.
But the Senators have continued to stumble since their 15-2 start to the season, winning just two of the six games since their arrival entering Monday night's home game against Toronto.
"We got Cory, but I still think (Murray) is looking to add to that," Paddock said. "We've said since the playoffs last year that size matters and we addressed that a little bit on the back end (with Commodore)."
Former Senators right-winger Marian Hossa, now with the Atlanta Thrashers, is one of the many players Ottawa is said to be pursuing. And with a core group (Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher) that led Ottawa to the Cup final a year ago all locked up for the future, players such as forwards Chris Kelly and Antoine Vermette, along with rookie Nick Foligno and defenceman Andrej Meszaros are the ones rumoured to be possibly on the move.
They faced the media before Monday's game with the prospect that it could be their last in a Senators' uniform.
"We have to live with it, but it's not the best time of the year," said Vermette, who becomes a restricted free agent July 1. "It seems to be a busy year (for rumours)."
Kelly is a checking centre in his third full NHL season.
"I'm unrestricted at the end of the year, so obviously if they can't sign me, Bryan will look to move me," said Kelly.
Vermette, also in his third full season, has previous campaigns of 21 and 19 goals under his belt. He got off to a slow start but has come on in recent weeks since he's been hearing his name in trade talks.
"That's all I can control, I guess. I know it's cliche but I'm not the one who makes the decisions, so I've got to play good, play hard and try to help my teammates," he said.
Kelly and Vermette have joined Stillman to form Ottawa's most-effective line as of late, and Kelly, who said he hasn't had any serious talks regarding a new contract, was hoping that might keep him with the Senators.
"I've made it clear I want to stay here, so hopefully I can stay here and help the team win the Stanley Cup," he said. "It depends on what's best for the team in Bryan's eyes."
As for who could wind up in Ottawa, Paddock has his choices, although his expectations were admittedly unreasonable to meet.
"We'd love to add a Cam Neely-type player, but they're not available. We'd love to add another Dany Heatley, but they're not available," he said.
Although goaltending seems to be a potential trouble area in Ottawa, the Senators appear to have settled on Ray Emery as their No. 1 netminder for the stretch drive.