OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators didn't look like they would be in a position to be active when it came to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2.
A long shot to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Senators could have been a seller at the deadline, but now another of their few potential chips has been taken off the table.
The Senators signed defenseman Marc Methot to a four-year contract extension Monday which will pay the 29-year-old $4.9 million a season.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray had said if Methot, potentially an unrestricted free July 1, had not been signed by March 2 he would be traded.
Murray didn't want to run the risk of losing him for nothing.
"We wanted to keep Marc Methot. We certainly didn't want to trade him at any point," Murray said. "We had some interest [from other teams] in trading him. Until the last week or so, we weren't sure."
Methot, an Ottawa native, admitted he had been worried about losing the chance to play in his hometown as the trade deadline approached.
"There was doubt sometimes, that's for sure. I'd be lying if I said otherwise," he said. "As [the deadline] was approaching, the idea of [a trade] happening was becoming more real."
He said he left some money on the table for the opportunity to continue to play at home.
"For me, it's a privilege to be able to play in Ottawa and play in front of my family and all my friends. That was a little sacrifice I was willing to make to stick around," he said.
"I think it's fair. It's a term we liked. It's money that pretty much Marc wanted," Murray said. "I think both parties leave the negotiations, which I think sometimes are tricky, somewhat satisfied that we got the job done."
There had been some speculation veteran wing Chris Neil might be another player to be traded, but a fractured thumb sustained Saturday and Murray's reluctance to part with him make a trade unlikely.
"I don't know that we'll do anything [at the deadline]. You never know if we were going to at any rate," Murray said. "Chris Neil's name was out there as a very obvious guy that everybody thought we should do something with except maybe me.
"I like Chris Neil here. I like the toughness he brings, the attitude that he brings. I don't know, no matter unless I got an unbelievable offer, that he was going anywhere at any rate, whether he got hurt or not."
With Methot's signing, the Senators' eight current defenseman are under contract for next season (veteran Chris Phillips is injured right now and out indefinitely.)
That's a crowded team picture, but Murray said he's willing to see if it works itself out before next season.
"That's the next story now. I'll leave that sit for a day or two and let you guys [the media] figure out what I should do. We have eight guys and right now Chris Phillips is not healthy. We're not in a hurry to move anybody," Murray said.
"If we don't move anybody by the deadline, it may be a good thing. We may get through the year and then see what happens over the summer if we're going to make some changes or not. The deadline really doesn't mean that much to us where we sit right now."
Methot has formed a good top pair with Senators captain Erik Karlsson and signing Methot was important for two reasons: there's that chemistry with Karlsson and the Senators depth on the blue line falls off quickly after those two.
Karlsson had said recently he wanted to see Methot stay in Ottawa.
"We want to do everything we can to get back to where we want to be and I think we're moving in the right direction. Signing [Methot] is a big part of that," Karlsson said. We complement each other well out there and we play against the other team's top lines. I feel comfortable having him here for another four years. I think everybody does."
"We have great chemistry on the ice playing together. I'd like to say he's been a pretty big part of why I decided to stick around along with the rest of the great guys on this team," Methot said.
With Phillips, 36, clearly in the twilight of his career (he was a healthy scratch nine times since Dave Cameron took over as coach), the Senators have an inexperienced group after Karlsson and Methot.
The pair has combined for 783 NHL games (Methot, 414; Karlsson, 369).
Among the Senators five young defensemen, only Jared Cowen has played more than 200 NHL games (204). The rest are Eric Gryba (142), Patrick Wiercioch (133), Cody Ceci (102) and Mark Borowiecki (57). That's a total of 638 games in the NHL.
"Young guys struggle to find their way in this league. I think the young guys who come along fast are probably the ones that are best surrounded by that core group, older guys, veterans who are really good players and Marc's in that boat for us, for sure," Cameron said.
Senators wing Clarke MacArthur said Methot sets a good example for the young defensemen.
"It's so important when you have young 'D'. It just shows. Any young 'D' on a team, you need that 200, 300 games before you can adjust and play the game they way you've got to play it. The best defensemen at a young age are going to make mistakes that you won't make three or four years down the road, or not near as many," he said. "Marc's a good example for the young guys, how he plays the game. He keeps it simple, he's hard on the puck and he's great for the young guys to watch."