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Senators feel they made best of a bad situation

by Arpon Basu /
KANATA, Ont. -- Bryan Murray certainly didn't see himself in this position back in October.

Coming off a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and with the team returning essentially intact, Murray couldn't be blamed for having a glint of optimism when the 2010-11 season began.

But with only two wins through their first eight games it quickly became evident the Senators would not be meeting any of those expectations and, shortly thereafter, Murray had to shift his focus to rebuilding on the fly.

He's hoping the first step in that painful process was completed on Monday, when Murray shipped out his sixth roster player in the last three weeks by trading impending restricted free agent defenseman Chris Campoli to the Chicago Blackhawks for a second-round draft pick and Ryan Potulny.

"We didn't think we would be this caliber of team this year," Murray said, referring to the Senators sitting 29th overall in the League standings. "We thought we would be considerably better, but it's not that way. I think we have an idea of what we can do going forward … there's a variety of ways of doing things, and we hope we do the right things."

By trading away Campoli, Chris Kelly, Mike Fisher, Jarkko Ruutu and Alex Kovalev, Murray brought in one first-round pick, two second-round picks, a sixth-round pick and a seventh-round pick that could become a sixth.

In addition to that, Murray traded goalie Brian Elliott to Colorado for impending unrestricted free agent goalie Craig Anderson, someone who could potentially fill a hole in net that has plagued the organization since it returned to the NHL in 1992.

Murray also picked up goalie Curtis McElhinney off waivers Monday from the Tampa Bay Lightning, allowing the franchise's goaltending future, Robin Lehner, to continue his development in the AHL.

"I wanted Robin to go down and play, be important down there, have the pressure of playing in meaningful games at the end," Murray said. "We think they'll play in the playoffs and it was important for him to go through that."

As it stands right now, Ottawa will have six of the first 62 selections in June's Entry Draft, which is when Murray feels the franchise will be able to think about brighter days ahead.

"Overall, I think we now have the door open for a number of young people to get a chance and we'll get an evaluation as we go toward the end of the year," Murray said. "Hopefully we'll win some hockey games, then get to draft day to have a chance to re-start this organization."

Murray figures the team's own first-round pick -- most likely to be in the top three -- will allow the Senators to get a player that will play in Ottawa as soon as next season.

The five other picks could be used to either move up in the draft or grab a top-six forward from a team that needs some financial flexibility ahead of the opening of the free-agent period.

If not, the Senators will have some cap room to pursue that forward themselves as of July 1.

On defense, with Chris Phillips agreeing to a three-year contract extension Sunday night and veteran Filip Kuba signed for one more year, Murray hopes youngsters David Rundblad and Jared Cowen can be woven into a mix that also includes promising puck-mover Erik Karlsson.

This is why Campoli was not shocked when he saw his name flash across his television screen Monday telling him he'd been traded to Chicago.

"Maybe with the signing of Chris Phillips last night (Murray's) plans may have changed, that possibly made me expendable today," Campoli said. "For me it's a real positive going to Chicago. I'm real excited, I think I fit in well there. They're an up-tempo team with an aggressive style of play that will fit in well with my game. It's a great opportunity."

Murray said there was some interest from other teams Monday inquiring about the availability of forwards Chris Neil and Jason Spezza, and there were at least eight teams interested in acquiring Phillips before he signed his extension.

But all three players remain in Ottawa and Murray sees them -- along with injured captain Daniel Alfredsson -- as key parts of the rebuilding process who were here when the Senators were a League power, reaching the Stanley Cup final back in 2007.

"We have Chris, we have Alfie, we have Jason and we have Chris Neil from the '07 team," Murray said. "We felt if we could keep them, they're good people, they care about this organization and they want to be better going forward. The young players coming in to this, I think we have an example of people that work hard, that are loyal, and that will help us."

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