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Senators GM says there's interest in Anderson, Lehner

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- Goaltending has been the story for the Ottawa Senators over the past few months.

That's not going to change over the next few weeks with the Senators about to enter a critical period when they'll try to clear a crowded crease.

The Senators signed late-season hero Andrew Hammond to a three-year, $4.05 million contract in May, and Senators general manager Bryan Murray has said he would trade either Craig Anderson, 34, or Robin Lehner, 23.

Murray said Thursday he has had trade talks with seven teams, and a majority of the interest has been in Lehner.

"I think we have identified and know the teams now that are looking, that are serious about looking," Murray said. "I think that over the next week or two I'm probably going to get as good an offer as I'm going to get and I'll have to make a call at some point here, hopefully before the draft (June 26-27). But it doesn't have to be then; it can be around training camp if that's what it leads to."

Hammond, 27, earned his new contract with a 20-1-2 record, 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage to start his NHL career.

Anderson was 14-13-8 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .923 save percentage this season. He missed 19 games with a bruised hand and came back to replace Hammond in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, earning the Senators' two wins in their 4-2 series loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Lehner was 9-12-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Murray said Lehner has recovered from the concussion he sustained in February that caused him to miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

"He had a tough go because of that hit to the head, but when he left here a week and a half ago or so, he was feeling much better and had started to work out," Murray said.

The Senators will have pro scouting meetings beginning Monday to determine their strengths and weaknesses, and their needs for next season.

There's the question of which goaltender the Senators would prefer to trade. Anderson is a proven veteran and could help them win now; Lehner is more of a project.

Ottawa is a young team (average age 26.7), so management needs to decide whether Anderson's game will be in decline by the time it can contend. If so, it might be wise to allow Lehner to grow with the rest of the team.

"That's everything that we do in our business. In every situation, we have to evaluate and hopefully make, on some occasions anyway, the right decision. Who is going to help us?" Murray said. "We want to win now too. There's no question we have to determine, 'Do we have the material to win now?' That's the whole process we're going through now."

It could come down to which goalie nets the most return.

Murray has been on the hunt for a top-six forward. He was asked if he would have to sweeten the pot in a trade involving one of his goaltenders to land a top forward.

"That's part of what we're negotiating right now," he said. "We have to make that determination, if we have to sweeten the pot or not, if there's anybody willing to give up a top-six forward. The top-four defenseman, the top-six forward, those commodities are so hard to get.

"Usually you have to draft them, unless there's a [salary-cap] situation with a veteran player that you go make a deal for. At this point we're just going to look and get the best deal. If it's something other than a top-six forward, we'll have to do it."

The Senators increased their goaltending depth with the signing of college free agent Matt O'Connor from Boston University in May. He was introduced to the media Thursday.

O'Connor is expected to start next season with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. He helped the Terriers to the final of the Frozen Four and was courted by four or five NHL teams but opted for the Senators in part because of goaltending coach Rick Wamsley.

"This just felt like the best fit for me player development-wise and goalie coach," O'Connor said. "It just seemed like a really classy, character organization, which really drew me."

Murray said, "The fact that he didn't get drafted was probably beneficial to him in that he got a chance to go to university, play full term, and get a lot of games under his belt. Now he's ready to turn pro. He did have a number of teams interested in him and he chose us, thankfully."

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