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Sens retool quickly, but drop out of Nash sweepstakes

by Arpon Basu

The Ottawa Senators lost a few pieces from their surprising playoff club of this past season, but general manager Bryan Murray wasted little time replacing those pieces on the opening day of unrestricted free agency Sunday.

Mike Lundin
Mike Lundin
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: -1
However, the one big addition Murray was hoping to make won't be happening.

Murray had a busy day Sunday, signing defenseman Mike Lundin and forward Guillaume Latendresse and trading restricted free agent forward Nick Foligno to the Columbus Blue Jackets for stay-at-home defenseman Mike Methot.

Those additions will help offset the free agent losses of defensemen Filip Kuba and Matt Carkner and center Zenon Konopka.

But Murray said the player he was really hoping would be coming from Columbus, star forward Rick Nash, will not be going to Ottawa in the near future.

"I would say we're out of the talks, yes," Murray told reporters in Ottawa on Sunday. "Basically, we weren't on the list, let's put it that way. It never changed, so we just didn't feel it was necessary to continue chasing."

In addition to Nash, Murray said he had discussions with the top free agent forward available, Zach Parise, but that those did not last very long.

"We talked to everybody," Murray said. "We talked to the Nash camp, we talked to the Parise camp. It just didn't work with our way of operating. With the number of young people we have coming and the commitment we had to make both financially and term, we just stepped back nicely."

The look of next season's Ottawa Senators also depends greatly on whether captain Daniel Alfredsson will return or opt for retirement, a decision Murray is waiting impatiently for.

"I've talked to J.P. Barry, his agent," Murray said. "I just asked that sometime in the not too distant future that they get back to us and give us an indication. He didn't call us today."

The two main pieces Murray added to the club are Methot, a big defenseman who looks to be a replacement for Kuba as Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson's partner, and Latendresse, a big, gifted forward who has been plagued by concussion issues the past two seasons.


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The fact Murray was willing to give up Foligno speaks to his high regard for Methot, an Ottawa native coming home.

"I traded away Nick because [Columbus] asked for him in this particular trade," Murray said. "We knew we had to address our defensive corps. We felt we were getting a quality guy who everyone in our organization thought highly of. He's a big guy, he's a local guy, he plays really good defensively, he's really happy to be on board with us. There's a price to be paid when you want to add someone like that."

Methot, who turned 27 on June 21, is signed for three more years at $3 million per season, or $1 million less than the $4 million 35-year-old Kuba will earn the next two seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Methot suffered a broken jaw last season and didn't play a game after Feb. 9, but he was still invited to play for Canada at the World Championships.

The Blue Jackets add a versatile forward in Foligno, 24, who broke out with 47 points for Ottawa last season in 82 games. Foligno added a goal and three assists in Ottawa's seven-game loss to the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He also has some edge to his game, racking up 124 penalty minutes last season.

Murray, however, feels Foligno can be replaced from within.

"We feel we have a number of real good young forwards coming," Murray said. "Nick was a good man for us, and he'll be a good man for Columbus."

Latendresse signed a one-year deal worth $1.2 million, and Murray is hoping he can bounce back from his concussion woes to fill a top-six role with the Senators.

"He's a big, strong guy, goes to the net real hard," Murray said. "He wasn't healthy last year, but we feel he can fill that role."

Latendresse had spent the past three seasons with the Minnesota Wild following his trade from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Benoit Pouliot. He had a career year with 37 points – including 25 goals – in 55 games in his first season in Minnesota, but over the past two seasons he has played just 27 games.

Latendresse passed a physical in Ottawa on Sunday after having received clearance from the Wild's doctors last month, and his contract includes performance bonuses that could boost his total salary to $2 million, according to RDS.

"I'm really 100 percent now," Latendresse told reporters. "I think if I can be the player I was when I first came to Minnesota, I think I can bring a lot to this team. I think everyone's pretty excited right now."

Latendresse said he wanted to be closer to his 4-year-old son who lives in Montreal, which is a two-hour drive from Ottawa.

"They have a good team, I like the players they have here," Latendresse said. "It's closer to my family too. But I really feel they can be a contender, and that was a big part."

Finally, Murray was excited about the idea of adding Lundin, another player coming off an injury-plagued year with the Minnesota Wild when he played just 17 games. Lundin, 27, was signed for one year and $1.15 million.

"Mike was hurt last year, but we really liked him when he was in Tampa [Bay two seasons ago]," Murray said. "We liked the fact he's mobile, moves the puck very well, he gets up and down the ice real well. He's not a big point-getter or physical player, but he's one of those transitional types of guys who we felt was a bit better than some of the people we have here."

With the moves made Sunday, Murray appeared comfortable going into next season with the team he has in place and didn't anticipate doing much more over the summer.

"We've got a full team now," he said. "I think, because of our development camp, that we have a good number of young men who will challenge for positions on this hockey team. So I can't perceive right now doing much more, but things do happen in this business."

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