|Veteran centre Chris Kelly has been dealt to the Boston Bruins for a second-round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Ottawa now owns four picks in the first two rounds of that lottery (Getty Images).
Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.
For the second time in less than a week, general manager Bryan Murray made the difficult decision to part with a respected veteran as he continues to put the Ottawa Senators into position for a brighter future.
Less than an hour after watching his team fall to the New York Islanders 4-3 in a shootout at Scotiabank Place, Murray announced he had dealt centre Chris Kelly to the Boston Bruins for a second-round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The move came just four days after the Senators sent fan favourite Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators for a pair of picks, including a 2011 first-rounder.
Both decisions, Murray admitted tonight, pained him greatly.
"These are difficult deals for someone like myself to make because Chris was such a good player when I coached (the team)," he told reporters after finalizing the trade. "To make the moves we’re making is difficult but it’s the way we have to go at this point in time. These are two character players, two guys you respect as much as you can respect a hockey player. (But) that’s what other teams want.
"I find it very difficult because I certainly have great respect for both guys I traded this week. Both were character people in this town for a number of years. They were big role players in ’07 when we went to the (Stanley Cup) final, but it’s like every trade you make as a manager. There’s a time when you can maybe take advantage of an asset and get something back that will drive your organization forward going into the future."
And the future is clearly front of mind for the Senators, who now own two first-round picks and a pair of second-rounders in the 2011 draft to be held in St. Paul, Minn. With Ottawa (18-31-8) currently sitting in the Eastern Conference basement and standing 29th overall in the National Hockey League, it's own first-round selection will likely be in the top three.
As a six-year Senators veteran, the 30-year-old Kelly had hoped to be a part in the remaking of this team. But instead, he'll join a Boston team that figures to be a strong playoff contender in the Eastern Conference this spring.
"Especially the way things went this year, Bryan had to make some moves," said Kelly, a third-round choice (94th overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. "It was a quick goodbye after the game. Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet that maybe I won’t see some of these guys again."
Actually, he'll see his old teammates soon enough — the Bruins visit Scotiabank Place on Friday night (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) — but Kelly admitted "it'll be a weird feeling coming out on the other end of the rink."
"To make the moves we’re making is difficult but it’s the way we have to go at this point in time. These are two character players, two guys you respect as much as you can respect a hockey player. (But) that’s what other teams want ... Both were character people in this town for a number of years. They were big role players in ’07 when we went to the (Stanley Cup) final, but it’s like every trade you make as a manager. There’s a time when you can maybe take advantage of an asset and get something back that will drive your organization forward going into the future." - Bryan Murray
"Ottawa is all I've ever known (until now)," he added. "I was drafted here and I've played my whole NHL career here ... the friendships I've made here, that's something that will last forever."
Murray, meanwhile, will forge ahead in his makeover of a dream which he admitted has gone through "aa dreadful year and such a disappointing year for what we thought we were going to be." He has spoken at length with management with the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche, two NHL teams also committed to "going young."
More deals will be part of the process as the Feb. 28 NHL trade deadline approaches, but Murray admitted "I'm not going to trade everybody. I’m trying to move some other people, but it’s certainly not a housecleaning by any means."
"If you’re going to try to retool the organization, there have to be more than (two players) that go," he added. "There have to be doors open for other people. We know for a fact going forward that we have three or four very exciting players that are waiting for a chance to play for this organization that aren’t even in Binghamton (of the American Hockey League) yet.
"And then we have a couple more guys in Binghamton that we have to look at. You can either do it or not do it. It’s hard to do but we’re doing it. We’re going to retool the budget, we’re going to retool the organization and there will be some painful nights here."
But he is excited about a future that includes the likes of Bobby Butler
, Zack Smith
, Erik Condra
and goaltender Robin Lehner
, four Binghamton callups who are currently in Ottawa. Two other forward prospects, Colin Greening
and Jim O'Brien
, have recently made their NHL debuts.
More help from the farm will likely be on the way soon, especially in the wake of blueliners Sergei Gonchar
and Chris Campoli going down with lower body injuries against the Isles.
"We’re in a difficult spot here (on the blue line)," said Murray. "David Hale has been sick for 10-12 days now, so he hasn’t played. I don’t want to bring (Patrick) Wiercioch up, especially in the next two games ... but that may have to happen."