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Sens add Cullen for playoff drive

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Matt Cullen, who helped the Carolina Hurricanes win a Stanley Cup in 2005-06, is bringing that winning pedigree to Ottawa after Senators general manager Bryan Murray pulled the trigger on a trade earlier today (Getty Images).

The Ottawa Senators clearly believe they're primed and ready for a serious playoff run.

With that thought in mind, Senators general manager Bryan Murray pulled the trigger on a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes earlier today, acquiring veteran centre Matt Cullen in exchange for defenceman Alex Picard and a second-round draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

The 33-year-old Cullen, a native of Virginia, Minn., is in the final season of a three-year contract and is due to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. While Murray acknowledged the 6-1, 200-pound centre is "a rental right now," he also believes he's got a team capable of doing big things in the Stanley Cup playoffs and paid the price to acquire Cullen, who figured to be a hot commodity at the March 3 National Hockey League trade deadline.

"Our intent is to get through the year (with Cullen)," said Murray. "He's coming here under those conditions. That seems to be the going rate for a good player and we were willing to step up and do it ... He'll fit our room and he'll bring some character to the team."

Cullen, meanwhile, is leaving a Carolina team with little in the way of playoff hopes for the red-hot Senators, who are on a 13-1-0 roll and seized top spot in the Northeast Division with knocking off the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals 6-5 on Thursday night. He has 12 goals and 40 points in 60 games with Hurricanes this season.

"I had some expectation (a trade) was going to come because of where we were in the standings," Cullen said after meeting the Senators in Detroit, where they'll face the Red Wings on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). "There was a lot of talk about Ray Whitney and myself being moved at the trade deadline or at the trade freeze kind of deadline.

"It wasn’t something that caught me totally off guard. I was just really happy that it was to a team as good as Ottawa and I’m really looking forward to it ... I played for Bryan Murray in Anaheim and really enjoyed it. So I’m certainly looking forward to that. I have a good knowledge of how good Ottawa is as a team, so for me it’s exciting. It’s a new start for a tough season."

Added Murray: "We think it's a good fit. He's a very versatile player, he kills penalties and plays the point on the power play. He's a very competitive guy and a real quality person that we think will bring energy and, hopefully, some statistics to our locker room. He's capable of playing in our top six (forwards), very definitely. Most importantly to me, he works real hard every game."

He also brings a winning pedigree to the Senators lineup. Cullen was a part of the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup-champion team in 2005-06, totalling 18 points in 25 playoff games after a career-high 25-goal regular season. A year ago, he played a key role in Carolina's run to the Eastern Conference final.

"It adds more depth and experience," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of his team's new acquisition. "He's won a championship. Any time you (have a chance) to add those elements to your team, you're going to have to do what we did today."

The deal, which was consummated just a few hours before the NHL's Olympic trade freeze kicked in at 3 p.m., also sent a signal to the Senators players that team management believes it has a true playoff contender on its hands.

"We have talked to Matt and he's excited about coming here. We think it's a good fit. He's a very versatile player, he kills penalties and plays the point on the power play. He's a very competitive guy and a real quality person that we think will bring energy and, hopefully, some statistics to our locker room. He's capable of playing in our top six (forwards), very definitely. Most importantly to me, he works real hard every game." - Bryan Murray
"It's always nice to feel like they want to strengthen our team," said Senators centre Jason Spezza. "It shows they believe in us. We want to try to take a run and finish off strong here."

Added captain Daniel Alfredsson: "I believe you do what you think is going to make the team successful, if you want to have a long playoff run or give yourself the best chance. That's what we've done."

The departure of Picard, however, has left the Senators perilously thin on the blue line . Emerging rookie Erik Karlsson (shoulder) is sidelined until after the Olympic break and Chris Campoli went down Thursday night with a lower-body injury that Clouston said will keep him out "for at least a month."

With two road games still to play this weekend before the Olympics shutdown they also face the New York Islanders on Sunday (5 p.m., no TV, Team 1200) Ottawa has summoned Brian Lee and Derek Smith from the Binghamton Senators to help fill the void on the back end.

Murray admitted he is "investigating other possible defenceman" via the trade route but believes the Senators have the necessary horses to get through the weekend.

"Derek and Matt Carkner were partners in Binghamton in the past and Brian Lee played with (Filip) Kuba when he was here before," said Murray. "It appears those will be the pairings for the next two games and then after the break, we'll have Erik coming back and I'm going to have to address the defence situation as we go forward."


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