Senators load up with winners for stretch run
Thus, the first trade domino falls.The Ottawa Senators got tougher and more experienced on the blue line and deeper and more dangerous up front. The Carolina Hurricanes get more mobile along the blue line and younger up front. See how simple that is? Following a trend established since the lockout, both Ottawa and Carolina did their trade deadline shopping early as the Senators acquired veteran scoring machine Cory Stillman and rugged defenseman Mike Commodore from Carolina on Monday, sending the Hurricanes promising forward Patrick Eaves and puck-moving defenseman Joe Corvo in exchange. Stillman, 34, and Commodore, 28, were both part of the Hurricanes' Cup-winning squad in 2006. Stillman waived a no-trade clause to join the Senators, who plugged two significant holes in their lineup and can once again consider themselves the early favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the second year in a row. "I think it's a message again to the community that this team wants to win a Stanley Cup," Ottawa GM Bryan Murray told reporters in Ottawa late Monday. "Does this put us closer? I believe so, just because of what we've added in these two individuals," he said. In Stillman, the Senators have acquired a player who has quietly built a reputation as a top-notch point-producer both in the regular season and the playoffs.
Eaves, coming to the end of his entry-level contract, will be interesting to watch. The 23-year-old, who was the 29th overall pick in 2003, scored 20 goals as a rookie two years ago but struggled to find a permanent place in an Ottawa lineup that is chock-a-block with experienced skilled players and useful role players.Rutherford is counting on the son of former NHLer and veteran U.S. college hockey coach Mike Eaves for the coming weeks but more so, perhaps, down the road. "If I can say anything, I sure feel bad about having to give up a guy like Patty. I like him as a person, I think he has a chance to score goals in this league and be a good player," Murray told reporters. "But deals are tough to make. Deals are always give and take." Indeed, Rutherford lamented losing two players who were big parts of the team's seminal Stanley Cup win. But in Corvo and Eaves, he has two players he knows will be in his lineup next year and beyond. Both teams have a history of making early deals. Rutherford grabbed Doug Weight early in the trade season in 2006 and Murray's predecessor John Muckler added center Mike Comrie before the trade frenzy a year ago. "Eventually, you get to a point where you want to do it prior to the cutoff date where everybody's scrambling in the last day," Murray said. "We felt comfortable in doing it early." Rutherford joked that now he can relax during next week's GMs' meetings in Naples, Fla., instead of having to have hushed trade discussions in corners with other GMs. Oddly enough, for all the rumor mongering that accompanies the trade season, this deal wasn't forecast anywhere before it happened. This in spite of the fact Murray and Rutherford have been talking on and off for more than two weeks. So, does this open the floodgates? Will GMs, fearful of being beaten to the punch in shoring up their lineup, make moves well in advance of the Feb. 26 deadline? Certainly every deal that gets made takes more assets off the market regardless of whether you're a buyer or a seller -- and four pretty good assets got locked up Monday.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
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