Senators send goalie to Blues for '05 pick

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Ottawa Senators traded goaltender Patrick Lalime on Sunday to the St. Louis Blues for a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2005.

Senators GM John Muckler wouldn't address rumors the team has an agreement with goaltender Dominik Hasek. Instead, he noted the mounting pressure on Lalime, who was in goal for each of the Senators' Game 7 playoff losses the last two seasons. However, the move leaves the Senators without a proven No. 1 NHL goaltender.

The deal is believed to be contingent on St. Louis' signing Lalime. The veteran netminder is a restricted free agent and must be qualified before the July 1 deadline for a team to retain his rights.

If the Senators do sign Hasek it will be after July 1, when his contract with the Detroit Red Wings expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If they sign him before that date, the Senators would be required to compensate the Red Wings.

Hasek said earlier this month that he'd like to return to the NHL and pointed to Ottawa as a place he'd like to play. Hasek, a six-time winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie, played for Muckler when the two were with the Buffalo Sabres in the mid-1990s.

Having retired for a season after backstopping the Detroit Red Wings to the 2002 Stanley Cup, Hasek returned to Hockeytown last season but saw limited action because of a groin injury.

"We owe this to Patrick," Muckler said. "There would have been a lot of pressure on him had we brought him back. A lot of that load should not be on his shoulders."

This spring, Lalime surrendered two soft goals against Ottawa's provincial rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in a 4-1 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. It was the the fourth time the Senators lost to the Leafs in four playoff meetings, and the second time they lost to them in a seven-game series, despite being heavily favored. Last year, Lalime was in net when the Senators lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals at home, 3-2, to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils won the Stanley Cup in seven games over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Lalime was 25-23-7 in 57 games last season, with a goals-against average of 2.29. He compiled a 146-110-30 record during his five seasons in Ottawa.

Muckler insisted he wasn't placing blame for Ottawa's failures on Lalime. Instead, he said, throwing the goalie back into such a pressure-packed situation would have been unfair to him as well as the team.

"I think this is the best thing that could happen for both parties," Muckler said. "Patrick will be in a situation where he can make a mistake now and not be criticized for it."

The trade is the latest move in a major shakeup of the Senators. Muckler fired veteran head coach Jacques Martin in April, only two days after losing to the Leafs, and replaced him with Ducks GM Bryan Murray. On Saturday, they traded center Radek Bonk to the Los Angeles Kings for a third-round pick in this year's draft. The Kings then traded him and goaltender Christobal Huet to one of Ottawa's division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, for goalie Mathieu Garon
and the Canadiens' third-round pick.

"In the two years I've been here, we've been a contender but we didn't get the deal done," Muckler said. "We felt we had to try and change things. We've made some major changes no question.

"The market is not an easy place to make deals right now," Muckler added. "I thought we did pretty well by moving two contracts we couldn't afford to keep. These were guys we probably wouldn't have qualified and after July 1 we wouldn't have got anything."