Senators solidify goaltending situation
The Ottawa Senators finally found the front-line goaltender they had been seeking, but Pascal Leclaire won't be seen between the pipes just yet.
Leclaire, 26, is recovering from ankle surgery, but he and a second-round draft pick were worth forward Antoine Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"If anybody wants to buy a condo, it is available," Leclaire quipped.
"Our scouts, everybody, felt, other than the injury that he had, that he was a real good goaltender, certainly in the upper echelon of younger goaltenders in the league and we felt we certainly had to do that," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray, who also re-signed defenceman Filip Kuba to a contract worth $11.1 million US over three years.
Leclaire, 26, had eight shutouts last season, but he lost the starting job in Columbus to rookie sensation Steve Mason.
"Mase is playing extremely well," he said. "It is not the first time that a young goalie comes in and there is an older goalie.
"Usually in that kind of a setup, the older goalie goes. I'm not stupid, I know how things work."
Leclaire is 45-55-12 with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 125 NHL games since being selected eighth overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2001 NHL draft.
The Repentigny, Que., native will be expected to shore up a position that has cost the Senators dearly in the past, particularly in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I think the first thing we had to try to accomplish here was to get better in one particular area and that is goaltending," Murray said.
Alex Auld, rookie Brian Elliott and Martin Gerber, claimed off re-entry waivers Wednesday by the Toronto Maple Leafs, have shared the goaltending duties this season, with sketchy results.
"We have solid guys, but to have the chance to get a top-end goaltender is a priority in any organization," Murray said. "The ones that have success normally have that."
'It is difficult and disappointing'
At $3.6 million US next season and $4.8 million US in 2010-11, Leclaire comes reasonably priced, making it a tad easier to part with a coveted forward in the speedy Vermette.
"Obviously, it is difficult and disappointing to have go give up Vermette," Murray said. "He has been here for quite some time and a good player."
"He is a 20-goal guy who is not having a 20-goal year," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said. "Hopefully, he will provide some energy for us and give us a jolt."
Like most of the Senators, Vermette has struggled somewhat with just 28 points, including nine goals.
Drafted in the second round (55th overall) by Ottawa in 2000, the native of St-Agatif, Que., has posted 80 goals and 167 points in 359 NHL games.
"He is a good all-around player, and he can skate," said Blue Jackets defenceman Mike Commodore, who toiled briefly in Ottawa. "He is one of the best skaters definitely that I have ever played with."
With files from the Canadian Press