Senators ship Lalime to Blues

It appears the Ottawa Senators are serious about pursuing star goaltender Dominik Hasek.

The Senators traded starting netminder Patrick Lalime to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday for a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2005, clearing the way for Ottawa to sign Hasek.

The 29-year-old Lalime was set to become a restricted free agent at midnight Wednesday, meaning the Senators would have had to make a qualifying offer of $2.575 million US to retain his rights.

It's Ottawa's second salary-dumping move in two days. At Saturday's NHL Entry Draft, the Senators shipped forward Radek Bonk to the Los Angeles Kings, who immediately sent him to Montreal.

Hasek, a six-time winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender, said recently Ottawa was one of the teams he was considering when he becomes a unrestricted free agent on July 1. He came out of a one-year retirement last season to re-join the Detroit Red Wings, the team he led to the 2002 Stanley Cup.

However, Hasek's storybook return to the NHL didn't go as planned. His season was plagued by serious groin problems. The injury eventually forced him to miss the final 53 games of the regular season as well as the playoffs. Hasek underwent successful surgery in the off-season.

Senators general manager John Muckler said his club was likely in the market for a goaltender, but couldn't talk about specifically because Hasek is still property of the Red Wings until July 1 when his contract officially expires. Red Wings GM Ken Holland has already said "the Dominator" is not in Detroit's plans for next season.

"And I've given permission to some teams in the Eastern Conference to speak to Dominik," Holland said.

Lalime played the last five seasons with the Senators. During the 2003-04 season, he posted a record of 25-23-7, goals-against average of 2.29 and a save percentage of .905. He also had five shutouts.

He went 3-4 in the post-season as the Senators dropped their opening round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Muckler said he had to trade Lalime after the criticism the former all-star goalie endured for his playoff performance against the Leafs.

"We owed it to Patrick," Muckler said Sunday. "He's a character guy and a loyal soldier, and I think he did a very good job for the organization.

"There was a lot of pressure of Patrick because we lost to Toronto last season. I don't think a lot of that criticism should have been put on his shoulders but I thought he played very well for us. And going to St. Louis I think is a good thing for him because he gets a fresh start."

with files from Canadian Press