McGrattan traded to Phoenix
The Ottawa Senators continued attempts to clean up their dressing room image Wednesday by finding a new home for Brian McGrattan.<BR>
OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators continued attempts to clean up their dressing room image Wednesday by finding a new home for Brian McGrattan.
The Senators traded McGrattan, the club’s designated fighter for the past three seasons, to the Phoenix Coyotes for a fifth-round selection in the 2009 National Hockey League entry draft.
The transaction had barely been completed when general manager Bryan Murray talked about the need to dispel fans’ impressions of a dysfunctional dressing room.
On Monday, the club bought out the contract of goaltender Ray Emery, who garnered constant off-ice headlines. Emery and McGrattan have been close friends since their days together with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. Like Emery, McGrattan often simply went through the motions during practices, despite being asked by coaches to pick up the tempo to earn more playing time.
While Murray didn’t directly label McGrattan as a troublemaker or a dividing force among his teammates, he says there was a feeling in the community that the tough guy was part of the problem as the club self-destructed in the second half of the season.
“I want a team of real character people,” Murray said. “I definitely want good people in the room to clear up that perception. Fans are influenced by what they read and hear, and we want to keep good people.”
In three seasons with the Senators, McGrattan, 26, scored two goals and eight assists, and had 287 penalty minutes in 143 games.
The Senators were prepared to re-sign McGrattan as an unrestricted free agent, but only if he agreed to a two-way contract, which would pay him a minor league salary if he was demoted to the AHL.
McGrattan might receive a better opportunity to play regularly with the Coyotes, who are coached by Wayne Gretzky. The Great One likes to have at least one, sometimes two, enforcers in his lineup at all times.
“I hope I did Brian a favour,” said Murray. “He’s getting a new start in a different situation.”
With McGrattan gone, the obvious question is how the Senators will replace the “punch” he brought to the lineup. Murray may look at acquiring a proven fighter, but only if that player can dress regularly without being a liability.
At this point, he’s content the roster has enough toughness. Veteran Chris Neil and Cody Bass, who was one of the club’s few bright spots late in the season and in the playoffs, can hold their own against rivals. Just as importantly, new coach Craig Hartsburg can trust them to contribute while taking a regular shift.
“We want gritty, competitive people who the coach feels comfortable putting on the ice. Someone who can finish checks, kill a penalty or win a faceoff,” said Murray. “That tells the coach he’s a safe guy.
“That’s what (Bass) is. He’s a hard-working kid. He’s not afraid to run into people. I hope he will be a good penalty killer. He looks like a coachable guy.”
Bass, 21, was surprised when he first heard that McGrattan had been traded. While he hopes McGrattan gets an opportunity in Phoenix, he says he’s prepared to add to his role with the Senators if asked to do so by the club.
Bass scored two goals and two assists in 21 regular-season games with the Senators last season and scored once in four games during the playoffs, when his ice time increased due to injuries to Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly.
“The big thing is confidence, and I gained a lot of confidence because I got a chance to play (last season),” said Bass. “I hope I showed the organization that I can play here.”
Bass also says the game has changed, to the point where the number of hulking tough guys is gradually declining.
“I’m not saying I go around looking for it, but if it comes my way, I’m not afraid to do it. I go out and play hard. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been working on the offensive side of my game.
“Every team has a group of guys that, if the game gets out of hand, they will stick up for each other. No matter if it’s myself or Chris Neil or Mike Fisher, if it happens, it happens.”
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