Monday February 11th, 2008

Sometimes a deal just makes sense for both teams.

By acquiring defenseman Mike Commodore and winger Cory Stillman from Carolina, the Ottawa Senators are now better equipped for the long playoff run that's expected of them. Defenseman Joe Corvo and winger Patrick Eaves, the players sent to the Canes in the deal, address both short and long term needs for a team that's struggling to grab a postseason berth but, in reality, is more interested in retooling for next season.

If you need to see the edge given to someone here, hand it to the Senators. Ottawa's long had two deficiencies: not enough offensive depth behind Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza; and nowhere near enough grit. Both flaws stood out in bold evidence during last year's Stanley Cup Finals loss. The Sens didn't have a second line to challenge the Ducks, nor did they have the sandpaper. Corvo and Eaves were useful players, but both were as soft as kittens. That won't be an issue with Commodore and Stillman, two battle-tested vets who played pivotal roles in Carolina's 2006 Cup run.

Commodore plays a smart, defensive game with a controlled physical edge. He led the Canes in penalty minutes (74) and was third in hits (93), while ranking first in ice time among the team's blueliners (tk). He'll make Ottawa harder to play against, and should be more effective with a lightened work load.

Stillman is the poster boy for underappreciated players. He's averaged nearly a point per game over the last four seasons in relative anonymity. Though not a classic banger, he gives as good as he gets and thrives by going to the hard places. With 21 goals through 55 games, he's on pace for a career high, and he'll give the Sens the reliable top-six forward they've been seeking for two years. The fact that he popped in 9 goals and 26 points in 25 games during the 2006 playoffs makes him an especially appealing addition.

Both players are headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, which creates some options for Ottawa's cash-strapped GM Bryan Murray. Depending on his performance, Commodore may become a cheaper ($3 million or so) substitute for Wade Redden, another UFA who seems certain to leave town after he was embarrassed by the revelation that Murray asked him to waive his NTC last week.

In Corvo, Carolina gets the offensive-minded defender they've been lacking for the past couple years. Despite playing mostly on the third pairing in Ottawa, he trailed only Redden in blueliner scoring, thanks to his 15 points on the power play. He has two years left on his deal, a factor that had to appeal to a team with just three veterans (Frantisek Kaberle, Niclas Wallin and David Tanabe) signed for next season.

Eaves, a 2003 first rounder (29th overall), is the high risk, high reward player in the deal. He had 20 goals as a rookie in 2005-06, and is seen as someone with 30-goal potential. But he's been a bust this season, missing 29 games with various injuries and failing to carve out a spot for himself when healthy. The change of scenery may do him good. An RFA this summer, Eaves likely won't cost Carolina a fortune to re-sign, and gives them a much-needed injection of youth up front.

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