February 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Ted Kulfan: NHL Insider

These Senators cut costs, too

Center Mike Fisher, right, loved playing for Ottawa but expects to be happy, too, in Nashville with his wife. (Mike Strasinger/Associated Press)

Tampa Bay, Fla. -- A few years ago, Ottawa appeared to be on the verge of being an annual Stanley Cup contender.

Today, the Senators are dismantling their roster piece by piece and looking like a contender for the No. 1 overall pick for the foreseeable future.

They traded reliable forward Chris Kelly to Boston Tuesday, getting a first-round pick. But the foundation shifter was trading cornerstone Mike Fisher to Nashville last week for multiple high draft picks.

Fisher was a Selke Trophy-caliber player just a few seasons ago. He's fallen off a bit, but Fisher is still an asset, with two years left on his contract at a reasonable $3.5 million per.

"It's not popular," Senators general manager Bryan Murray admitted to Ottawa reporters (and the move wasn't, among Ottawa fans). "I wouldn't think it should be in that fans care about our hockey team, they care about individuals on our hockey team, and Mike is one of the good individuals.

"The good thing, I think, we were able to do is put him in a place, No. 1, he can play in the playoffs, and No. 2, he should be able to set up a home with his wife and not be commuting back and forth to Ottawa."

Oh, yes. Fisher is married to Nashville country music star Carrie Underwood. How did Underwood react to the news?

"She was a little emotional," Fisher said. "She knows how much I love Ottawa, she loved it, too. But I think it will be a good thing for us, a good fit for me. She's happy, too."

Fisher and Kelly probably won't be the last to leave Ottawa. Defenseman Chris Phillips will be an unrestricted free agent, and he'll attract a lot of interest by the Feb. 28 trade deadline.

Forwards Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil might, too.

Murray could be clearing as much as $20 million off the books by moving all his free agents.

"There's lots of conversation at this point," said Murray, who reportedly is looking to accumulate draft picks. "We think there will be other things happening as we go forward.

"We know you have to make changes when you perform like we did this year. A variety of things have to happen."

New-look Lightning

The Lightning will be sporting a new look next season, going to a cleaner and more classic look.

The team will wear blue jerseys over blue pants with white stripes at home and white jerseys with "Tampa Bay" over the logo on the road. The logo is a lightning bolt inside a contemporary oval.

Steve Yzerman , the Lightning general manager and former Red Wings icon, said the team was inspired by the historic uniforms of teams such as the Yankees, Red Wings, Tigers and Colts.

Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier was all for the look.

"You look at the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs," he told the Tampa Tribune. "I love that classic look."

Uncertain future

The scary part for the Pittsburgh Penguins right now is no one knows when, or if, Sidney Crosby will return this season.

The way Crosby, suffering from a concussion, sounded last week, doesn't offer much hope.

"You know what? That could happen," said Crosby, of possibly missing the rest of the season. "Am I sitting here packing it in? No. I hope I'm back. Geez, I hope I play this year."

Crosby suffered hits to the head in consecutive games, the first Jan. 1 against Washington in the Winter Classic.

He originally was expected to miss a minimum of a week. Now, no one knows when Crosby will return.

"I'm getting better. It's just slow," he said. "That's the tough part. The progression and everything is improving.

There's no timetable whatsoever. It's impossible."

Jagr interested

Jaromir Jagr , 39, is playing in Russia's Kontinental League but sounds like he could be talked into returning to the NHL next season.

Jagr told ESPN.com he would think about coming back to North America if it's the right team.

"If I had a chance to join a team that has a chance to win, maybe I'd think about it," he said.

Jagr's contract with Avangard Omk, which leads the KHL, expires after the season.

"I actually feel better now than I did my last year in the NHL," he said. "More skating here on the big ice. I don't feel my age."

By the numbers

200 -- Estimated skates Peter Forsberg tried to manage his foot injuries — none worked

346 -- Combined penalty minutes in the Feb. 11 Penguins-Islanders game

40 -- League-leading goals by Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos

All he does is win

Jimmy Howard doesn't rank high among league leaders in saves and goals-against — but he does have the most wins among goalies.

PlayerTeamWins
Jimmy HowardDetroit28
Roberto LuongoVancouver27
Carey PriceMontreal27
Tim ThomasBoston26
Jonas HillerAnaheim26

Defense wins

It's no surprise that several teams with the worst goals-against average also find themselves toward the bottom of the standings. Here are the teams with the eight weakest goals-against averages:

Colorado 3.42

Edmonton 3.28

Ottawa 3.26

N.Y. Islanders 3.25

Atlanta 3.14

Toronto 3.05

Tampa Bay 3.04

Carolina 3.00

ted.kulfan@detnews.com

(313) 223-4606

Wings goalie Jimmy Howard doesn't lead the league in GAA but he does in ... (David Guralnick/The Detroit News)
More Ted Kulfan