The Ottawa Senators finally resolved their contract dispute with defenceman Andrej Meszaros on Friday, trading the restricted free agent to the ever-changing Tampa Bay Lightning.
In exchange, the Senators received defencemen Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard and a first round pick the Lightning previously acquired from the San Jose Sharks. Sources add that Meszaros is expected to sign a six-year contract with the Lightning averaging $4 million a season.
"It got to a point where the money was too much for what we wanted to pay," Senators' GM Bryan Murray told the Canadian Press. "We thought we had made a considerable offer, but when there was the threat of an offer sheet at such an exaggerated (dollar amount) it really led us to believe that making a deal was an easier way, and would give us the return that we needed for this player."
Meszaros, 22, played in all 82 games for the Senators last season, recording nine goals and 27 assists. In 246 career games with Ottawa, he had 26 goals and 84 assists. He was Ottawa's first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2004 NHL Draft.
"Andrej is a perfect fit within our plan to rebuild the Lightning into a contender," Lightning president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said in a statement. "He has a strong all-around game, he competes, he moves the puck and he can handle big, strong forwards defensively.
"Perhaps most importantly, we're pleased to add a 22-year old player with almost 250 NHL games already under his belt; we know Andrej will continue to grow and improve as he matures with the rest of our defence."
Meszaros and the Senators were locked in contract talks all summer. Reports indicated that Meszaros was seeking a deal worth $4.5 million a year, while the team was offering closer to $3.5 million.
"I thought his first year in Ottawa was real good, I though his last two years left something to be desired," Murray said. "I was hoping I could convince him to take a contract that's fair and reasonable so he could really develop into the player we hoped he could be, but that wasn't in the books."
The trading of Meszaros leaves Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov as the only two regular defencemen from last season's opening night lineup. The team parted ways with Wade Redden, Luke Richardson and Mike Commodore via free agency and traded blueliner Joe Corvo midway through the season.
Kuba, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of the Czech Republic, skated in 75 games with Tampa last season, scoring six goals and 31 points. In 531 NHL games with the Lightning and Minnesota Wild, the veteran blueliner has 55 goals and 207 points. He was also a member of the Czech team that won the bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.
"He's a really solid person," Murray said. "Really quiet but a real good player. He can play the point on the power play and shoots the puck really well."
Picard, drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2003, had six points in 20 games with Tampa last season. In 92 NHL games, the Gatineau, Quebec native has six goals and 28 points.
The addition of Meszaros is the latest of several changes the Lightning made in the offseason. After taking centre Steven Stamkos first overall June's NHL Entry Draft, the team hit the ground running by acquiring forwards Vaclav Prospal, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi and Radim Vrbata, defenceman Matt Carle and goaltender Olaf Kolzig.