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The Ottawa Senators are faced with a huge dilemma. It's too bad they can't do very much about it.

Hockey fans and commentators are stressing the need for the Senators to make a major trade to shake up the team and finally get it going on what was supposed to be another strong season and then (finally) a decent run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The question then is who do the Senators have to offer to get a player or two to make a difference?

The problem is the Senators have lost too many big stars in the past 15 months and can't afford to give up another marquee player so early in the season. Just tweaking the team's supporting cast isn't seen as something that would drastically improve the club or -- as one analyst said the other day -- shake up the team in order to scare underachievers into picking it up.

No matter what you think of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Wade Redden or Chris Phillips, the Senators cannot risk damaging their core group any more than they already have and, in so doing, infuriating their fans.

If they can't find the winning touch and the team continues to spiral downward through the winter, then Muckler and coach Bryan Murray -- if they're still around by then -- can safely conclude that the team needs to be rebuilt for 2007-08. Then, the exodus of more core players can begin. Even so, there will still be some untouchables -- Spezza, Heatley and probably Redden -- and that situation doesn't give the Senators much to pony up, aside from the supporting players.

Spezza does commit more than a fair share of defensive gaffes, but his offensive prowess as a setup man is going to get better. You can tell by watching him. He's quickly becoming the new face of the franchise and is one of two players the Senators picked up in the Alexei Yashin trade. At least the club can point to Spezza and say they got something good in value after pouring so much money and effort into trying to please the insufferable Yashin. Chara was the other player the Senators got in the Yashin deal, but more on him later.

Losing Heatley would also be tough to swallow even if he continues to wallow in inconsistent play following his record-setting season in 2005-06. And consider who the Senators gave for Heatley: Marian Hossa. Unless the Senators can convince the Atlanta Thrashers to trade Hossa back, then Heatley is pretty safe.

Redden? They can't get rid of him. He helps the team win, and that was very clear last season when he was injured and the Senators blew a bunch of games. A groin injury this season has forced him to miss the past four games, all of which Ottawa lost. Add in his charity work for this community and the thought of trading Redden would be a huge mistake in the minds of many.

What about Alfredsson? He does have age working against him and bigoted fans who think he shouldn't be captain because he's not one of our kind -- Canadian-born and raised on Don Cherry -- so he may, in fact, be a likely scapegoat if the team bombs.

Phillips is another player who could be on the bubble. He's an unrestricted free agent next summer and he does share some of the blame for the last two Senators losses due to late third-period penalties. Any more of those and you won't find a bigger target for a trade.

Even if the Senators climb out of their slump, it's ever so clear now that club management sucked much confidence out of their team by not finding a way to stay under the NHL's salary cap and re-sign Chara. The club may have, possibly, even erred in trading Martin Havlat over fear of losing him for nothing next summer when he was to become an unrestricted free agent. There is also little doubt now that not re-signing Dominik Hasek, who would have played in Ottawa for a bag of pucks and is doing quite well in net with the Detroit Red Wings, did nothing to improve the Senators' fortunes in goal. Hasek earns $550,000 U.S. with the Wings. The Senators' supposed No. 1 goalie (Martin Gerber) earns $3.7 million.

In a way, the NHL's salary cap has taken the fun out of the game because in the old days, teams needing help would just trade up, no matter how much a new player would add to the team's payroll. Teams considering a trade today are looking at acquiring an apple for an apple -- at a similar price -- because most are within reach of hitting the cap.

In the Senators' case, it's all academic. For one thing, Eugene Melnyk was a proponent of the cap and he doesn't come across as the type of deep-pocketed owner who would overspend on player salaries to win the Stanley Cup. Secondly, with the constant reminders that management messed up by not keeping Chara, Havlat, Hossa and maybe even Hasek, Muckler isn't in any mood right now to let any other star players go.

The big, bold moves have had the tendency to blow up in his face.

This article was huge I added the basic's to it.
Senators can't afford big shakeup
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