The Ottawa Senators had been waiting for this past week for a long time – in fact, for several years. By making an entire list of positive moves, the Senators went into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft with 13 picks, and three in the first round – two in the top five.
With the third overall pick of the draft, the Senators picked up young German left-winger Tim Stutzle. With the fifth overall pick the team took defenseman Jake Sanderson. And, with the 28th overall selection the team chose 18-year old Lethbridge native center Ridly Greig.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was down right effusive: “I think it’s one of the biggest nights in this franchise’s history. When you add the quality of the No. 3 pick that we added, a player who’s offensive upside is unlimited, a player we felt was the best defenseman in the draft and then you combine with the character and talent that Ridly Greig brings, we’re really excited.”
Now the trick is for the Senators to develop and keep these players. Last season was painful, but with the draft choices garnered on October 6 and 7, there’s a chance the team will turn the corner very quickly. These youngsters bring tons of potential.
Unfortunately, the development of Stutzle will take a bit of a step back as the Ottawa Senators prospect is set to undergo surgery after suffering an arm injury while training with his German club, the Mannheim Eagles. Stutzle was hurt Monday and will have the procedure Wednesday.
The 18-year-old is expected to be out six-to-eight weeks.
Senators Trade for Matt Murray on Day 2 of 2020 NHL Entry Draft
However, perhaps the Senators most significant move of the week didn’t happen on the virtual draft floor. Instead, it was the almost surprising trade – at least for me – for Pittsburgh Penguins 26-year-old goalie Matt Murray. When the Penguins signed Tristan Jarry to a long-term contract, it was pretty clear that Murray would be traded. However, few hockey commentators I know or read believed it would be the Senators.
In the biggest move of the week for the Senators, on Day 2 of the Draft, the Senators traded for Murray. To get the 26-year-old, the team sent a prospect (forward Jonathan Gruden) and a 2020 draft choice (the second-rounder previously picked up from the Columbus Blue Jackets – 52nd overall) to the Penguins.
Dorion called the acquisition of Murray “an important addition to our lineup. He’s a proven goaltender who has considerable high-pressure experience and someone who we’re certain will serve as a exceptional mentor to our young group of upcoming goaltenders.”
Senators fans have to hope that Dorion is correct. That’s the Murray of a few years ago, but it wasn’t the Murray of last season. During 2019-20, Murray’s record was 20-11-5, which doesn’t seem so bad. However, he carried a goals-against average of 2.87 (again not so bad) but his save percentage of .899 in 38 games wasn’t good enough. Perhaps it’s an offseason, and not representative of the goalie who, in 199 career NHL games with the Penguins his compiled a 117-53-19 record, a goals-against average of 2.67. and a save percentage of .914.
And, although Murray isn’t likely to be in the playoffs next season, he certainly has playoff experience. He’s played 51 playoff games, which ranks third all-time for the Penguins franchise. And during those more difficult games, he has a record of 29-21 with six shutouts.
Dorion and Murray Quickly Signed a Deal
Perhaps it was the right thing to say or Murray had a glimpse of what might be happening with the team and wanted to be part of it, but he was clear he wanted in. Prior to the signing, he said, “I definitely hope we can something done so I can be here for years to come.”
It didn’t take long for the Senators and Murray’s agent to sign up with a deal. Murray came to the Senators as an RFA with arbitration rights, but no arbitration was necessary. He’d just finished a three-year, $11.25 million contract ($3.75 million per season); and, he got a raise.
His contract was for four-years and $25 million (almost doubling the salary-cap hit of his previous contract). That suggests that the Senators’ organization thinks Murray is here for the long haul and will be the stability the team needs in net. In the end, the Senators have their new starting goalie tied up until after the 2023-24 season.
How to Assess the Trade and the Signing?
Honestly, if Murray is the goalie of old, this is a masterful signing by Dorion and the Senators. If Murray is good in goal, his signing will help the team escape their rebuild – quickly. I could go on with the “ifs.” And that’s the deal.
If Murray is good, the move was genius. If Murray is even average, the move was just fine – the Senators didn’t lose much to get his signing rights – but the salary is pricy.
My assessment is that, although Dorion has risked a lot, he’s also been masterful in this process. It was a good week for the Senators, who might be quickly moving past the label of “rebuilding team.”
The Senators are stockpiling high-quality prospects and young players who might make the roster as early as next season. What does Murray think? He agrees.
Immediately after the trade, he claimed, “This is a young team stacked with talent and heading in absolutely the right direction.”
Can he pull the team in that “right direction?” Perhaps. First he has to overcome concussions and lower-body injuries and be the goalie who was the seventh-fastest in NHL history to gain 100 regular-season wins (in 166 games).
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