When the Senators acquired pending free agent Matt Murray from Pittsburgh, and signed him to a 4-year contract worth $25 million, they had hoped he’d be the answer to their goaltending problems by now. Two years later, Murray is now a Toronto Maple Leaf and Ottawa’s undisputed number one goalie is Anton Forsberg, a guy they claimed off waivers.
In the NHL, life comes at you fast.
Murray was dealt to Toronto Monday night, along with Ottawa’s 3rd round pick in 2023 and a 7th round pick in 2024. The Sens retain 25% of the $15 million in salary remaining on Murray’s deal. They also get future considerations, which could be as little as Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas complimenting Pierre Dorion’s tie someday.
The Sens knew they’d have to sweeten the deal to unload Murray’s contract, especially to a team that’s perennially in cap hell. But a 3rd and a 7th as a sweetener isn’t quite what some Leaf backers were hoping for.
Toronto is doing exactly what Ottawa did two years ago – hoping a change of scenery will serve Murray well, helping him recover the Stanley Cup winning form he once had in Pittsburgh. The Leafs certainly know the player very well, and not just from watching his two Stanley Cup victories. Dubas and coach Sheldon Keefe worked together in the OHL when Murray was their goalie in Sault Ste Marie.
The Senators needed to make this move for a few reasons. As they aggressively attempt to improve their team this summer (good morning, Alex DeBrincat), they’ve begun to try and move out money to help pay for it all, and the first targets are players who weren’t living up to their contracts.
But Murray’s situation is more than that. His relationship with the Senators is probably as damaged as his body was during his time here.
Murray played just 47 of a possible 138 games with Ottawa and when he was healthy enough to play, he was your standard, you-never-know-what-you’re-gonna-get box of chocolates. The frustration was clear on both sides when Dorion placed Murray on waivers and then sent him to the American Hockey League last November. That had to be a major blow to the ego for a two-time Stanley Cup champion. Right on brand, Murray immediately got hurt in Belleville.
Ego bruised, Murray returned to the NHL in January. When he was able to play, he was phenomenal. But his season ended early on March 5th after back to back stinkers, including an 8-5 loss to Arizona. During that game, which Murray finished, he apparently suffered a season-ending concussion.
The Sens also had the little matter of three goalies (Forsberg, Murray and Filip Gustavsson) all on one-way NHL contracts for this fall. NHL insiders say that’s not ideal. Forsberg is staying, and if they tried to move Gustavsson to Belleville, they’d likely lose him on waivers. And you’re certainly not spending $15 million to play Murray in the minors. Something had to give.
Murray helped orchestrate this deal, using his no movement clause to veto a draft day trade to Buffalo last week. The Sens were reportedly prepared to send the Sabres their 7th overall selection for Buffalo’s 16th overall pick, and as they will for Toronto, retain 25% of Murray’s salary. Given the high failure rate of 3rd and 7th round selections, the Toronto trade was a considerably better option for the Sens.
Dorion has shown some serious knack for cleaning up his own mistakes. Last season, he got Evgeni Dadonov and his remaining $10 million off the books, even picking up Nick Holden in the process. Dorion bought out Colin White at a third of his salary. And now he’s wiping his feet on Matt, mitigating that error for way less money than a buyout would have cost.
It’s been an excellent off-season so far and Sens fans are hoping Dorion can keep it rolling when the free agent frenzy begins on Wednesday.
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine