NHL Trade Notes: The Maple Leafs roll for Senators goalie Matt Murray

The trade

Get Maple Leafs: Goalie Matt Murray, a third-round pick in 2023 and a seven-round pick in 2024. Ottawa will retain 25 percent of Murray’s contract.

get senators: future considerations


Dom Luszczyszyn: I won’t pretend to know what the future holds for a goalkeeper in this league – nobody should. It’s an extremely hazy landscape where all you can do is rely on the information in front of you and hope it works as it should. With that in mind, it’s not hard to understand what the Maple Leafs see in Matt Murray and why it’s still an incredible risk at the same time.

On one hand, Murray is a goaltender with an incredible pedigree, a two-time Stanley Cup champion who has delivered in high-leverage situations. In 51 career playoff games, Murray has a .921 save percentage and has held 6.6 goals above expectations. He has the potential to be a great player, and that’s something the Leafs obviously care deeply about given their recent playoff history.

At one point Murray was considered one of the best young goalkeepers in the league and that talent is still with the 28-year-old. Somewhere. That was evident last season, especially after being relegated to the AHL. In 14 games thereafter, Murray played his best hockey in years with a .912 save percentage and saved 6.8 goals above expectations, a mark that ranked 13th in the league. That’s average starter territory and that’s what Toronto needs from him. With a cap hit of $4.7 million… he should be better. That and good health are key here. Given what the team just went through with Petr Mrazek, it’s pretty wild that they’d be about to return to another often-injured goalkeeper.

Overall, it’s not a bad bet given Murray’s career numbers, but boy is it a risky one given Murray’s recent history ever. There’s a reason it was shipped out of Pittsburgh in the first place, and that’s thanks to an ongoing three-year slump after the two championships. In 2016/17, his first year as a starter, Murray saved 17.2 more goals than expected. His next three years in Pittsburgh saw him at minus 9.3, up 2.8 and down 15.1. That rough patch continued into his freshman season in Ottawa, and in the five years since winning the Stanley Cup, Murray has been up and down. Five years is a long time and in that span Murray has scored the 10th worst goals in the league, exceeding expectations.

The hope is that 14 hockey games in 2021-22 powered by a chip on his shoulder can put Murray back where he was six or seven years ago, but that’s an extremely dangerous game at this price point for a cap team. It’s not unreasonable, but there’s a chance Murray is just a backup-level goalie and the Leafs wasted another year with that core. So what?

It just doesn’t feel like strong wealth management, particularly the yield for what is essentially a cap dump. A third and a seventh are doing nothing here, and to have only 25 percent of Murray’s salary withheld is a very harsh sight. Good for the Senators to get out of there and this is another big win for them in a strong offseason. But for Toronto, it’s extremely disappointing.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see Murray recover at all, assuming he is in good health, especially behind Toronto’s system. But at this price point, it feels way too expensive to figure out for sure.

maple leaves:D+
senators: A-

Corey Pronman: Matt Murray has always been known for his physique and great hockey flair. When engaged, it makes difficult saves look easy as it offers great reads and puck tracking. I’ve never noticed his lateral quickness, and as he’s aged his ability to save in the high percentage areas has diminished. His time at Ottawa since signing that four-year deal at the start of the 2020-21 season has obviously gone badly, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he could bounce back. His career save percentage still stands at .911, he’s had major career highlights, and his hockey IQ is a true NHL starting goalie attribute. When I did my 2012 redraft a few weeks ago I placed Murray at number 24 which suggests a Rand 1A, great 1B type keeper which I expect to see in the future.

The price of this type of netminder is high. A below-par free-agent goalie market doesn’t give Toronto many great options, but you’d hope that if you’re paying $4.68 million for a goalie, there won’t be any questions about whether he’s a real No. 1

Ottawa getting out of that deal is a positive, even if it doesn’t help them win more games. I imagine goalie Mads Sogaard will soon get an opportunity to show he can play NHL games, but there is some ambiguity about a goalie of the future and they had to pay some draft capital to get out of that deal, plus salary withholding for a franchise not spending to the cap.

senators: B+
maple leaves: B-

Shayna Goldman: The Maple Leafs have a strong team ahead of the Blues and it is hoped that their strengths can mask weaknesses at the net. Maybe her only need league-average goalkeeper from Murray. But it’s a legitimate question whether he can deliver or stay healthy at all. His injury history isn’t great and that’s exactly what thwarted his comeback last year after heading in the right direction.

Prior to that injury, Murray was managing to play relatively well behind a terrible Senators defense in his 20 NHL games over the past year. Now he should have a lighter workload in Toronto, but they’re betting he can keep it up for a full season. Last year’s stint in the NHL, after being promoted from the AHL, was his best performance in quite a while, after two terrible straight seasons. While Murray had an average year in 2018-19, it’s been some time since he’s made a big difference in a positive way – since 2016-17.

So it’s a risky game for a key position, especially in the coming seasons should Be the Maple Leafs’ best window to compete considering their star players’ timelines. However, two years Murray with a cap space of about $4.7 could be a safer risk than a long-term deal for Jack Campbell, which has an average annual value of over $5 million. The goalie market was not doing this team any favors and there were worse options out there. But the bar is pretty low and this is such an important season for this team.

The draft picks added to yield could give Toronto more trading assets to use either in the summer or at deadline to tweak this list if needed. But for just a 25 percent retention, the Maple Leafs should perhaps have tried to squeeze Ottawa a little more because there’s still a chance Murray can’t hit back with his new club and build on those advances from last year.

For the senators, they crossed Murray off their list and had to pay for it. It’s not the best offer for them but they have their starter in Anton Forsberg, who did a good job of handling the mess last year before signing a three-year extension. Now Ottawa needs a backup goalie to back him up (or they can use newfound cap space to address their defense so their goalies aren’t as busy).

maple leaves: C+
senators: B

(Photo: Marc DesRosiers / USA Today)

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