The Ottawa Senators will be a very busy team this offseason. Over half of their forwards need new contracts, a mix of UFA and RFa’s alike. However, they also have a ton of draft capital, more quality than anyone in the league. With that, it’d make sense for them to at least see what the market would want for something like their late first-round pick. Or even one of their multiple second-round picks. Bruce Garrioch reported that the Senators have been kicking tires on Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Garrioch said that “It’s believed the club is involved in talks for a veteran goaltender”, also mentioning a few other teams in the mix. However, going in now and spending assets may not be the right play. If they do it, it needs to be for the right goalie, a goalie of the future. Here is why Matt Murray might be too risky to be just that.
Matt Murray Doesn’t Fit Senators
There is no arguing with what Murray has accomplished as a young goalie in the NHL. He came in and helped the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2015-16 and 2016-17. However, since then his career has been filled with ups and downs. Murray has faced a couple of injuries since the Stanley Cups but has also seemingly battled for the net in Pittsburgh. Originally it was with Marc-Andre Fleury. Then when he left, there were battles with Casey DeSmith and more recently Tristan Jarry. Given Jarry’s age and the fact that he will be cheaper, Murray may find himself on the way out.
The real question becomes, is his departure just because of a lack of cap space? Or is there a bigger risk too? When you look at his base-stats over the past three seasons, they are nothing to write home about. Since 2017-18, he has had a .907, .919, and .899 save percentage in each season. He played 49, 50, and 38 games respectively. The .919 is encouraging, but base sv% can also be misleading at times.
When we look at Evolving Hockey’s Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) and Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx), we can see another picture of Murray’s last three years. Below is a look at his numbers, as well as Jarry’s to see the comparison.
As you can see, the last three years have not been a great light for Murray analytically. For GSAA, he had one good season that aligned with his base sv%. However, when you look at what he was actually expected to save, it was almost everything that he was given. So when you factor things in like shot difficulty, the number becomes a little less impressive. This is still a step up on almost anything Ottawa has had over the past three seasons. However, is it worth the upgrade right now?
Contract and Window
If Ottawa was in a window where they want to compete right now, then maybe adding Matt Murray could make some sense. Hope you can see some sort of bounce-back year from him. However, making him the goalie of the future seems unnecessarily risky. For starter’s, the Senators don’t need to be and probably shouldn’t expect to be good this season. There is a fair assumption they will improve on the 30th placed finish from last season. However, by how much is a different question within itself. Making a massive jump and pushing for playoffs is pretty unrealistic, but shooting for around 22nd-24th or so isn’t.
The issue is bringing in a guy to give you a boost from 22nd-24th to around 17th-19th. Neither of those scenarios puts you into the playoffs and the latter just moves your pick higher up in a year you’re not competing anyways. Some of this might be OK, but the question then has to come of what will Murray want? He has won two Stanley Cups, it seems unlikely he will want any pay cut off of his 3.75 million he makes now.
Future Cap Concerns?
In fact, he will likely be asking for a raise. As well, at 26-years-old, he will likely want a few years of term if it will carry him into his UFA years. He’s an RFA for this year, but what good does a one or two year deal that walks him right to free agency do? You then risk losing the goalie you traded good assets for after getting him for a year or two you really didn’t need.
The Senators’ options would likely come down to giving him a medium-sized extension to eat up some UFA years. That won’t be cheap for them, and not only is money a concern, but the salary cap will also be within a few years too. They’re not there yet, however, in two or three years the Sens core will be up for extensions. You need to be sure the goalie you acquire is your future starter if you’re going to pay him like one.
Hogberg and Seattle
The Sens best option may just be to let things play out for a year. Just because they have plenty of assets doesn’t mean they need to trade them. This is by all accounts a deep draft, and using a bunch of your high picks could be largely beneficial in the future. In net, the Senators have Marcus Hogberg that they need to know what they have in him. This season Hogberg should be given the chance to be a big part of a tandem in net. If Anders Nilsson isn’t ready to go, finding a one-year backup for cheap shouldn’t be much of an issue. Goaltending prospects can be random, so placing all your eggs in that basket is never a good thing. However, next offseason there may be even more potential to find a goalie.
The Seattle Kraken expansion draft will be happening next year, and because of that, teams may look to move assets with each other. If a team has two solid goalies and they fear one might be taken, Ottawa could reach out and then offer assets if they feel they need a goalie. There are a couple of teams this very well could happen too, and staying patient very well could pay off for the Senators.
What if the Price is Right for Matt Murray?
After all of that, there always comes the deals you just can’t say no to. It seems like an extreme longshot at this point, but if the asking price is low enough and the contract demands aren’t too crazy either, the Sens taking a swing with Matt Murray would not be the end of the world. He has shown more than once that he knows how to win, even if that was a number of seasons ago now. The acquisition price would likely have to be low enough that if it doesn’t work out after a year or two, there is no harm done. Ottawa should probably look to hold on to that third first-round pick in such a deep draft. There also may be other options to use it too.
However, it feels unrealistic to assume that Murray would come for cheap, whether that be for the trade or the contract. Because of his questionable past few seasons and the fact that Ottawa doesn’t need a goalie right now, it makes more sense for them to stay away at this time.