The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired goaltender Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators for future considerations. The deal also includes a third-round pick in 2023 and a seventh-round pick in 2024. Finally, Ottawa will be retaining 25 percent of the former Stanley Cup winner’s $6.25 million average annual value (AAV) contract.
This comes after talks apparently stalled between pending unrestricted free agent Jack Campbell and the Maple Leafs, which means Murray may in fact be the new starter for the team when the puck drops on the 2022-23 season in a few months.
Since becoming the number-one goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins and winning back-to-back Cups back in 2016 and 2017, Murray has fallen from grace a bit. After four seasons in the Steel City, where he accumulated a record of 193-117-53-19 and posted a 2.67 goals-against average (GAA) and .914 save percentage (SV%) along with 11 shutouts, he was dealt to the Senators before the 2020-21 season. Believing he might be the heir apparent to long-time veteran Craig Andersen, general manager (GM) Pierre Dorion immediately signed him to a four-year contract worth a massive $25 million with a modified no-trade clause where he could nix moves to 10 teams.
Fast forward two seasons later and Murray has not lived up to his contract or the expectations Dorion had when he acquired him. He leaves the Nation’s Capital having appeared in only 47 games and posting a mediocre 3.23 GAA and .899 SV% along with three shutouts. He also had a losing record of 15-25-3.
Murray now will try and turn his career around in Toronto where the fans and media are not forgiving, especially when it comes to goaltending. It also pretty much puts the brakes on a potential return for Campbell who was their starter for the past few seasons since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings.
So, why did GM Kyle Dubas think Murray was a better choice than Campbell or some of the other free-agent or trade options out there? It’s unclear at this point, but there is a connection to the Soo Greyhounds that should be mentioned, as he was the GM for three of the four seasons before Murray joined the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League. So, maybe familiarity convinced him to take a chance on the now-28-year-old netminder?
All in all, it’s a risk since Murray has not been an all-star goaltender for a few seasons now. His best campaign came back in 2016-17, when he posted a 2.41 GAA and .923 SV% after appearing in 13 games in his rookie season – before taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs and winning his first championship. We will just have to wait and see if his struggles were because of a bad defence in Ottawa or if this is just the player he is right now.
Senators Transition to Forsberg & Gustavsson
It cost a couple of draft picks, but Dorion and the Senators are now free of Murray and a large piece of his contract. They will now transition to 29-year-old Anton Forsberg and 24-year-old Filip Gustavsson, who is now on a one-way deal. The former stole the show last season, usurping Murray as the starting goaltender and posting a decent 2.82 GAA and .917 SV% along with four shutouts in 46 appearances. He was subsequently signed to a three-year deal worth $2.75 million AAV, which effectively ended Murray’s stint in Ottawa.
The Senators will now sit back and pray that Forsberg can at least repeat his efforts from last season and push the team towards a playoff spot. After making a massive trade to get Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks, Dorion is clearly looking to make his team more of a contender going into 2022-23. As such, it’s going to be interesting to see what he has up his sleeve for free agency, as he now has a little more money to play with after shedding 75 percent of Murray’s salary.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.