Looking Back on Bryan Murray as General Manager

With the end of the regular season during a year full of talks about general manager Bryan Murray and his future, he announced his decision fairly quickly following the end of the Ottawa Senators’ last game. Taking over for him will be his top assistant Pierre Dorion, who spent a season and a half directly at Murray’s side.

Receiving a promotion during the 2007 offseason after the team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, Murray was unable to bring the organization past the second round since then. Yet working with a limited budget, he made his mark as general manager with drafting and trades rather than free agent signings. With his stepping down and becoming a senior advisor, this is a good time to look back during his tenure as GM and look at his biggest moves.

Dany Heatley and 2010 5th round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and 2010 2nd round draft pick, September 12th 2009


Considering the circumstance of this trade, Murray was unable receive fair value with this move. Although Michalek actually had his best season with the Senators in 2011-2012, scoring 35 goals and 60 points in 77 games, injuries took a toll and he was unable to remain impactful. Cheechoo only lasted a season with Ottawa, finishing with career lows as he would never see another game in the NHL again. Meanwhile, Heatley was able to provide a couple more good seasons for the Sharks and the Minnesota Wild, including a gold medal win with Canada in 2010, before moving back to his home country of Germany. In the end, nobody won this trade.

2010 1st round draft pick (Vladamir Tarasenko) to the St. Louis Blues for David Rundblad, June 25th 2010 – David Rundblad and 2012 2nd round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Kyle Turris, December 17th 2011


The Ottawa Senators have not had a great experience with drafting high-end Russian talent in the draft since the franchise’s very first pick in Alexei Yashin back in 1992, so there is little evidence that they would have pick Tarasenko even if they had retained their 2010 first-round pick. Rundblad seemed to be a very promising prospect, having dominated as a defenceman at the highest level of professional hockey in Sweden. He was unable to bring that dominance over to North America however, and didn’t even play half a season with the Senators. The good news is that Murray was able to redeem himself, trading Runblad to the Phoenix Coyotes for a certain young centre.

After seeing that Rundblad was not going to work out in Ottawa and Turris having contract disputes with the Coyotes, Murray made a trade that would give the team another top-six centre. He has so far been a good serviceable two-way centre for Ottawa, scoring 26 and 24 goals in two of his last three seasons respectively. This trade would even prove more crucial later on due to the organization’s continuing rebuild that involved the eventual trade of a long serving star.

Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson to the Dallas Stars for Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill and 2015 2nd round pick, July 1st 2014


After long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson’s retirement, the Senators appointed Jason Spezza team captain prior to the 2013-2014 season. As he fell under the weight of the pressure of being team captain during that season, Spezza requested a trade, only having a select number of teams on his list. With his hands tied, Murray made the best deal that he could, similarly to when he needed to trade away Dany Heatley. Murray definitely would have preferred not to have traded Spezza at all, though at least Chiasson and Paul are still with the team, providing decent depth up front.

Jakob Silverberg, Stefan Noesen and 2014 1st round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for Bobby Ryan, July 5th 2013


Speaking of players still being a part of the team to this day, Murray showed that he was not afraid to offer good assets for an impact player in return when he traded for Bobby Ryan. Having scored over 30 goals in each of his first four full seasons, Ryan was supposed to fill in a scoring void left behind by Alfredsson. Although he could not build the desirable chemistry with Spezza, he found his comfort alongside Turris and Clarke MacCarthur, a line that has been together this season when healthy. It is difficult to say today whether Ottawa won this trade or not, since the draft pick in Nick Ritchie is only 20 years old, though he could end up being a top-six power forward. Murray was definitely hoping that Ryan could have continued having 30 goal seasons, though that has yet to reoccur.

Brian Elliott to the Colorado Avalanche for Craig Anderson, February 18th 2011


After the entire Ray Emery Fiasco, Murray was in search of another number-one goaltender. Brian Elliott showed flashes of potential, but could not maintain strong enough numbers during his tenure with the Senators. So Bryan Murray decided to trade one struggling goaltender for another, as Colorado had given up on Craig Anderson due to one bad season. He found new life in Ottawa, finally making his name as a legitimate number one goaltender at the age of 29. It is safe to say that Murray received the better goaltender.

Ben Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher and 2013 4th round pick, April 3rd 2013


Perhaps Murray’s worst trade, yet the trade he made before that to acquire Bishop from the St. Louis Blues was one of his best. The Blues were expecting Jake Allen to be their goaltender of the future, so they gave Bishop to Ottawa for a second-round pick. During his short tenure in Canada’s capital, Bishop played well as one of three backups to Anderson during two seasons. Having misjudged another goaltender as one of the future and failing to see Bishop’s true potential, Murray traded him for a rookie who was nearly a foot shorter. With no enough strength and skill to make up for his lack of size, the rookie Conacher would eventually find himself playing in Switzerland. As for the goaltender that was supposed to be in the Ottawa crease for years to come, there would be the need for damage control there as well.

Robin Lehner and David Legwand to the Buffalo Sabres for 2015 1st round pick (Colin White), June 26th 2015


After the team’s run to the playoffs on the back of goaltender Andrew Hammond and the signing of college free agent Matt O’Connor, Lehner became expendable, thus his move to Buffalo. It is too early to decide whether Ottawa won or lost, but with the projection of the draft pick that came in return as Colin White who can become the organization’s top centre with the proper development, this can turn out to be an amazing fetch. If O’Connor can develop into a first-plan goaltender in time for Anderson’s retirement or faltering, then things would have turned out for the best.

Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg and 2017 2nd round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Dion Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and Cody Donaghey, February 9th 2016


His last big trade, Murray pulled the one of the biggest of the 2015-2016 season when he solidified his top-four defence corps by adding former Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. Murray addressed the team’s biggest need, and as a bonus provided the locker room with additional leadership. Although Ottawa was unable to recover from allowing the most shots against, with a full season with this top-four corps and better coaching, the team can improve greatly in that area.

Murray was also able to “dump” many salaries with Cowen’s $3.1 million cap-hit, Michalek at $4 million and Greening at $2.65 million. Considering these players’ careers are just about done, Ottawa received exactly what it needed both in Phaneuf and the release of unwanted contracts.

Murray and his Legacy

At the end of the nine years as the team’s general manager, Bryan Murray has been among the league’s more active managers when it comes to making changes, including the total of six coaches in those nine seasons. He was able to keep the Senators competitive despite the budget limits on the team through the draft with “steals” such as Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone. What new GM Pierre Dorion may have learned the most from Murray is how to navigate hockey decisions through tight spaces. Murray has maintained a solid foundation in Ottawa and as a senior advisor, will hope to see the foundation hold a true contender.