After weeks of speculation, the Toronto Maple Leafs have their goaltender for next season. It ultimately didn’t cost them much to get him.
On Monday, the Maple Leafs acquired goaltender Matt Murray along with two draft picks including a 2023 third rounder from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for future considerations. The Senators are also retaining 25% of Murray’s salary meaning the AAV on the Maple Leafs with be $4,687,500 for the next two seasons.
With Jack Campbell seemingly on his way to market and other options likely more expensive, the Maple Leafs saw an opportunity to acquire a former Stanley Cup winning goaltender at minimal costs. The Senators were more than happy to get rid of Murray’s contract even if they had to retain some money.
This begs the question. Was this GM Kyle Dubas’ best option? We won’t know until everything plays out. But there is one thing we know for certain. Dubas’ and his job as Maple Leafs’ GM is now on the line with this move, for better or worse.
This Can Go Either Way
We need to understand why Dubas and the Maple Leafs would make this trade. While it is very risky, it could ultimately work out too.
Let’s start with the good. Murray as mentioned above is a multi-Cup champion helping lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to two championships in a row. The Maple Leafs are putting themselves on the line hoping that Murray can regain his form from those Cup runs.
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Towards the end of his Senators’ tenure, Murray was starting to show some signs of overcoming his injuries with more consistent play. He went on a 5-0-2 stretch from Jan 13 to Feb 7 which included a home shutout of the Buffalo Sabres.
However Murray lost his last five starts of the 2021-22 season. Overall he finished with a record of 5-12-2. So outside of that 5-0-2 stretch in the middle of the season, he went 0-12-0. This doesn’t point to a lot of confidence.
However we have to consider familiarity here. Like Dubas, Murray was a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. If anyone will have knowledge of Murray, it’s Dubas.
We also need to consider the injuries that Murray has had to overcome recently. In 2021 alone, he had to overcome an upper-body injury, a lower-body injury, a head injury and COVID. Then in 2022, he missed time with an undisclosed injury and then a neck injury. The neck injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. His last game was Mar 5 against Arizona after he allowed eight goals on 39 shots against.
All indications seem to point to Murray being healthy now. If this trade is going to work, he has to stay healthy. There’s also no question that he’s going to be motivated to prove his doubters wrong.
Were There No Other Options?
The Maple Leafs elected to allow Campbell to get to market. They also could have tried to pursue other options in free agency such as Darcy Kuemper.
In both cases, money was going to be a problem. Both goalies are going to get paid top dollar by their new teams. Because of the current state of the Maple Leafs, it didn’t allow them to contend for either player.
Other goalies were available also. Ilya Samsonov was not qualified by the Washington Capitals. However this is a special circumstance. Whoever was going to come in was walking into an all-in situation. The Maple Leafs had to swing here, even if there was significant risk involved.
And as our Jim Parsons, Sr. wrote, the Maple Leafs are betting the ranch on this deal working.
The End Result?
If Murray comes in and helps the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup, everyone from Dubas on down will be proclaimed a hero and rightfully so. They went against the grain in an effort to find an upgrade and someone with championship experience.
But if this does not work, think of the ramifications. Dubas might be out of chances. With two years left until he needs a new deal, what would Auston Matthews think of everything? Could we be seeing the beginning of the end of his era assuming they don’t win in the playoffs?
The decision to trade for Murray will have long-lasting ramifications no matter the end result. Dubas has spent most of his GM career with the Maple Leafs finding a solution in net. Nothing has worked so far with Campbell heading to market. This has to work for Dubas. No exceptions.
It’s Murray or bust. Otherwise, Dubas might not be the only one looking for a new job come next season.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.