Steam seems to be picking on the rumor that Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas and Ottawa Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion are in serious talks about Senators’ goalie Matt Murray.
Our goal today is to look into the situation to see if Murray might be a good move for the Maple Leafs or if he would be another Petr Mrazek-like mistake.
Similarities and Differences between Murray and Mrazek
There are similarities between the two goalies. First, both had success earlier in their careers but have struggled more recently. Second, both have had numerous injury issues this past season. Mrazek’s 2021-22 season injuries have been well documented. In the past two seasons, by our count, Murray has missed games due to four separate injuries as well as a serious bout of Covid-19.
There are also differences between the two. Murray for one has two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In one Stanley Cup run, he stole the net from Marc-Andre Fleury. In the other, he started the playoffs as the number-one but lost the net back to Fleury. However that lands, the fact remains that he has taken a team all the way to Stanley Cup victory. That was five years ago though.
Mrazek has had some success in the playoffs, backstopping the Carolina Hurricanes to the 2019 conference finals. However, he has never won a Stanley Cup. Murray, who is 28 years old, is two years younger than Mrazek.
Last Season’s Tale of the Tape
Getting back to similarities, it just happened that both goalies played exactly 20 games last season. Comparing their numbers, we see the following. Murray put together a record of 5-12-2, with a .906 save percentage, and a 3.05 goals-against-average. On the other hand, Mrazek put together a record of 12-6-0, with a .888 save percentage, and a 3.34 goals-against-average.
Obviously, the Senators are not the Maple Leafs. Murray was playing behind the younger and less experienced Senators team, while Mrazek was backstopping one of the best regular-season teams in the league. That would account for the much better win-loss record Mrazek put together. Both Murray’s save percentage and goals-against average were superior to Mrazek’s.
One other interesting statistic of note is that, during the months of January and February, Maple Leafs’ starter Jack Campbell’s numbers went South in a big way. But Murray’s numbers went the other direction. In twelve games during that time Murray posted a .932 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average.
Seeing past the won/loss record, last season was not a horrible season for Murray. However, that fact might be lost in the context of his overall record and the record of the team he was playing for.
Murray’s Potential Cost to the Maple Leafs
According to hockey insiders, the Senators had a deal arranged with the Buffalo Sabres at the draft in Montreal last week. The deal reportedly would have seen Murray go to the Sabres along with the Senators’ 16th pick, in return for Buffalo’s seventh pick in the first round. Ottawa would have also retained 25% of Murray’s salary. Murray, who has a modified no-trade clause where he can submit a list of ten teams he would not go to, used that clause to nix the deal.
However, one team that’s not on Murray’s no-trade list is the Maple Leafs, so that barrier does not exist. What exactly would it take to get Murray?
To help answer that question, it’s important to look at Murray’s buyout window. When it comes to finding suitors for Murray, the Senators’ options are limited. If they can’t find a trade for Murray, there are reports that the Senators would be willing to buy him out.
Before looking at that buyout cost, it’s important to know that the Senators’ salary-cap space means little to them. They’re nowhere near the salary-cap’s upper limit. As a small-market team, their biggest concern is the actual monetary cost of the deal.
Murray is a team expense the Senators hope to move. His salary-cap hit is $6.25 million over the next two seasons; however, his actual salary over the two years is $15 million. Dumping that expense would be a godsend.
If the Senators buy Murray out, they get absolutely nothing back in return for him. Furthermore, they are still stuck having to pay him $10 million dollars over the next four seasons, according to the website Capfriendly.com.
However, if Ottawa were to retain half of Murray’s $6.25 million salary, they would be responsible for $6.25 million total over the two seasons. That would save them $3.75 million in actual money. The Maple Leafs would then be responsible for paying Murray the extra salary over his cap hit, which would be not a big deal for them.
If the Maple Leafs could get the Senators to carry half of Murray’s salary, that would leave the Maple Leafs with Murray in place of Mrazek for a salary-cap hit of just over $3.1 million per season for two seasons.
The Maple Leafs would have to move something to Ottawa to make the deal happen, but that shouldn’t be too much, possibly a middle or late-round pick. There’s word that the Senators might want a right-shot defenseman – think Justin Holl?
Or, if the Maple Leafs felt they wanted to divest themselves of Alex Kerfoot because he only has another year on his present deal and a modified no-trade clause of his own kicks in next season, he could easily be included in the deal. After receiving a $2 million bonus check at the beginning of July, Kerfoot is only owed $750,000 next season.
Kerfoot would be great value for the smaller-market Senators. In some ways, Kerfoot reminds us of Connor Brown. That wouldn’t sound bad in Ottawa.
So What Happens If Murray Does Move to Toronto?
If the Maple Leafs were to acquire Murray from the Senators, and our Spidey-senses tell us there’s a good chance it might happen, the question is whether the team is better with Murray as its number one goalie and Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll battling it out for the backup job?
Or, would the Maple Leafs keep looking for another NHL-caliber goalie to platoon with Murray? Of all the goalies on the market now, Murray is one of the most reasonable salary-cap wise.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf