On Friday (Sept. 2), the Edmonton Oilers agreed to a one-year, $750,000 contract with free-agent defenceman Ryan Murray, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche. The surprise signing was met with good-natured amusement by many fans, who had wanted them to draft Murray in 2012 when Edmonton held the first overall selection. Instead, the Oilers used the No. 1 pick to draft Russian forward Nail Yakupov, and Murray was then selected second by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A decade later, Murray is finally a member of the Oilers, as the 28-year-old looks to re-establish himself after being a healthy scratch during the Avs’ run to the Stanley Cup championship in 2022. So what’s Murray been up to these last 10 years? Here are five things to know about the new Oilers blueliner:
Murray Is the Sixth 2012 First-Round Pick Acquired by the Oilers
With the acquisition of Murray, the Oilers have now had six players selected in the first round of the 2012 Draft in their organization at some point. That accounts for a whopping 20 percent of all 2012 first-rounders.
Even more incredible, Murray is the third of the first four picks in 2012 to become Oilers property, joining Yakupov and fellow defenseman Griffin Reinhart, who was taken at No. 4 by the New York Islanders. Reinhart was acquired via trade in 2015, and spent two seasons with the organization, playing mostly in the American Hockey League, before being claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 Expansion Draft.
Murray also makes it a total of three 2012 first-round defencemen that are currently under contract with the Oilers: Slater Koekkoek (drafted 10th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning) has one year left on the two-year deal he signed in August 2021, while Cody Ceci (15th overall, Ottawa Senators) is entering Year 2 of his four-year agreement with the Oilers. Henrik Samuelsson, the 27th overall pick in 2012, was acquired by Edmonton in a 2017 trade with the Arizona Coyotes, but the American forward never appeared in an NHL regular season game as a member of the Oilers.
Murray Has Played More Than 66 Games Just Once
While he has been a full-time NHLer since the beginning of 2013-14, Murray has only suited up for 432 NHL games, an average of 48 per season. He played a career-high 82 games with Columbus in 2015-16, the only season he appeared in every contest. His next highest total is 66 games in his rookie season, though he hasn’t played more than 56 games in the last five years. However, it bears mentioning that two of those seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21) featured shortened schedules because of the pandemic.
Injury issues are much to blame. Since March 2017, Murray has gone on injured reserve seven times and on long-term-injured reserve (LTIR) once.
Murray Is a Gold Medal Winner With Team Canada
One of the reasons so many Oilers fans wanted to see Murray drafted 10 years ago was his performance at the 2012 World Junior Championship, for which Edmonton was one of the host cities. The youngest player on Team Canada, having turned 18 just three months earlier, he more than held his own, recording three assists and a plus-6 rating over six games.
Canada, however, had to settle for bronze in the tournament, defeating the United States in the third-place game after having their championship dreams dashed with a loss to Russia in the semi-finals. Murray has since added a gold medal to his collection, as part of Canada’s championship-winning squad at the 2016 Worlds in Russia, where he had five assists and a plus-6 rating in 10 games for a team that included current Oilers captain Connor McDavid.
The Regina native also represented Canada at the World Championships in 2012 as well as in 2018 and was part of Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Murray Won’t Be Wearing His Favorite Number
The favorite number of Edmonton’s new blueliner is 27, because of his birthday (Sept. 27). Murray wore No. 27 during the first seven seasons of his NHL career with the Blue Jackets, but then had to switch to No. 22 when he was traded to the New Jersey Devils in 2020, as the Devils franchise has retired No. 27 in honour of Scott Neidermayer.
Last season with the Avalanche, Murray donned No. 28, as No. 22 belonged to Stefan Matteau. That could be the number he also wears in Edmonton, where numbers 22 and 27 were worn last season by Tyson Barrie and Brett Kulak, respectively, veteran defensemen who are both returning to the team in 2022-23.
Murray Hasn’t Scored in More Than 2 Years
The last time Murray scored an NHL goal was Aug. 13, 2020, during Game 2 of the Blue Jackets first-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The teams were playing in Toronto, which along with Edmonton served as the two “bubble” cities for the NHL’s first postseason since the pandemic.
It was prior to the pandemic that Murray last scored a regular season NHL goal, Dec. 9, 2019, against the Washington Capitals. He is currently on a streak of 90 regular season games without scoring, having not scored a goal for either New Jersey or Colorado.
Granted, Murray has never been known as a scorer. Even during his standout junior career with the Everett Silvertips, the blueliner failed to reach double-figures for goals in any of his four Western Hockey League seasons. For his career, he has 15 goals in 432 NHL games (plus one in 20 NHL playoff contests), with a single-season high of four (2013-14 and 2015-16).
So don’t look for Murray to start lighting the lamp in Edmonton, either. At this stage of his career, it’s pretty clear what Murray is, and he is not an offensive defenceman. But the Oilers already have plenty of players who can put the puck in the net, including on the backend. What Edmonton needs from him is a dependable veteran blueliner that can be a positive influence in the locker room and fill the challenging role of seventh defenceman, who could just as easily draw onto the first pairing as be a healthy scratch in the press box.
Murray could prove a key contributor on an Edmonton team with Stanley Cup aspirations. And if not, his league minimum salary isn’t going to be an albatross around the team’s collective neck. It’s virtually a no-risk deal for the Oilers, and one they hope proves rewarding.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.