Penguins Trade Murray to Senators

After a quiet Day 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft, Day 2 got started with a bang. The Pittsburgh Penguins traded two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 52nd overall pick in the 2020 Draft and forward prospect Johnathan Gruden.

Senators Goalie of the Future

Despite early success in his career, Murray is just 26, the age when most goaltenders are rounding into form. He will now step into the role of the Senators’ longterm goalie of the future. This change comes several weeks after general manager Pierre Dorion announced the team would not be bringing back Craig Anderson, the franchise leader in many goaltending categories. Though the Ottawa rebuild is not totally done, Murray answers a major question about the team’s future.

Matt Murray Pittsburgh Penguins
Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Murray broke onto the scene in 2015-16, a season in which he won 15 of the 16 necessary games en route to the Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory. Splitting time with Marc-Andre Fleury the following season, Murray finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting, was an All-Star, and won seven of his 10 playoff starts en route to a second Cup.

But the netminder has had up-and-down years since then. In 2019-20, he went just 20-11-5, with a 2.87 goals-against average (GAA) and an .899 save percentage (SV%). He had an abysmal minus-11.60 goals saved above average (GSAA). Tristan Jarry was clearly the better performer throughout the season and ultimately surpassed Murray in the eyes of many fans. Both goalies were restricted free agents (RFAs) this fall, so when Jarry signed an extension earlier this week, it became clear that Murray would be on the move.

Despite his struggles, he is clearly a significant upgrade for the Senators and a building block for their rebuild as a whole. Dorion will need to negotiate a contract extension, but the hard part is done.

Penguins Set the Market

In an offseason expected to be loaded with goalie movement, the Penguins have set the market by accepting a late second-round pick and a low-tier prospect. The Athletic‘s Corey Pronman ranked Gruden 19th in the Senators’ system before the season, saying “He’s not a natural playmaker… but he tries things with the puck, which I appreciate. I wouldn’t call his offensive or defensive play anything really significant, which makes me wonder what role he fills in the NHL” (from “2019 NHL farm system rankings: No. 12 Ottawa Senators,” The Athletic NHL, Aug. 23, 2019).

Jonathan Gruden of the U.S. National Development Program
Jonathan Gruden of the U.S. National Development Program (courtesy USHL)

Now other teams looking to trade their goaltenders will be limited by what the Penguins received, and by what the St. Louis Blues received for Jake Allen earlier in the offseason. Murray might have fetched more, but a down season in a crowded market of potential trades and signings drove the price down.

Plenty More to Come

Day 2 of the Draft is likely to continue to be busy. Keep it tuned to the Hockey Writers for all the latest news.