On April 8th, 2011, with one game remaining in a failed season, the Ottawa Senators re-signed GM Bryan Murray to a three-year deal. The most obvious question at the time was why? Clearly ownership saw Murray as the best man to rebuild the team that crumbled beneath him in 2010-11 and thus far it appears as though that belief was well-founded. There’s no guarantee the Sens rebuild will continue in a positive direction, but it’s worth looking back at the work Murray has done as Ottawa’s general manager.
Bryan Murray took over from John Muckler on June 18th, 2007, just six days before the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. I’ve read criticism of Murray regarding that draft, but there’s no question that the selections were made with Muckler’s scouting staff and guided by their philosophy.
Considered a weak draft at the time (see McKeen’s, for a more optimistic view here’s Sports Illustrated; for a look at the overall success of the draft go here), Ottawa made four selections, trading away their final three picks to Tampa for a fourth round pick in the 2008 draft (Derek Grant).
1-29 Jim O’Brien (NCAA) Looked like a failed pick after his rookie season in Binghamton, but by the end of his ELC proved he could be a useful fourth-liner (although perhaps not with Ottawa)
2-60 Ruslan Bashkirov (QMJHL) A bust who was never signed and now plays tier-2 hockey in Russia
3-90 Louie Caporusso (OPJHL) The undersized forward spent his rookie year largely in the ECHL and as a four-year NCAA grad it doesn’t look like he has NHL-potential (perhaps not even AHL-potential); he was let go after his ELC expired
4-120 Ben Blood (USHS) Big blueliner also spent four years in the NCAA, but his rookie season as a pro was a disappointment as he was unable to be an AHL-regular
June 22 – Dean McAmmond – 2 years/1.4; a solid player, but his numbers dropped considerably before he was shipped out to the New York Islanders
July 3 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.5; made his way from the AHL to the NHL level
July 24 – Ray Emery – 3 years/3.166; re-signing the starting goalie in the Cup run seemed like a no-brainer, but was bought out the next year
July 31 – Chris Kelly – 1 year/1.263; based on his strong play when Spezza and Fisher were injured
August 7 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; a depth signing who never quite delivered
September 17 – Mike Fisher – 5 years/4.2; I thought at the time it was too much money and too much term; traded to Nashville in 2011
October 3 – Dany Heatley – 6 years/7.5; thought to be solid signing at the time (link), forced a trade to San Jose (2009) and is now in Minnesota (2011)
October 16 – Randy Robitaille – 1 year/0.625; a depth signing out of Russia, the Sens hoped he would provide some scoring depth (link), but he did not. The following season saw him playing in Switzerland
November 2 – Jason Spezza – 7 years/7.0; I liked the contract at the time and I still do
Murray hired John Paddock, who had been his assistant the past two years and was a long time AHL coach (with a distant and lousy NHL coaching record from his days with Winnipeg, 281-106-138-37). Paddock got the team off to a fantastic start (15-2), but wore out his best players and the team quickly slid down the standings. Paddock was fired February 27th, after two embarrassing back-to-back shutout losses, finishing with a 36-22-6 record (he’s since struggled to get head coaching positions in the AHL). Murray took over and the team barely made the playoffs where they were promptly swept by the Penguins.
While the Paddock hiring may have seemed like a logical step to Murray—a solid minor league resume and his assistant—he was hardly the best coach available, so Murray deserves criticism for the hire (as he has suggested himself since).
June 20 – Ottawa waived and then bought out Ray Emery; his play was only partially the issue. Because of his age the cost of the buyout was reasonable. Emery had to go to the KHL to salvage his NHL career, which now seems solidified as a quality backup.
June 23 – Ottawa’s 5th (Matt Marshall; was not signed by Tampa after four years in the NCAA), 7th (Torrie Jung; was not signed by Tampa and he’s spent his pro career in the CHL), and 7th (Justin Courtnall; turned pro and spent his rookie season in the ECHL) to Tampa for a 4th in 2008 (Derek Grant; completed his sophomore season with Binghamton where he saw limited NHL action). The thought here was that the following year’s draft was much stronger and deeper and it appears as though Murray was right. This is a win for Murray.
July 17, 2007 – Traded Peter Schaefer to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Shean Donovan. Muckler overpaid Schaefer, whose cumbersome contract wound up being buried in the minors and then bought out by the Bruins. Donovan was a solid soldier for Ottawa, although there wasn’t much gas left in the tank. This is a win for Murray.
February 11, 2008 – Traded Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to the Carolina Hurricanes for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman. Corvo demanded a trade, so Murray didn’t have many options; Eaves struggled with injuries. Commodore turned out to be a complete bust for the Sens (and subsequently for Columbus, who bought him out), but Stillman was an adequate rental. None of the four players are still with the teams they were traded too. Given that the trade failed to help the Sens in the playoffs this is a loss for Murray.
February 26, 2008 – Traded a sixth-round draft pick in 2008 (6-169, Ben Smith, who has 20 NHL games under his belt and is a solid prospect) to the Chicago Blackhawks for Martin Lapointe. Lapointe was supposed to provide grit for the Sens, but his best days were long behind him and he was a disappointment. Lapointe subsequently retired. This is a failure on Murray’s part.
Considered a good draft year (link) and the selections can be said to truly reflect Murray’s philosophy. All the players selected have been signed except for Emil Sandin (who is now a UFA).
1-15 Erik Karlsson (SuperElit) - coming off a Norris trophy season he spent much of this year injured
2-42 Patrick Wiercioch (USHL) – lanky blueliner got his chance in the NHL and performed well
3-79 Zack Smith (WHL) - gritty center is an NHL-regular
4-109 Andre Petersson (SuperElit) - skilled winger missed most of his sophomore season due to injury
4-119 Derek Grant (BCHL) - lanky center had a solid sophomore season with Binghamton
5-139 Mark Borowiecki (CJHL) - punishing blueliner had a solid sophomore season in the AHL
7-199 Emil Sandin (SuperElit) – smallish winger failed to be a regular player in the SEL and was allowed to become a FA
March 25 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.55; signed as a free agent out of college, Winchester didn’t produce offensively as planned, but turned into a solid grinder; he spent this past season playing in Europe
June 21 – Chris Kelly – 4 years/2.125 million; signed prior to becoming a UFA, Kelly continued to put up his usual numbers before being traded to Boston (2011)
July 2 – Jarkko Ruutu – 3 years/1.3 million; signed after reaching the Cup final with Pittsburgh, he didn’t deliver what was expected while he was with the Sens and was eventually traded to Anaheim (2011) for a 6th round pick (Max McCormick); he’s played in Finland since
July 2 – Shean Donovan – 2 years/0.65; a cap friendly contract, but Donovan had nothing left in the tank and only played 90 games over those two seasons; he’s now retired
July 8 – Jason Smith – 2 years/2.6; a bad contract for a player who didn’t have gas left in the tank, he retired before the second year of his deal and now works for the organisation
July 31 – Antoine Vermette – 2 years/2.75 million; unable to produce enough as a top six player in Ottawa, he was traded to Columbus in the first year of his deal for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick (Robin Lehner); he’s now with Phoenix
September 27 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; unable to stay in the lineup, he retired November 27th and stayed with the organisation. He’s now Binghamton’s head coach
October 30 – Daniel Alfredsson – 4 years/4.875 million; an excellent contract
Murray hired Craig Hartsburg, who was coming off back-to-back World Junior wins. Hartsburg had a good track record in junior, but his NHL record was mediocre (albeit more extensive than Paddock’s, 443-184-184-69). Hartsburg was not a strong systems coach and the team struggled under his regime. Finally, on February 1st, Hartsburg was fired after accumulating a 17-24-7 record (he went back to junior for two season and is now an NHL assistant coach). Cory Clouston, enjoying a strong season in Binghamton, was brought up as the interim coach. The team responded well under Clouston’s more structured approach and he was signed to a two-year deal.
Murray deserves criticism for the Hartsburg signing, who again was not the strongest candidate available. The team struggled all season long and the coach was allowed to linger longer than was needed. The Clouston hiring was much like the Paddock hiring–done without competition.
June 20, 2008 – Traded their 1st round pick (Chet Pickard; struggled as an ECHL goalie and spent this past season in Europe) and their 3rd round in 2009 (Taylor Beck; is coming off a solid sophomore campaign in the AHL) for the 15th pick (Erik Karlsson). The Sens desperately needed an upgrade on their blueline, particularly on the right side; making a splash when the draft was in Ottawa likely helped the decision. This is a huge win for Murray.
June 25, 2008 – Traded Brian McGrattan to the Phoenix Coyotes for the Boston Bruins’ fifth-round draft pick in 2009 (Jeff Costello). McGrattan’s substance abuse problems and declining effectiveness made him an asset that needed moving. This is a win for Murray.
August 29, 2008 – Traded Andrej Meszaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick (previously acquired) in 2009 (which was subsequently traded to the Islanders). Meszaros and the team could not come to terms on a contract, so Ottawa did well in bringing in a solid veteran and prospect. Meszaros never did find success in Tampa, but when moved to Philadelphia responded in a supporting role. The Sens got more out of the trade (Kuba), so I’ll give this one to Murray.
September 2, 2008 – Traded Lawrence Nycholat to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Ryan Shannon. Nycholat demanded a trade, so Ottawa exchanged their problem for one the Canucks had (Shannon had a one-way contract the following season). The Sens definitely won the trade, as Shannon was a solid soldier while he was with the organisation.
November 10, 2008 – Traded Alexander Nikulin to the Phoenix Coyotes for Drew Fata. Nikulin demanded a trade and rather than simply losing the asset to the KHL Ottawa brought in an AHL veteran. Nikulin struggled with San Antonio and returned to play in the KHL afterward. Fata signed with Providence after his year in Binghamton, but Ottawa received more tangible value than Phoenix, so it’s a win for Murray.
February 20, 2009 – Traded Dean McAmmond and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick in 2009 (1-26, Kyle Palmieri; a regular NHLer) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli. The Sens had no room for McAmmond, so took on Comrie’s onerous and expiring contract to get Campoli on a very cap friendly deal. Comrie subsequently signed with the Oilers, while Campoli had an up and down career with the Sens before being traded himself (the acquired pick was used as part of the trade to draft Matt Puempel). The final assessment of the trade is yet to be made, as it has boiled down to Palmieri vs Puempel.
March 4, 2009 – Traded Antoine Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round draft pick in 2009 (Robin Lehner). Vermette had flat-lined as a player in the organisation; the Sens had to choose between he and Mike Fisher, and while Vermette had more offensive prowess, Fisher was the tougher player to play against. The trade (including the pick) was intended to solidify the Sens between the pipes. Vermette had two good seasons with Columbus before being traded, while Leclaire completely failed as a Senator. Lehner may make Murray a genius, but in the short term this is a loss.
Considered a deep and talented draft, Ottawa had its first top-ten pick since the 2005; other than Peltz every player has signed an ELC.
1-9 Jared Cowen (WHL) – big blueliner was injured most of his sophomore campaign
2-39 Jakob Silfverberg (SuperElit) - was excellent with Binghamton and solid with Ottawa in his rookie season; traded to Anaheim as part of the Bobby Ryan deal
2-46 Robin Lehner (SuperElit) – the big goaltender played his way into an NHL roster spot
4-100 Chris Wideman (NCAA) – undersized blueliner finished his collegiate career and showed promise in his rookie AHL-season
5-130 Mike Hoffman (QMJHL) - didn’t make the offensive leap in his third pro season
5-146 Jeff Costello (USHL) – gritty winger had a strong junior season in the NCAA
6-160 Corey Cowick (OHL) – gritty winger finally found consistency in his third year in the AHL
7-190 Brad Peltz (EJHL) – sniper left college early to sign an AHL-deal with Binghamton where he only played a few ECHL games; a bust
7-191 Michael Sdao (USHL) - tough blueliner finished his NCAA career and was solid in his brief AHL-stint
March 4 – Filip Kuba – 3 years/3.7 million; signed after a career year with Ottawa, he’s suffered repeated injury setbacks and became a lightning rod for criticism in 2010-11; enjoyed a strong final year before signing with Florida as a UFA
July 1 – Chris Neil – 4 years/2.0 million; signed after an awful year, was up and down, but has returned to form
July 6 – Alexei Kovalev – 2 years/5.0 million; a surprise signing at the time that failed utterly (if my memory is correct, the reaction at TSN to this was hilarious, but I can’t find the video of it); he was traded to Pittsburgh (2011) for a 7th round pick (Ryan Dzingel)
August 3 – Brian Elliott – 2 years/0.85; a cap friendly deal for a likeable player; unfortunately he lost his confidence in 2010-11 and was traded to Colorado for Craig Anderson; he’s been very good in St. Louis
October 20 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.7; a solid rookie season in the NHL was followed by diminishing returns; he signed with the Islanders as a FA
March 29 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/0.9; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Winchester‘s in 2008; he won a Calder Cup in his first full pro season which was not a sign of things to come
October 2 – having no room for Christoph Schubert on the roster, Murray was unable to trade the big defensemen; he was picked up by Atlanta on waivers and had a decent season with the Thrashers, but his NHL career is now apparently over (he’s playing in Europe).
The first season for Murray where who was coaching was not a question; Clouston got the team into the playoffs and was generally given good grades for his performance (Puck Daddy).
June 27 – Traded their 2010 6th round pick (6-166 Drew Czerwonka; was not signed by the Oilers and is playing in the CIS) to Edmonton for their 2009 7th round pick (7-191, Michael Sdao). The Sens considered the 2010 draft to be weak and were high on Sdao, so they made the move. This is a win even though Sdao‘s pro prospects aren’t yet clear.
July 8, 2009 – Traded Alex Auld to Dallas for San Jose’s 6th round pick (6-178 Mark Stone). With Elliott established as an NHL player, there was no need for Auld on the roster. Stone has proven a very valuable prospect so this is a big win.
September 4, 2009 – Traded Shawn Weller to Anaheim for Jason Bailey. A minor-league exchange of disappointing prospects; Weller was in the final year of his rookie contract, while Bailey’s continued through 2010-11. Neither asset remains with their new organisation.
September 12, 2009 – Traded Dany Heatley and a 5th round draft pick (5-136 Isaac Macleod; he finished his junior year at Boston College) in 2010 to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and San Jose’s 2nd round pick (subsequently moved to the Islanders and then Chicago, 2-58 Kent Simpson; he spent his rookie pro season in the ECHL) in 2010. Heatley had demanded a trade at the end of the season and this was the best deal Murray could get for him. Cheechoo proved to be a complete bust and was bought out. Murray was never going to “win” the trade, particularly with a public trade demand from Heatley, but Michalek is at least a tangible asset who is signed long term. Heatley spent two seasons in San Jose before being moved to Minnesota.
February 12, 2010 – Traded Alexandre Picard and their 2nd round pick in 2011 (subsequently moved to Edmonton, 2-46, Martin Marincin; had an excellent rookie season in the AHL) to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Matt Cullen. Murray paid a steep price for Cullen, who played well in the playoffs, but the team didn’t win and he wasn’t retained. While Picard wasn’t important, giving up a 2nd round pick makes this a loss for Murray.
March 2, 2010 – Traded San Jose’s 2nd round pick (Kent Simpson) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Andy Sutton. Sutton never fit in with the Sens (rather like Mike Commodore two years before) and he wasn’t retained, so this is a loss for Murray.
June 25, 2010 – Ottawa traded their 1st overall pick (1-16 Vladimir Tarasenko; he enjoyed an excellent rookie season in the NHL) to St. Louis for prospect David Rundblad (1-17/09; subsequently traded to Phoenix for Kyle Turris). Sens scout Anders Forsberg was very high on Rundblad, who wound up dominating the Swedish Elite League the following season. Assessing this trade is still three or four years away, but is likely a net loss for Murray.
Considered a weak draft (link), the Senators had already traded away many of their picks so only made four selections. Sorensen and Aneloski are no longer in the system while Culek and Stone are signed.
3-76 Jakub Culek (QMJHL) – defensive forward barely played in his overage season in the Q due to injury
4-106 Marcus Sorensen (SuperElit) – undersized energy forward was unable to secure time in the SEL and was not signed
6-178 Mark Stone (WHL) – big skilled winger had a solid (albeit injury-plagued) rookie season in the AHL
7-196 Bryce Aneloski (USHL) – offensive blueliner finished his NCAA career but was not signed by the Sens; now in the ECHL
July 1 – Sergei Gonchar – 3 years/5.5; considered the best available UFA blueliner, Murray won him over with term; considered a great signing at the time (link), it was occasionally a rocky road
July 1 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.75; there was still belief that he had untapped upside, but I thought a one-year deal would have made more sense; he’s now playing in Europe
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; had an awful first full season in the NHL and was subsequently bought-out, signed with New Jersey and then waived and picked up by Nashville
July 21 – Nick Foligno – 2 years/1.2; never did establish himself as a top-six forward, he was traded to Columbus for Marc Methot as an RFA
July 29 – Peter Regin – 2 years/1.0; after a solid rookie year and a great playoff, big things were expected; instead he struggled in his sophomore season and then was injured most of last year; was re-signed to a cap-friendly, one-year deal
February 28 – Chris Phillips – 3 years/3.083; coming in the midst of an awful season, I didn’t like the price or the term for the declining veteran
March 31 – Stephane Da Costa – 2 years/1.325; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Butler‘s in 2010; he wasn’t ready for the NHL and was inconsistent in the AHL; he was re-signed as an RFA
June 29 - Jonathan Cheechoo was bought out. I don’t think Murray deserves much criticism here, as no one anticipated Cheechoo as being as completely finished as he has proven to be.
Cory Clouston was seen as an up-and-coming coach who had worked some magic to get the team into the playoffs. Not everyone was a believer (The Hockey News), but the team entered the season with a lot of optimism (link). Everything went wrong for Clouston. When his goalies played well the team couldn’t score. When the goalies didn’t play well the team still couldn’t score. Players were disagreeing with him publically (look at November 30th link). For a time it looked like Ottawa would be the worst team in the NHL. With the season clearly over and a rebuild beginning, the team’s play picked up, but Clouston’s fate was sealed. There was a lot of criticism over Clouston’s inability to communicate with players as well as his varying standards for how play effected ice time. I believe the former trait made the latter worse. For Clouston to get another chance in the NHL he’s going to have to find a new approach to handling NHL players (he spent last year in the WHL).
After Clouston was dismissed the Senators looked for a new coach. Calder Cup winning Kurt Kleinendorst was among the top contenders, but Murray ultimately went with a man he knew from his days in Anaheim–Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean. MacLean had spent eight years as Mike Babcock’s assistant, with previous head coaching experience in the IHL and UHL (winning the Colonial Cup in the latter in 2000-01). Kleindorst had better winning pedigree (ECHL, BISL, and AHL championships to go along with his U-18 gold medal), but MacLean proved himself in his rookie campaign by leading the Sens into the playoffs and making them a tough opponent for the Rangers in the first round.
February 10, 2011 – traded Mike Fisher to Nashville for a 1st round pick (1-21 Stefan Noesen) and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2012 (voided). The trade kicked off the rebuild. At the time the Senators were 17-30-8 and going nowhere. Fisher had a big contract with term left (two more years). Noesen was subsequently packed for Bobby Ryan which makes this a clear win.
February 16, 2011 – traded Chris Kelly to Boston for a 2nd round pick (2-61 Shane Prince). The likeable Kelly was better served on a team that was in contention and went on to help Boston win the Stanley Cup. His contract (too much for a third-line center) and age brought about the move. He’s re-signed with the Bruins. As with the previous trade, this one can’t be assessed yet.
February 17, 2011 – traded Jarkko Ruutu to Anaheim for a 6th round pick (6-171 Max McCormick). Ruutu never found a comfort zone in Ottawa and getting something for the impending UFA was better than nothing (Ruutu remains out of the NHL). This is a win for Murray.
February 18, 2011 – traded Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson. The trade that gave the team hope also dashed their chances for a top-three pick. Anderson was in the midst of a horrible funk in Colorado and needed a change in scenery, while Elliott had completely lost his confidence. This is a win for Murray.
February 24, 2011 – traded Alexei Kovalev to Pittsburgh for a conditional 7th round pick (7-204 Ryan Dzingel). Getting something for Kovalev was an achievement for Murray and makes this a win. Kovalev subsequently played in the KHL.
February 28, 2011 – traded Chris Campoli and a conditional pick (voided) to Chicago for Ryan Potulny and a 2nd round pick (2-48, later traded to Detroit to select Matt Puempel; Detroit selected Xavier Ouellet; was solid in his final year in the Q). Campoli was no longer in Ottawa’s plans and they picked up an AHL-asset in Potulny who would help Binghamton win the Calder Cup. Chicago walked away from Campoli‘s arbitration award and he then signed with Montreal (he’s now a UFA). This is a win for Murray in the short-term, but ultimately boils down to Puempel vs Ouellet.
June 24, 2011 – traded two 2nd round picks (their own, 2-35 Tomas Jurco (had a middling rookie season in the AHL), and the one acquired from Chicago, 2-48, Xavier Ouelette) for Detroit’s 1st round selection (1-24 Matt Puempel). The Sens were high on Puempel, who they considered for the 21st overall pick, so jumped at the opportunity to get him. Time will tell on the trade.
June 25, 2011 – traded their 3rd round pick (3-67 T. J. Tynan) to Columbus for Nikita Filatov. Filatov wanted out of Columbus, but there wasn’t much interest in the NHL. I liked the gamble, but Filatov was unable to stick in the NHL line-up and returned to Russia. The Sens have retained his rights, but loss this deal in the short-term (truly assessing the deal will depend on Tynan‘s development (he had a rough junior year in the NCAA)).
February 24, 2011 – picked up Marek Svatos from Nashville on the waiver wire. Desperately in need of NHL bodies, Svatos didn’t achieve much before being concussed by Jay Rosehill. There was never any intention of keeping him and he did not play last season.
February 28, 2011 – picked up Curtis McElhinney from Tampa on the waiver wire. McElhinney allowed Robin Lehner to stay in the minors and he was decent as the season wound down. There was never any serious consideration of keeping him and played for Portland in the AHL last year (he subsequently signed a two-way deal with Columbus).
The draft lacked the high-end talent of previous years, but was considered to have good depth. Because of Ottawa’s trades they had a plethora of picks to re-stock the organisation (for full scouting reports go here).
1-6 Mika Zibanejad (SEL) – looked better in Ottawa than Binghamton this past season, but still rough around the edges
1-21 Stefan Noesen (OHL) – power forward enjoyed a solid final year of junior hockey before being traded in the Bobby Ryan deal
1-24 Matt Puempel (OHL) - had a solid finish to his OHL career
2-61 Shane Prince (OHL) – undersized forward showed promise as an AHL rookie
4-96 Jean-Gabriel Pageau (QMJHL) - after a slow start as a pro enjoyed a great late run in the NHL
5-126 Fredrik Claesson (SEL) - solid AHL season from the Swedish rookie
6-156 Darren Kramer (WHL) - spent a lot of time in the ECHL during his rookie season
6-171 Max McCormick (USHL) - gritty forward had a solid sophomore season in the NCAA
7-186 Jordan Fransoo (WHL) - big blueliner didn’t develop as much as needed and was not signed
7-204 Ryan Dzingel (USHL) – skilled forward enjoyed an excellent sophomore season in the NCAA
March 21 – Craig Anderson – 4 years/3.1875; too much term for my liking, but Anderson was excellent this past season
May 19 – Zack Smith – 2 years/0.7; well-deserved contract, he’s coming off an up and down year this season
May 19 – Colin Greening – 3 years/0.816,667; provides solid if unspectacular play
July 1 – Alex Auld – 1 year/1.0; was even more terrible than expected; his NHL career is over (played in Austria this past season)
July 5 – Zenon Konopka – 1 year/0.7; the popular forward didn’t play much and signed with Minnesota the following season
July 6 – Erik Condra – 2 years/0.625; not much pop in his offensive game, but provided a ton of intangibles
Paul MacLean was excellent in his rookie season as the Sens head coach (41-31-10), unexpectedly leading the team to a playoff birth and making them a tough seven-game out for the New York Rangers.
December 11 – Traded their 2013 7th round pick (John Gilmour) to Chicago (which then was moved to Calgary) for Rob Klinkhammer; the move was meant to help Binghamton, which he did before being called to duty in Ottawa to round out the season; he subsequently signed in Phoenix; unless Gilmour turns into an NHLer this was a good trade for Ottawa
December 17 – Traded David Rundblad and their 2nd round pick to Phoenix (subsequently moved to Philadelphia, who picked Anthony Stolarz; he struggled in the NCAA, but was solid in the OHL this season) for Kyle Turris. The Sens were desperate for a second-line center and Turris was demanding out of Phoenix. This trade has to be measured against both Rundblad and Tarasenko, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out, but it really does address an organisational need (assuming Turris develops as expected).
February 26 – Traded their 2013 2nd round pick (Tommy Vannelli) to St. Louis for Ben Bishop. At the time Craig Anderson was hurt and the team was desperate to add goaltending depth as Robin Lehner was having an off-season. Bishop was subsequently traded to Tampa for Cory Conacher and a 4th-round pick (Tobias Lindberg), so the latter plus the pick will be assessed against Bishop and Vannelli.
February 27 – Traded Brian Lee to Tampa Bay for Matt Gilroy. Two players who were failing in their respective organisations, given that the Lightning have re-signed Lee (who did not play well this season) and Gilroy was allowed to walk, this is a loss for Murray.
July 1 – Traded Nick Foligno to Columbus for Marc Methot. Foligno was an RFA and clearly the Sens were not sure that he would ever become a full time top-six forward, so they exchanged him for a defensive defenseman. Methot was excellent in his first year in Ottawa, while Foligno (signed by the Blue Jackets to a big deal, 3 years/3.083) did not show signs of evolving into a better player, so this is a win for Murray.
Thought to be a weak draft, the Sens made seven selections with no second round pick for the third year in a row; none of the prospects are expected to crack the lineup this upcoming season (for full scouting reports for each player go here).
1-15 Cody Ceci (OHL) – offensive defenseman helps fill an organisational need after the departure of Rundblad; enjoyed a strong end to his junior career
3-76 Chris Driedger (WHL) - his strong performance earned him consideration from team Canada’s WJC braintrust
3-82 Jarrod Maidens (OHL) – skilled forward still isn’t fully recovered from a serious concussion
4-106 Tim Boyle (USHS) – an off the radar selection who didn’t play much in his NCAA rookie season
5-136 Robbie Baillargeon (USHL) - the talented forward struggled until traded in his final USHL season
6-166 Francois Brassard (QMJHL) - a strong season as Quebec’s starting goaltender
7-196 Mikael Wikstrand (Allsvenskan) – defensive defenseman put up big numbers while playing with locked out NHLers, but lost his zip post-lockout; will spend another season in Sweden
May 4 – Peter Regin – 1 year/0.8; coming off an injury-plagued year the Sens rolled the dice on him staying healthy, but his play simply didn’t measure up
June 19 – Erik Karlsson – 7 years/6.5; the Norris Trophy winner signed a cap-friendly, long-term deal with the club which serves both well so long as he can stay healthy
July 1 – Mike Lundin – 1 year/1.15; the injury-prone, offensively limited blueliner was awful in limited duty; signed in the KHL
July 1 – Guillaume Latendresse – 1 year/2.0; the injury-prone winger suffered from injury and inconsistent play and was let go
July 11 – Chris Neil – 3 years/1.9; a good deal for both sides
July 18 - Jim O’Brien – 2 years/0.637; a solid deal to fill out the bottom of the lineup, he fell out of favour with the coaching staff this season leaving his future cloudy
July 23 – Kaspars Daugavins – 1 year/0.635; a similar deal to O’Brien‘s, but with less commitment, he was waived and picked up by Boston late in the season; currently a UFA
This summer saw the end of the road for highly touted college free agent Bobby Butler. Despite ample opportunities he struggled badly enough that no other team would take a chance on him at his current salary. It’s hard to criticise Murray for giving him the deal, but with all the prospects in the wings there was no room for Butler. He joins a now lengthy list of free agents signed out of college post-lockout who have failed in the NHL (Gilroy, Hanson, Wellman, etc), making me wonder just how much talent is really hidden there.
MacLean’s magic continued as he willed the injury-bedevilled Sens into the playoffs (25-17-6) and through the first round before getting steamrolled by Pittsburgh.
March 12 – Traded their 2014 6th-round pick to Minnesota for one-dimensional enforcer Matt Kassian; a kneejerk move that did nothing to help the team’s performance (they were 8-8 with him in the lineup during the regular season); if the Wild pick is a dud than the move isn’t quite as bad
April 3 – Traded Ben Bishop to Tampa for Cory Conacher and a 4th-round pick (Tobias Lindberg); Bishop had lost the duel against Robin Lehner to back-up Anderson and as a pending free agent was moved; it will be some time before the trade can be assessed, but the Sens did well to get what they did for an asset they had to move anyway
June 7 – Traded Sergei Gonchar to Dallas for a conditional 6th-round pick (the condition was met when Gonchar signed with the Stars, the Sens picked Chris Leblanc); Ottawa wasn’t going to meet the 39-year old’s contract demands, so getting something for him is a win for Murray
July 5 – Traded Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and their 2014 1st-round pick to acquire Bobby Ryan from Anaheim; the Sens clearly got the best player in the deal, but acquiring the power forward required a hefty price–judgement, as always, will take some time
July 9 – Traded Pat Cannone to St. Louis for future considerations; Cannone had a lousy sophomore season in Binghamton and was scheduled to make a fat AHL salary the following year; moving him is a win
March 27 – Kaspars Daugavins was picked up by Boston; it was a rough season for the popular Latvian who spent much of his time in the pressbox; there was no room for him in Ottawa so getting him off the roster is a win for Murray
Considered an average draft, the Sens made seven selections with no second round pick for the fourth year in a row; none of the prospects are expected to crack the lineup this upcoming season (for full scouting reports for each player go here).
1-17 Curtis Lazar (OHL) – character pick is expected to play for Canada at the WJC
3-78 Marcus Hogberg (Swe Jr) – big, raw talented goaltender is expected to start regularly in the Allsvenskan
4-102 Tobias Lindberg (Swe Jr) – off-the-wall rightwinger is a long term project who likely will play another season of junior in Sweden
4-108 Ben Harpur (OHL) – big defenseman is a project who will spend more time in junior this coming season
5-138 Vincent Dunn (QMJHL) – agitator is a couple of years away
6-161 Chris Leblanc (EJHL) – off-the-waller will play with Merrimack in the NCAA
6-168 Quentin Shore (NCAA) – blueliner will continue his collegiate career at Denver
July 5 – Clarke MacArthur – 2 years/3.25; did not fit into Toronto’s system, the top-six forward soaks up the spot presumably taken by Silfverberg prior to him being traded
July 8 – Joe Corvo - 1 year/0.9k; vet who forced his way out of Ottawa not long ago returns on a cheap, one year deal where he’s expected to round out the bottom of the blueline
July 12 – Erik Condra – 2 years/1.25; re-signed possession wiz got a well-deserved raise
July 22 – Patrick Wiercioch – 3 years/2.0; offensive-blueliner signed a good deal off a limited sample size
There are a couple of more RFA situations to sort out and as they are I’ll add them here.
As it stands, that is the complete record for Bryan Murray. He has been the GM for five years during which he’s made the playoffs three times (losing in the first round each time), hired four coaches, and seen the core of the 2007 Stanley Cup final wither away. So, by category, here’s how I assess him:
The Draft: A, excellent. The cupboard was bare when Murray took over and now it is starting to overflow. The 2008, 2009, and 2011 drafts were considered excellent, while 2010 is disappointing (it’s too early to judge 2012 and 2013). The pump is primed and the Senators should have successive waves of quality players filtering into the organisation for years to come.
Contracts: C, mediocre. I have his score at 22-19-4 (with the third column representing either results that are yet to be determined or that were neither good nor bad). Murray’s free agent signings remain a weak point.
Trades: B+, good. I have his score at 18-9-10 (very few are draws, most in the third column are yet to be determined). Murray’s deadline deals to help playoff pushes have been his biggest failures.
Coaches: C, average. Three failed coaches are only gradually being made up for by one excellent hire.
Overall: B+, good. Murray has been a better builder than contender, but time may seem him overcome the latter challenge as well.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)