Assessing Bryan Murray (updated)

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 this past season indicated 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.

2007 Draft

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
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
4-120 Ben Blood (USHS)
Big blueliner completed his final year in the NCAA and joins Binghamton as a rookie in this upcoming season; looks like a depth player

2007-08 Contracts

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 still do

2007-08 Coaches

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.

2007-08 Trades

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 has spent the past two seasons in the CHL), and 7th (Justin Courtnall; finished his third unremarkable season in the NCAA) to Tampa for a 4th in 2008 (Derek Grant; completed his rookie season with Binghamton last year). 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 19 NHL games under his belt and is a solid prospect) to the Chicago Blackhawks for Martin LapointeLapointe 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.

2008 Draft

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) – won the Norris Trophy this past season
2-42 Patrick Wiercioch (USHL) – lanky blueliner experienced his second straight inconsistent season in Binghamton
3-79 Zack Smith (WHL) – gritty center enjoyed his first full season as an NHL-regular
4-109 Andre Petersson (SuperElit) – skilled winger had a strong rookie year in Binghamton
4-119 Derek Grant (BCHL) – lanky center had an up and down rookie season with Binghamton
5-139 Mark Borowiecki (CJHL) – punishing blueliner enjoyed a fantastic rookie season with Binghamton
7-199 Emil Sandin (SuperElit) – smallish winger failed to be a regular player in the SEL and hasn’t been retained

2008-09 Contracts

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’s currently a UFA
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 that should see Alfie through to retirement

2008-09 Coaches

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.

2008-09 Trades

June 20, 2008 – Traded their 1st round pick (Chet Pickard; has struggled as an ECHL goalie) and their 3rd round in 2009 (Taylor Beck; is coming off a solid rookie 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 FataNikulin 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; after two pro seasons he looks to solidify himself as 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.

2009 Draft

Considered a deep and talented draft, Ottawa had its first top-ten pick since the 2005; every non-college player has been signed.

1-9 Jared Cowen (WHL) – big blueliner enjoyed a solid rookie season in the NHL
2-39 Jakob Silfverberg (SuperElit) – two-way forward won awards and a championship in the SEL and should start in the NHL next season
2-46 Robin Lehner (SuperElit) – big goaltender suffered through a tough sophomore year in Binghamton
4-100 Chris Wideman (NCAA) – undersized blueliner finished his collegiate career and will be in Binghamton
5-130 Mike Hoffman (QMJHL) – skilled forward lead Binghamton in scoring in his sophomore year
5-146 Jeff Costello (USHL) – gritty winger had an up and down year in the NCAA
6-160 Corey Cowick (OHL) – gritty winger struggled with consistency in his sophomore year in the AHL
7-190 Brad Peltz (EJHL) – sniper played his first NCAA games; beginning to look like a bust
7-191 Michael Sdao (USHL) – tough blueliner had a great year in the NCAA and this coming season will be his senior year

2009-10 Contracts

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 year this past season and has signed with Florida as a UFA
July 1 – Chris Neil – 4 years/2.0 million; signed after an awful year, was up and down, but was back to form this past season
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 rebounded with a great year in St. Louis this past season
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

Re-Entry Waivers

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 now playing in Europe).

2009-10 Coaches

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).

2009-10 Trades

June 27 – Traded their 2010 6th round pick (6-166 Drew Czerwonka; was not signed by the Oilers) 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 sophomore 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’ll begin his pro career this upcoming season) 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; an excellent WHLer; he’ll begin his AHL career this coming season) 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 SuttonSutton 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’ll begin his NHL career this coming season) 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.

2010 Draft

Considered a weak draft (link), the Senators had already traded away many of their picks so only made four selections.  Sorensen is no longer in the system while Culek and Stone are signed.

3-76 Jakub Culek (QMJHL) – defensive forward signed with the Sens after a mediocre career in the Q
4-106 Marcus Sorensen (SuperElit) – undersized energy forward was unable to secure time in the SEL; he was not signed and is now a FA
6-178 Mark Stone (WHL) – big skilled winger finished a spectacular WHL career; he’ll begin his pro career this upcoming season
7-196 Bryce Aneloski (USHL) – offensive blueliner enjoyed a solid sophomore season in the NCAA

2010-11 Contracts

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’s been much more controversial since
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 an unsigned UFA
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; had an awful first full season in the NHL and was subsequently bought-out
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
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.

2010-11 Coaches

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.

2010-11 Trades

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).  It will be years before the trade can be assessed.
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). 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.
June 24, 2011 – traded two 2nd round picks (their own, 2-35 Tomas Jurco, 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 assessing the deal will depend on Tynan‘s development.


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’s since signed a two-way deal with Columbus).

2011 Draft

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.

1-6 Mika Zibanejad (SEL) – big forward played 9 games for the Sens before being loaned back to Djurgarden; this season he’ll play in Ottawa or Binghamton
1-21 Stefan Noesen (OHL) – power forward enjoyed a strong year in the OHL; expected to return for his final year of junior
1-24 Matt Puempel (OHL) – sniper suffered from suspension and concussion problems; expected to return for his final year of junior
2-61 Shane Prince (OHL) – undersized skilled forward has been signed by the Sens and is expected to play for Binghamton or Elmira
4-96 Jean-Gabriel Pageau (QMJHL) – undersized skilled forward is signed by the Sens and will likely be returned to junior
5-126 Fredrik Claesson (SEL) – defensive defenseman spent the year in Sweden, but is now signed and will play in Binghamton
6-156 Darren Kramer (WHL) – brawler finished his junior career and will play in Binghamton
6-171 Max McCormick (USHL) – gritty forward had a solid rookie season in the NCAA
7-186 Jordan Fransoo (WHL) – big blueliner showed improvement, but is still a long way away; he’ll play another year in junior
7-204 Ryan Dzingel (USHL) – skilled forward enjoyed a solid rookie season in the NCAA

2011-12 Contracts

March 21 – Craig Anderson – 4 years/3.1875; far too much term for my liking, but Anderson was good enough this past season
May 19 – Zack Smith – 2 years/0.7; enjoyed a strong first full season in the NHL
May 19 – Colin Greening – 3 years/0.816,667; excellent rookie season for the NCAA grad
July 1 – Alex Auld – 1 year/1.0; was even more terrible than expected; his NHL career is likely over (signed in Austria)
July 5 – Zenon Konopka – 1 year/0.7; the popular forward didn’t play much and signed with Minnesota this summer
July 6 – Erik Condra – 2 years/0.625; had a solid rookie campaign, although he suffered through a terrible dry spell in the second half
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; was awful in his first full NHL campaign and was subsequently bought out

2011-12 Trades

December 17 – Traded David Rundblad and their 2nd round pick to Phoenix (subsequently moved to Philadelphia, who picked Anthony Stolarz) 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 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.  Time will tell on the trade, but it’s clear that Bishop will be given the opportunity to back-up Anderson this upcoming season.
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 and Gilroy was allowed to walk, this is a loss for Murray.
July 1 – Traded Nick Foligno to Columbus for Marc MethotFoligno 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.  I haven’t seen Methot play enough to judge the trade, so I’m taking a wait and see attitude, but I would not have signed Foligno to the deal the Blue Jackets gave him (3 years/3.083)

2012 Draft

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
3-76 Chris Driedger (WHL) – one of two goaltenders added to the organisation
3-82 Jarrod Maidens (OHL) – skilled forward coming off a serious concussion, as a pick he’s a swing for the fences
4-106 Timothy Boyle (USHS) – an off the radar selection who is expected to spend four years in college
5-136 Robbie Baillargeon (USHL) – a talented forward expected to spend four years in the NCAA
6-166 Francois Brassard (QMJHL) – the second goaltender taken in the draft by the Sens
7-196 Mikael Wikstrand (Allsvenskan) – defensive defenseman is expected to spend a couple of years in Sweden

2012-13 Contracts

May 4 – Peter Regin – 1 year/0.8; coming off an injury-plagued year the Sens rolled the dice on him staying healthy
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 is a questionmark going into next season
July 1 – Guillaume Latendresse – 1 year/2.0; injury-prone and with conditioning issues, he’s a gamble
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 that fills out the bottom of the lineup
July 23 – Kaspars Daugavins – 1 year/0.635; similar to O’Brien‘s, but with less commitment


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.


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 largely disappointing.  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 12-15-14 (with the third column representing either results that are yet to be determined or that were neither good nor bad).  Murray has made poor decsions with contracts for older, veteran players, although as the team rebuilds he’s stepped away from that.
Trades: B, average.  I have his score at 13-7-9 (very few are draws, most in the third column are unknowns).  Murray’s deadline deals for players in his lineup are the most frequent failures.
Coaches: D, below average.  Three failed coaches haven’t yet been made up for with one good hire.
Overall: B, average.  Murray has been improving in all categories, although I think it will be hard to repeat the achievements from this past season.


Senators News: July 25th

-Ottawa signed their last RFA today as they gave Stephane Da Costa and one-year, two-way deal (reportedly for 800k).  Tim Murray said “We just feel if he can get stronger, get used to playing with higher competition and become a more consistent player away from the puck, that he’s got a chance to play in the National Hockey League.”  It’s a good deal for both sides as Da Costa has talent and deserves another season to see where he can take it.

Mike Hoffman talked about how he sees himself in the organisation:

I think I’m right there. Once training camp comes around (in September), time will just tell. If you don’t have confidence playing hockey, you’re not going to play up to your potential. Confidence is a huge part of the game and if you have it, that helps you out that much more. You always want to get better, you always want to work on things. You’re never going to be perfect so if you can do that, you help yourself out a lot … I thought last year’s training camp was pretty good. I thought I played pretty well. Then I got a game (against Carolina) and I thought I fit in pretty good. I’ve just got to work hard (this summer) and just get bigger and stronger.

Randy Lee added:

What’s attractive about him is that he can score, he’s got a great shot, he sees the ice pretty well and he’s got really, really good speed. And he’s not afraid — he played with an edge. In his exit meeting after playing with the Black Aces, I think he made an impression on both Bryan and Paul with his real seriousness, that he’s committed to being a pro and wants to play for the Senators sooner rather than later. It was a change in his work ethic (that made the difference). Rather than thinking he was entitled to play, he realized that he had to work toward it and I think he did that. He’s shown that he’s willing to work hard and he showed with conviction that ‘I want to be a pro player and I want to help this team win.’ That made a real impression on those guys. He is willing to stick his nose in there and that’s what he’s got to do. Sometimes, you have guys with good speed who become perimeter players just because they’re able to (do that) with their speed. He’s got to learn that’s one of his threats, to go wide with speed, but other times he’s got to drive and get in the dirty areas. He can finish in tight and he’s got a great release. He’s got that flexibility to play the point on the power play, which he does on a big-time basis down (in Binghamton). He’s got a great one-timer, he moves the puck really well and he can move laterally pretty well. And he’s not a real detriment defending if he gets caught out there. He can skate well enough to defend.

Those are high words of praise.  I think the challenge for Hoffman is making a niche for himself as a third-line player, as it doesn’t look like his offensive talents are enough to make him a top-six forward.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau talked about his chances of playing in Binghamton:

That’s my goal. I want to be in Bingo and help the team win. For me, it’s my personal goal. I’m going to work hard this summer to make sure that goal is going to be achieved. Mentally, I’m ready (to make the move), but I can improve more physically. I’m going to train hard this summer, come here with Chris and make sure I’m 100 per cent ready to go. Getting more strength is going to help my shot and my explosion on the ice, so for sure gaining more strength (is a goal) and it’s what I’ll work on this summer. I’m confident in myself and who I am. I know what I can do to help the team win. There is a great example in the NHL in Danny Briere and that’s what I try to follow. He’s a great example for me … We play hockey together in a league for fun (during the summer). He gives me good tips and I try to apply them when I can. He just tells me never to give up. People will say ‘you’re too small, you’re not going to make it.’ But he said if you just keep believing in your dream and keep working hard, it’s going to happen for you one day.

Randy Lee added:

He’s just got to prove that he can make the jump. It’s a huge jump — we always say they’ve got to respect that jump to the American league — and he’s got to prove he can make that jump and sort through the competition. Other guys ahead of him on the depth chart have got that one year (of pro) experience. We’ve taught him to look at guys like Wacey Hamilton, who went from being a 20-year-old (captain of the Medicine Hat Tigers) in the Western Hockey League to being in Binghamton, where he had to pay his dues and got stuck on the fourth line quite a bit. He had to deal with that frustration and we looked at how he handled that, and it was a good reflection on Wacey‘s character. We’ve talked to Jean-Gabriel about that, that it’s a harder transition than people think. You don’t just go on the top two lines (right away) and he’s a skilled, top-two line guy. So it’s going to be an adjustment for him. He’s worked hard. He’s made the commitment to come in with Chris Schwarz every day, and to be around Mark Borowiecki and Chris Neil and all those guys who are real workhorses in the gym. So that’s going to pay huge dividends for him. You overcome the size differential with compete, and he does that. In the Quebec league, he takes a beating. What we want to see is once teams start playing tough on you and targeting you, does your game change? And if your game doesn’t change, you’ve got what we like to make that transition to the pros. I think Jean-Gabriel can compete when the going gets tough.

These are cautionary words and do nothing to persuade me that Pageau won’t be sent back to the QMJHL for another season in junior (especially with all the forwards the Sens have signed).  There’s no need to rush and turn him pro.

Bruce Garrioch engages in a lot of speculation but excluding the absurdities (like Dallas moving Brendan Morrow) he confirms the Sens have tried to trade Bobby Butler.

Varada and Scott assess the Rick Nash speculation and I’m on board with Scott’s feelings that the rumoured package Ottawa was giving up for the Blue Jacket star was ridiculous.  It’s all moot regardless, since Nash was never interested in coming north.

Stu Hackel doesn’t see the  Nash trade as completely disastrous for Columbus, but while I agree with him that the hyperbole over the deal is a little ridiculous his reasoning ultimately doesn’t change the fact that the Rangers did not give up much to get a certifiable top-line player.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)