Friedman: Matt Murray talks intensifying between the Leafs and Sens

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
Saying the Leafs goaltending situation is the priority for this week is becoming as tired as saying “goaltending is voodoo” and hopefully by the end of the week we can retire both of these statements.
That said, here’s the latest development:
After Marc-Andre Fleury and Ville Husso left the free agent market and teams began to panic about what options would be available for goaltenders this year, it seems the Leafs are doubling back on a goaltender that both Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe know fairly well in Matt Murray. For good or bad the Soo connection means something and it has served them well in the past.
Now looking at Murray’s actual performance, health, and the contract is where things start becoming more puzzling when talking about Murray. Matt Murray was limited to just 20 games last season. The previous year saw him play 27 games in a shortened season, and he played just 37 games in the slightly shortened season the year before that. During those three years, his save percentage was .899, .893, and .906. None of that says, “let’s bring in a guy with $6.25M AAV for two more years.”
Still, here we are talking about Matt Murray and we should probably explore why.
The first thing we need to consider is the contract aspect and we can safely assume that no one is talking about Murray unless the Sens half that contract via salary retention. If not halved, at least a large part of it will be absorbed and presumably, the Leafs will need to send little if not nothing to the Sens in order to make it happen. The fact that things are still being worked out could mean there are more pieces and complications to it than just sending Murray and half his contract down the 401 to Toronto.
There’s also who Murray was before things went bad that is weighing heavily into consideration. Murray was a very good goaltender before he wasn’t and the Leafs clearly believe through familiarity, a shiny new goaltending coach, and not having the Sens playing in front of him the Leafs can change some of Murray’s outcomes. I also wonder if there is a certain affinity for how Murray has done in the playoffs that could be factoring into consideration, though that’s not a trait that we’ve ever been led to believe that Kyle Dubas prioritizes.
The healthy aspect for Murray is a risk that needs to be considered as well. Murray had a lot of time to heal last year as the Sens felt comfortable running Forsberg with Gustaffson as his backup and there wasn’t any need to put an injured goaltender back into the lineup when the Sens weren’t at any risk of challenging for a playoff spot. Having Murray show up to camp in his best health situation is a potential plus, but assuming he’s fine from here on out is foolish.
So Murray at best is a crapshoot but one with upside. He’s also only 28 and could have a bit more hockey left in him than some of the other goaltenders being considered. I get the feeling that Kyle Dubas doesn’t want chasing down average goaltenders to become an annual event.
Murray would also need some risk mitigation and would be half of a tandem. The Leafs would need to consider bringing in another goaltender capable of handling somewhere between 30-50 games depending on how things are going.
The Leafs have some flexibility on questionable goaltending given the quality of the rest of the team and maybe Murray is how the Leafs will start the season and if it doesn’t work out they’ll be forced to finish different. Murray buys some time, but at this point, he’s not a name that generates a lot of excitement or confidence. He’s a means to an end with some potential for higher upside, and that’s probably how we got here.
Data sourced from Evolving Hockey
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