The Matt Murray buyout watch begins for the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer3 months ago
The most exciting part of the Stanley Cup being awarded is that it starts the 48 hour clock on when teams can begin buying out players. I’m not sure if it is 48 hours exactly, that could take minutes of research to confirm, but instead certainly confirm that the people who update NHL events calendars all have put Friday as the day.
As a quick refresher, the buyout process starts with waivers for any player who doesn’t have a no movement clause. If the player has anything other than a no movement clause, they get a trip on waivers prior to the buyout and that means some intentions might be made clear on Thursday by 2pm ET. If the player has a no movement clause, they’ll get the option to take a ride on waivers, but if they want to skip that part of the process, they can jump straight to the buyout.
That brings us back around to Matt Murray, the one Leaf that fits the bill for a potential buyout. Matt Murray played some pretty good hockey before he didn’t. His injuries made him an unreliable option if he did temporarily work his way back to playing shape and with a $4.6M cap hit, he’s not exactly meeting the Leafs needs, especially with Joseph Woll likely passing him on the depth chart. Murray looks to be on the way out, so let’s look at the options for Matt Murray.
The Buyout Option
Since we’re talking about the buyout window and this is the option that made its way into the title, let’s look at Matt Murray’s buyout first.
So that first year (next season is pretty bearable. The Leafs can happily eat less than a league minimum salary to rid themselves of Matt Murray. The catch is the second year where the Leafs will be eating $2M of dead cap space just as Auston Matthews and William Nylander are potentially starting their new contracts. That might not sit as well even with a potentially nice boost to the salary cap.
There is the hilarity of sticking the Senators with an extra year of paying for Matt Murray, but that isn’t so much a selling point as a bonus for the Leafs.
Consideration needs to be given to the Leafs having a bit of cap flexibility this season in a year filled with underwhelming free agents.
Burying Murray on the Marlies
The Senators went this route with Matt Murray and it wasn’t enough. They ended up shipping him off to Toronto with salary retained. Murray had a lot more time left and the Senators have less money to burn through on expensive AHLers, the idea could work better in Toronto and there is even a slight increase to $1.15M as the amount of salary that can be buried. That still leaves Toronto with $3.5375M sitting around as dead cap space for the year.
Any appeal in keeping Murray around on the Marlies comes from getting him off the books one year earlier and possibly relying on Murray as a 3rd string option.
The LTIR option
Let’s start with the fact that this doesn’t really work to start the year. Right now Matt Murray was deemed healthy enough to play and equally as important, he’s healthy enough to be bought out. There is a strong possibility that as the Leafs use Matt Murray they’ll get back around to him being too injured to play, but simply shuffling him off the roster for medical reasons is unlikely unless Matt Murray buys into it as well.
There’s a good chance that there is something physically wrong with Matt Murray that can be used to point to why he’s not playing, but if Matt Murray doesn’t want to be benched it simply doesn’t work.
The Petr Mrazek trade required the Leafs to move down 13 spots in the draft to get the Blackhawks to take Mrazek off their hands. That didn’t seem like too ridiculous of a payment at the time and that was for the Blackhawks taking 2 years of Mrazek’s $3.8M cap hit, Matt Murray would be asking a team to one year of $4.6875 and as the buyout above shows, he could only cost them 2/3rds of that and really not have them hurt their cap this season.
One of the options I’ve thought about is a potential swap of bad contracts. The Canucks are debating moving on from Conor Garland and buying him out, the Leafs could use him. The Canucks could acquire Matt Murray and buy him out at a slightly lower hit, but one that doesn’t go on for nearly as long. I’m sure this suggestion is met with Canucks fans telling me the Leafs need to add to it and Leafs fans pointing out that Conor Garland is too small, but there are potential trade options that could work to Toronto’s advantage.
Getting rid of Murray’s contract outright is likely the best option but it is complicated by his 10 team no trade list. That said, Murray might be willing to waive for those 10 teams if they actually intend to use him in goal. For a lottery bound team he could be worth exploring as a tandem option the same way the Hawks did with Mrazek.
Deal him with salary retention
If someone sees him as a potential backup option, 50% retention on Murray is still something and spares the Leafs having the second year of dead cap space.
Keep him (for now)
There will be a second buyout window this summer and Treliving doesn’t need to rush this decision. He can allow for other teams to see how their goaltending and cap situations figure themselves out and he too can see if he really needs to free up the money from the deal. If he waits into next season the LTIR option could find itself back on the table and there is also the possibility the Leafs can trade him at the deadline in a salary dump move to free themselves up for a bigger move. This approach might have appeal to potential trade partners as it will only be around a 1/4 of Murray’s salary left to be paid out at that point.
It appears there isn’t much of a rush and there isn’t any pressure to throw Matt Murray on the waivers the second the buyout window opens. That being said, there is some benefit to a planned approach. If Toronto knows they want to start next year without Matt Murray, they might just draw the straight line from A to B.
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