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What’s next for Matt Murray and the Maple Leafs?

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Photo credit:Matt Murray (Steven Ellis/The Leafs Nation)
Jon Steitzer
25 days ago
Friday marked another Matt Murray sighting at the Maple Leafs practice. He was out before the full workout, but he was taking shots from Leafs players which seems like another step in his progression back to playing in games. The catch to get Matt Murray playing in games this season is the salary cap and because of that it is very unlikely we see Murray between the pipes for the Maple Leafs or even on the bench sporting one of those ballcaps that looks pretty cool but since it is made by Fanatics is uncomfortably tight/loose and on the verge of falling apart.
The path back to playing hockey for Matt Murray may not be able to come through the Marlies either. The Leafs could potentially assign Murray to the Marlies for a 6 day/3 game conditioning stint which would allow for him to get some reps and possibly earn him some consideration in the Leafs playoff goaltending depth chart, but the Marlies are in a pretty tight race for one of the final playoff spots and given that the Leafs would probably like to have their prospects playing a little longer into the spring, they might not be willing to jeopardize that for the sake of Murray. If they find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture, all bets might be off, and we could see Murray.
What is most likely for this season is that Murray will increasingly work with the Leafs and along with Martin Jones become a staple of the Black Aces workout come playoff time. That might not be particularly exciting and torches the narrative of Playoff Murray riding in on his white horse to lead the Leafs to Lord Stanley’s promise land. No, the situation for Murray this year is likely going to play out exactly how you’d reasonably assume it would.
That brings us to what comes next and that’s where I don’t think we’ve fully seen the end of Matt Murray.
Murray has been a good LTIR soldier for the Leafs this season. He elected surgery and rehabilitation this year and gave the Leafs a lot more financial freedom than they would have had if they went the buyout route, and the team didn’t need to give up assets in trade to rid themselves of his contract. While I’m sure Murray was also happy to not go the buyout route it would seem that the Leafs might still be in debt to Murray if he wants to give playing in the NHL another go. (The fact that he’s on the ice now certainly supports that conclusion.)
What seems likely (and I feel like I’m truly stating the obvious here) is that Matt Murray will be re-signed by the Maple Leafs at a cap hit that can fully be buried in the AHL. It might be a bit higher than league minimum if the intention is to get Murray to the Marlies, but it could be right at league minimum if Murray prefers the possibility of being claimed off waivers and landing a job with another club in the NHL sooner rather than later.
I would guess the Leafs intention would be Murray and Hildeby would be the Marlies tandem next season with the possibility that if Murray is successful, he’ll be regarded as the Leafs third string goaltender stepping into the role that Martin Jones presently occupies. It also seems that if things aren’t going great for Murray that Hildeby as the third goaltender option isn’t as panic inducing as it seemed for the Leafs this year, as his resume now at least supports giving him a look at the NHL level.
The other option for Murray might be via a similar opportunity with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Murray’s goaltending mentor, Jon Elkin, was brought over with Kyle Dubas, another Murray believer, and with the Penguins organization/fan base having about as positive a history with Matt Murray as you can get, it’s entirely possible his opportunity lies there instead of with the Leafs.
All of this is a lot of talk about a goaltender who at best will be considered 4th or 5th on the Leafs depth chart come playoff time and may be third on their depth chart next season if he does in fact return, but what is encouraging is that Murray could get another opportunity and that if it somehow goes well, it has the potential to benefit the Leafs.
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