MONTREAL — Matt Murray remained with the Ottawa Senators as the NHL draft came to an end Friday afternoon at the Bell Centre.
But he may not be with the organization much longer.
Give Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion credit, because while a lot of phones weren’t working because of the Rogers’ outage across Canada, he made his way around the draft floor Friday to see if he could deal the 28-year-old two-time Stanley Cup champion goalie.
Not only are the Toronto Maple Leafs involved in talks with the Senators about Murray, it’s believed the Edmonton Oilers may be studying the option along with the Arizona Coyotes and a couple of other teams.
While Murray turned down a trade that was done to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday night, that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be back at training camp in September. Dorion is trying to get creative to clear up the crowded crease with Anton Forsberg and Filip Gustavsson under contract.
Talks intensified during Round 2 of the draft Friday and don’t rule out a deal before the unrestricted free agent market opens Wednesday at noon. Murray still has two years at $6.25 million left on his deal but the Senators might be willing to retain some salary.
“Those conversations are taking place and they continue to take place,” assistant GM Trent Mann said Friday. “There’s interest out there and I think we have to explore all the options and do what’s best for the Ottawa Senators and do what’s best for the (club) moving forward.
“In the end, it’s a business and that’s the situation we’re in. It’s not like Matt doesn’t know it. He’s aware and we’re aware. Eventually if there’s a deal there that helps the Senators, and gives him a different opportunity, then there’s no reason not to do that.”
Naturally, Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams wasn’t thrilled that Murray turned his nose up at the Sabres.
“I don’t want to get too much into specifics,” Adams said. “The reality is we worked hard on a deal, but players have the ability when it’s in their contract to make those decisions. And we want players who want to be here. That’s the way we believe, so we move on.”
If Murray is in camp with Ottawa, coach D.J. Smith said the club will keep a trio of goalies with Forsberg and Gustavsson.
Murray will have to battle because Forsberg has the top job. That’s why the Sabres would have been a good option because it would have guaranteed him playing time.
“Forsberg did a heck of a job last year and it’s his job to lose,” Smith said. “He’s been able to do it multiple nights, plus he’s been durable and consistent.
“Murray is a heck of a goalie as well but he’s just been hurt. Hopefully he can be healthy and give us a chance. Gus, a couple of years ago, gave us some great games. Ultimately, whichever one is the hottest guy is going to get the net.”
The Senators are also still looking for a right-shot defenceman while Dorion also has to determine what do with veteran blueliner Nikita Zaitsev and winger Connor Brown. Both are candidates to be dealt.
THE COACH IS FIRED UP
Smith wore a wide smile.
He couldn’t hide his excitement after Dorion pulled off a huge deal before Round 1 of the NHL draft Thursday by acquiring two-time 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks for three draft picks.
“It tells our group that we’re ready to try to push to the next level,” Smith told this newspaper. “It tells our core group if they need help, we’ll bring it in.”
The Senators paid a high price by giving up the No. 7 selection as part of the package, but the rebuild is over and you have to give something to get something. What the Senators received with the 24-year-old is an elite winger that can play with centre Tim Stuetzle.
“He’s an outstanding player, a goal scorer and a guy that’s scored everywhere he’s ever been,” Smith said. “I followed him in the OHL, coaching against him and I watched him continue doing it in the NHL. He’s an electric player that’s really, really competitive.
“For sure he scores, but he does a lot more. He tracks, he works and he’s a guy that’s going to fit in really well with our young group and it’s an exciting time for them to all be together.”
Naturally, it will be up to Smith and the staff to determine where exactly DeBrincat will fit up front.
“It’s so fresh it’s hard to say but I think your first thought is he’s a natural to play with Timmy a little bit. For the amount of speed that he has and just the way he carries the puck through the middle of the ice. We’ll talk to other coaches and make that decision,” said Smith.
“As the year goes, we know things are going to change but my first thought is that he’ll be a really nice fit for Tim.”
Many have felt the Senators need someone to play on the right side of Stuetzle and DeBrincat can play on either wing.
“He prefers playing left wing. He’s played there and we’re going to put him in the best spot to succeed,” said Smith. “He can play either side but he would prefer the left side, but I talked to him and he’s really excited to come here.
“(Captain) Brady (Tkachuk) and some of the other guys have already reached out to him and at 24-years-old he’s a great fir for our young group.”