Tim Murray Speaks: Butler, Noesen, Mika & Puempel


A little late on this but Assistant GM Tim Murray made an appearance on the Team 1200 this past Friday. Besides touching upon a number of prospects that he watched play in Lake Placid, he also talked about the Bobby Butler buyout, and Matt Puempel. You can listen to the archived interview over on the Team 1200's Facebook page. I have transcribed worthwhile stuff while ignoring the lesser details, like Tim's conversation with Lee Versage about the Washington Redskins because screw Dan Snyder and screw the Redskins! (Go Eagles!)

As always, my thoughts are in bold.

On watching the prospects that he's watching in Lake Placid like Mika Zibanejad and Stefan Noesen:

"They played well. I saw them both a couple of times. There are many more players than that there to watch. It's more of a pro scout's tournament than an amateur scout's tournament as far as 90-percent of the (prospects) have been drafted. Both guys had their moments and played well at times. The Swedes were not very good yesterday, so I think most players played accordingly. They were down 9-2 at one point and that's the way they played. But, (Zibanejad) scored the first goal. He was good on the power play. Obviously, he shoots the puck a ton and there are things there that we like."

After reading his comments in the Ottawa Sun from this past weekend, methinks Tim Murray is just excited to see Mika Zibanejad develop in North America. I'll come back to this later. 

On Stefan Noesen being undersold as a great prospect by the average fan:

"No, we recognize certainly his ability and his potential. We have high expectations for him. I suspect that he's going to be a top-six or seven forward. I suspect that he's going to play on our power play someday. I suspect that he is going to be a hard guy to play against and be a very competitive guy so our expectations are high. As far as the casual fan, I'm not quite sure what they think or know from him. I think that there are fans out there that follow (the Senators) quite closely and follow the OHL quite closely and know that he's a quite good prospect."

Although it's no surprise to hear a member of the organization wax poetic about the progress of one of their own prospects, most third party projections to this point, have been slightly more conservative for Noesen.

On Noesen needing to play in an esteemed tournament, playoffs or against higher levels of competition to develop and be ready to make the Senators:

"There are different paths to the National Hockey League and there are certain guys in the National Hockey League that get talked about because of their (expensive) contracts or whatever that haven't played in the playoffs at the pro level but they're still good players. Robin Lehner took a different path for example, and played for an average junior team in the (Sault Ste. Marie) and then went at 19 (years of age) to Binghamton and we  could have left him in junior for one more year. It's up to the individual and how mature they are and that. Obviously the rules dictate that Stefan makes our team or goes back to junior but for the most part, and I know it's a cliche but it is true, we'll let him decide that. He'll either knock our socks off or go back to junior and that's basically the two choices that he has. He can't come into camp and have a solid camp. We'll be happy with that but it won't put him on the hockey club."

It's nothing againt him but it's safe to say that if Noesen makes the team this season, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. 

On the NHL.com article in which Tim Murray definitively said Mika Zibanejad will spend next year in North America:

"Yeah, that's our plan and that's the thought obviously. We know things can change. There could be a family issue. There are multiple reasons why he would go back next year but that's not what we want. The plan is for him to either be here eithere in Ottawa or in Binghamton. As I say, I shouldn't be so definitive in an article like that because we know that it could change but the idea is for him to be here. He wants to be here. We want him here. Is there something that could pop up in the future to change that? Sure, but I don't foresee that."

Getting back to the aforementioned article about Djurgarden, Murray had some rather candid comments about Djurgarden and the manner in which Zibanejad was utilized: 

- “He belongs to Djurgarden. They’re not playing in the Elite League (next season). They got demoted. They were a bad team last year. I just think that whether it’s Ottawa or Binghamton, they’re both better options for him.”

- “Nothing is ever a waste of time so it wasn’t a waste of time, but it was close to that I guess. They weren’t very good. I assume the management and coaching staff have to take some responsibility for that. The players suffer."

- “Unless you’re there every day you don’t know, but I can say there were times they didn’t (put him in the role they promised). Consistently, they didn’t. There were probably times we didn’t see them play that they did. Overall, no, it wasn’t a great experience, that’s for sure.”

In light of the comments that Murray made earlier in the year regarding the positive development that Fredrik Claesson made this past season on a bad Djurgarden team, it seems like Murray is more irked by the handling of Zibanejad than anything else. If certain promises about Z's playing time went unfulfilled, then you can't fault Sens management for being irked. 

On Bobby Butler's buyout:

"It was mostly the numbers game. It was partly the way he played. It was partly, I guess, the way that he prepared. I know I hear it all. I hear it's a long season in Bingo and I hear a lot of things from different people and from different sources, but that came into it. I just think it was easy to do because of the numbers. It was basically $400,000 over two years. The cap hit doesn't mean anything because of the position that we're in. I just think the number and I have to say I guess a little bit the way that he played and prepared for last season sure (contributed to his buyout)."

This is the first that I have heard about Butler's preparation being called into question. I don't want to read too much into things and be led to believe that it was this lack of preparation that helped contribute to the leg injury that he suffered last fall and opted not to disclose, but yeah, there was that. 

On Butler and whether he'll affect the way the organization will look at NCAA free agents moving forward:

"No, to me Bobby was a success. He had a two-way contract. He came out of college hockey a little more mature athlete than a kid out of junior. He went down to Binghamton and he played some games (in Ottawa). He played in Binghamton and he scored some big goals down there. Maybe the team doesn't win a (Calder) Championship without him, so I think his first year was a success. He gets a one-way (contract) because of the way that the CBA was worded and the amount of games that he has to play in the NHL for us to retain his rights and a whole bunch of different reasons that he gets the one-way deal. I think he kind of on the ice deserved the one-way deal. We had to give it to him or lose him anyway. I think maybe he just got caught up in: we win a championship, he played a lot, it was a short summer and he just… it all came at him too quickly and he didn't know how to prepare for the following year. Now I think he can take a step back and certainly, I think you can learn from that. I assume that he's having a better summer this year and is being more prepared. He signed a two-way (contract) with Jersey and now he has to earn his NHL games again and we'll see where he's at.

Okay, jumping in here: out of fairness to Butler, the Devils did their due diligence on him when preparing their offer. Not only did they talk to former B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst, they also spoke to his University of New Hampshire coaches too.

More on collegiate free agents:

"They have to sign a two-way contract. I think that they're a good try. They are on a two-way. You have to give them a signing bonus. I think that when you can get a free player like that… I just don't know what you guys expect or the fans expect when (we announce the signing of a collegiate free agent). For the most part, (Jesse (Winchester), Bobby (Butler) at times in their time with us in Ottawa, we've been very pleased with the production that we got from the money that we put out." 

Sure, maybe the offensive production left something to be desired but not every late blooming collegiate talent will develop into the next Dustin Penner or Chris Kunitz. It is just a ridiculously high standard to expect them to live up to.

It doesn't help the new media age and information (scouting/video/media coverage/word of mouth) travelling faster than before, the likelihood of being able to exploit this market inefficiency has grown more difficult. But let us not act like the collegiate free agents that Ottawa has signed have not had some utility.

Too often, it seems like the context of such a signing is forgotten in the years that follow it. At the time that many of these collegiate signings were made, Ottawa's farm system was relatively devoid of NHL-ready prospects who could step in and play.

Regardless of their modest production, they afforded the organization to draft and develop their prospects without the fear of otherwise rushing them along. There was that opportunity for such players to sign and enter an Ottawa system where they could move through the ranks quickly and play in the NHL. 

Conversely, they prevented the organization from having to go out and acquire an established veteran shitbag talent. For a few seasons anyway, the team was flirting with the cap ceiling. With a finite amount of fiscal resources, these collegiate free agents allowed the organization to fill the holes in their organizational depth chart at a fraction of the cost (and with the benefit of flexible two-way contracts) without having to go into free agency or the trade market and risk overpaying for past-their-prime vets. At the time, it's tough to fault the organization for trying to maximize the value on inexpensive young players who hopefully can fulfill whatever upside they were considered to have. Shitting on the organization for these signings now, just reeks of a revisionist dick move. 

While collegiate free agents may not carry the kind of impact value certain sects of the fan base were expecting, the value of these players being inexpensive transitional talents who can stem the tide until the team's better prospects are/were ready to contribute shouldn't just be written off or ignored.

On what to expect from your young players in a couple of weeks:

"We expect hard work. We expect them to continue doing, as far as the development program that they've been on, most of them for the last couple of years, I see huge strides in Erik Karlsson. I see huge strides in Jared Cowen from the day we drafted him to the way that he played last season. To get away from the NHL, I see huge strides in a guy like Matt Puempel. He has a long way to go, but when he was drafted, he was a talented young buck that wasn't ready or even close to playing in the NHL. He needed to mature and needed to get stronger. You need to learn a lot of new things. A lot of these young guys that when we start to talk to them about nutrition and off-ice stuff like working out in the gym, they really are hearing it for the first time. They have worked out and lifted weights and that, but to lift and do things to become a hockey player and not just look good on the beach, it's all new to them. We expect them to continue to learn and some guys get it quicker than others. We've got some guys who are smarter than others and some guys that work harder than others and they're on a faster curve."

An unprovoked Matt Puempel pimp job. Interesting…

On being done in the free agent market:

"I wouldn't say we're done because we're never done. New situations arise every day and you go with that. We're not getting together as a group everyday and saying, 'Okay, let's do this today and let's do this tomorrow.' We have had a plan coming into free agency. We have had a good plan development-wise over the last few years with our young kids and knowing that somebody out of that group could come in and win a job. We weren't desperate to spend a ton of money, so we're going to stick with the plan and again, (as) the same as Mika, I say all the time that things aren't written in stone, but things do change on a day-to-day basis and we'll change with them. But, we're in no hurry to do anything free agency-wise. I know Bryan (Murray) is talking to GMs every day and I prod him a little bit to do that because you hear things on the road. For example, when you're in Lake Placid and you talk to different people, there are always rumours every day about who could be available and who could not be available. You just make the calls and then see what could happen. We try to do stuff everyday but we're in no hurry or we have no deadline to get something done, no." 

Thank god. The last thing I would want to hear is that the organization had offered UFA forward Matt Bradley a guaranteed one-way contract…  

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