Assistant GM Tim Murray made an appearance on this afternoon’s Healthy Scratches program to touch on the opening of free agency. You can listen to the interview here, as always, my thoughts are in bold.
On the sense that now that Parise/Suter have signed that the market will open itself up for trades…
“I don’t know. I mean, there is all kinds of talk obviously. You never want to be left out; even if you’re not in on certain deals, you certainly don’t want to be caught by surprise when a big name gets traded. You have to answer to ownership and your fan base and everything else like that. I think it’s your job to make calls as soon as you hear a rumour and sometimes GMs get upset with that, and understandably so, but you might as well see what you can do. There’s been a lot of trades made over the years since I’ve been in the game where there were trades made where you wonder why you never got the call. You just assume that if you’re trading a top-end guy, that you would want as many people as involved as you can get involved to get the highest come-back. So you try to be proactive and get involved but it’s the same old names right now and sometimes I think they’re just thrown out there to see if there’s any interest.”
I am shocked, just absolutely shocked, to learn that GMs do due diligence on any player (legitimate interest or not) who they may feel is available. My mind is blown right now. Moving on…
On the Methot trade…
“We’re really happy with the deal. Marc’s been around a long time; played in the OHL. Lots of history with him – not personally, I’ve never spoken to the kid… I can’t remember… (maybe) his draft year… just lots of viewings. You would assume that he would be very happy. No disrespect to where he came from but extremely happy to leave there and come to us for a multitude of reasons, including the one that it is his hometown. (It’s) kind of the same way as Parise went back to (Minnesota). I think it’s a plus. We gave up a good, young player to get him and we were quite willing to do that with our needs and with what we looked at going forward – with what’s in the organization and what’s not in the organization. These trades are made for today but they’re also made for years down the road. He’s excited and we’re excited and everybody hopes it works out obviously.”
Two things: one, nice dig at Columbus; and two, a small observation – Tim Murray concludes many answers by saying the word ‘obviously’.
On Methot being a potential partner for Karlsson…
“Well, there’s potential for him to be for sure. He’s a big body. He skates well. He’s better defensively than he his offensively and obviously with Erik, we want him jumping all of the time. We want him going all the time. We want him taking chances most of the time. Maybe not all the time…but most of the time. We want him to just play his game that just won him the Norris Trophy. If you get a big body like that that can skate and recover and really, and hopefully it’s not often, but has to back Erik up… I like guys that can skate and can defend with their feet and long stick and reach and I think that’s what he is. I’m sure he’s going to get the chance to show that he can play with Erik and then it’s up to him. You can probably say the same thing about Jared Cowen; it’s just that he’s a younger player that’s all and maybe he’s not quite ready for that. Or maybe he is. Training camp will show a lot obviously.”
Interesting to see that he’s non-committal to the possibility of Methot being paired with Karlsson, obviously. That was the immediate suggestion after the trade was made, I’m a little sceptical it’s a fit.
On Lundin and Latendresse’s health issues…
“With the concussions, we talk about concussions all the time like we’re all experts and we don’t really know (anything). I personally don’t know everything that Minnesota did with him when he was concussed. You bring him in and you get your doctors to look at him. We have got one of the best in Mark Aubry (sp?) when it comes to concussion problems. Guillaume comes in and he’s excited to come to us and he gets cleared by (the doctors). The contract is a good contract. He’s not the perfect player and we know that. We got him at $1.2 (million) or whatever it is with a $2.0 million cap hit, so there is some incentive there for him to make more money by scoring goals. He’s not far off from scoring 24 or 25 goals a couple of years ago. He has missed a lot of time, you’re right… but that could be a blessing if the head is completely healed. The wear and tear on the body over the last couple of years where the guys are going 100 mph and killing each other (on the ice), he’s kind of missed that a little bit – which is not what he wanted. We hope he’s healthy and we think he’s healthy and we’ve been told he’s healthy but you can never tell what the next hit will do obviously. We think it was a good bet by us to try and get some talent into the lineup that wasn’t part of the silly season. It was the same time of year but wasn’t quite the same kind of contract.”
Signing Latendresse was shrewd, obviously.
On Latendresse being a top-six forward…
“Yeah, I think he can. We think he’s a top-six forward. He’s a big body. He’s going to go to the net. He’s going to score goals and get points in different ways than Nick Foligno does. It’s going to be more of a north-south game. It’s going to be take the puck to the net. It’s going to be finishing checks. Now how often he’s going to do that and how consistent he is, we’ll find out. But that’s the type of player he was in Montreal. He played well against Ottawa. In my time here, we did need some size. He’s a little bit different and I have to say because Paul (MacLean)’s been preaching skating and you have to skate, so the one thing that we said to him was, ‘Get working out and being in shape and ready to skate.’ Because he’s not the prettiest skater and he’s not the greatest skater, so we’re going to try to make it fit. He’s a little different kind of player than guys that we’ve been trying to bring into the system. But you’re always going to have players just for different reasons – Mark Stone, who we like a ton, is not a great skater but we think he fits. We can talk about wanting to skate 200’ and skating being very important to the way that Paul coaches the game, but you’re still, I believe, other players, different types of players, can thrive within that system.”
After Murray’s Foligno/Latendresse comparison, those assumptions that he was brought in to replace Foligno’s production weren’t far off, obviously. If Holmstrom’s sickening stride can work in Babcock’s system i think MacLean will have no issues making Latendresse work.
On looking at Carkner’s three year contract
“Well, I think at the end of the day, we might have went two years. We didn’t offer that until he started talking to other teams obviously. Hey, we all like Matt and just to get it out of the way, I don’t begrudge Matt whatsoever. He has worked extremely hard (and spent) a lot of years in the minors. He goes now at $4.5M and sometimes, that’s the incentive for the player. If a guy has made money all the way up all along his career and has been in the NHL at 22 or 23 years old, you can pick and choose different situations. And I think that he probably picked the right situation. I think he picked it based on finances and I think he picked it… he’s always going to be competitive and that’s not going to change. His chances of winning there are probably are a little less than if he had chosen to go a different route. And that’s fine. He has worked hard. He finally got a pretty big paycheck here and he’s looked after his family here for the foreseeable future for sure… if he’s smart with his money – which I know Matt is. There’s never going to be a bad word said about him. Now do we wish that he stayed with us for a little less money and a little less term? Of course. We’re selfish. We like guys like that but certainly, there are different reasons that scared us off from that.”
This is the first time that I’ve seen management publically acknowledge that they went to multiple years on Carkner. Guessing the condition of his knee is the allusion at the end, if not players coming up in the system needing minutes.
On the concern that too much team toughness is gone
“No, I like our team’s toughness and you just named them all (Neil, Borowiecki, Greening, Smith) and I like the different aspects of toughness that those guys bring. Is there a Matt Carkner in that group? No, he’s the nuclear deterrent and that’s what he is. We don’t have that now, so it’s going to have to be more of a team-toughness type of scenario. Maybe Zack is going to have to do a little bit more. Maybe Colin is going to have to do a little bit more. We know that if Borowiecki is on the team, he’s going to be ultra-competitive and really, really hard to play against. And that’s what team toughness comes down to: being hard to play against. If John Scott takes a run at Erik and Matt (Carkner)’s not in the lineup that night or if he’s only playing half the games for us or whatever, I’m not sure that there’s much that you can do about it. In those scenarios, I think you have to let the league take care of that type of thing but I think, just so far as being hard to play against and team toughness, those five or so guys that you named, and I think other guys can step up just a little bit – not fighting fifteen times or whatever but just being hard to play against, it will make us a tougher team.”
Hear, hear to simply icing a team that’s difficult to play against. If a team is worrying about what John Scott is going to do they’re priorities probably aren’t in the right place.
On guys who impressed you during development camp
“For sure and I’m going to forget names or not mention somebody and they’re going to get an excerpt of this and they’re going to get real mad or whatever. I’m used to that now because I do like to bring up names… but I mean, Borowiecki winning the ‘hardest worker’ again. It’s almost automatic with him. He will never be the most popular guy when he’s a NHL player for us but even on some practice days, he’s not going to be very popular with his own teammates because that’s how he practices. When you go and do a one-on-one drill with him, he is going to put you on your ass; whether you like it or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re the star of the team or not. He’s going to bring that aspect of just never stopping; never taking his foot off that pedal. We know what he is from a skill standpoint but his intangibles, his heart and his courage are off the chart, so we’re looking forward to him obviously. Robin (Lehner) came in (to camp) in a lot better shape with a lot better attitude. He spoke about it. It was very good. It’s easy to talk about (it) so we’ll see how it keeps going here… but real good signs. Some of the younger guys like (Michael) Sdao and Ben Blood and guys like that, they’re big bodies. You’re never quite sure when the mask is on in college versus when the mask comes off. Again, it’s not fighting, when you drill somebody in college, you’re just skating away and looking for the next guy to drill. Well, at our level and in the AHL level, they’re not skating away; they’re coming back for you, so there has to be a little courage there that we’ll find out about. But they’re big guys and they’re strong guys, so we’re excited about some of the bigger guys for sure. And the smaller guys obviously, there is high skill levels with some of these guys. They are top end junior kids, Noesen for one guy, showed a huge maturity in just in his outlook on how to be a pro and how to work out. I mean, I could go on and on but there were a lot of positives from guys that don’t have big expectations but there were a lot of improvements and positives from guys that have been talked about a lot.
Always find it curious how the organiztion talks up low-ceiling defensive d coming out of these development camps. Two years ago it was Gryba, last year Boro, this year Boro again and Blood and Sdao. Not saying these aren’t decent prospects that won’t play NHL games. But if Randy Lee is remarking that he’s never seen more skill at a development camp, you’d think someone would want to speak to that?
On moving prospects to bring in a big name forward in a trade
“Again, we’re always looking. I think if you can trade two lesser guys for one better guy and the two guys going the other way are what they want and the one guy coming our way…. Sure we’d do that. I mean, you can only play four right wingers. You can only play four centermen and you can only play four left wingers. We believe that we’ve got a lot of good prospects, and that’s just what they are: prospects until they become good NHLers. I think that there’s a consensus out there when you have kids that are world junior calibre kids… and not just players but good in the world juniors and good in the American (Hockey) League and we won a Calder Championship… I mean those don’t guarantee anything but they’re indicators that we use as scouts and evaluators that we’re on the right track and those guys are going in the right direction. Do we believe that we have a real good prospect pool? Sure, and if we believe that we can afford to lose two of them to get a better player, absolutely.”
Stefan remarked yesterday that the quickly becoming crowded Bingo forward depth (hello Hugh Jessiman) may hold a clue to the next trade. On another note, Murray’s ‘obviously’ tally concluded at eight and set the bar for future interviews.