Murray Speaks: Deadline Day Thoughts

Senators GM Bryan Murray joined the TSN 1200's 'The Drive' this afternoon to discuss the Senators' moves at the NHL trade deadline. 

To listen to his interview, you can click here or stream the embedded audio at the bottom of this post. 

As always, my thoughts are in bold.

On whether there was any scenario in which the Senators could have added Ales Hemsky before last night’s game in Edmonton…

“Well, I asked Ales that earlier. I did talk to Craig MacTavish obviously several days ago and again yesterday morning and I told him that I wished he had made the deal obviously yesterday. But, that’s the way it worked out and he put on a, unfortunately, he put on a show against us and scored a couple of goals.”

But look at the bright side, at least the Oilers were willing to eat half his salary!

On how fluid the process was and how much improvisation there was…

“Well, I don’t know how fluid it ever is. Basically, you have to adlib fairly often in this business. Certain people you talk about and managers you talk to, there are certain things that can happen and they disappear on you and then you have to flip to the next one. Hemsky… there were a couple of names that we had. We wanted a right winger. That was the only target I really had. I know people think and say ‘you know, we need another defenceman’. We’ve got a young group that I think will grow up and be real good. Certainly the goaltending situation was in good order. I felt that we needed a right winger and that was my target. Hemsky was one of the two or three guys I talked about. Eugene (Melnyk) and I talked earlier and we talked again this morning and just to make sure that we wanted to do the right thing here and we felt we did.”

With the exception of Lazar, I don’t know if there’s anything that fans can get really excited about within the system. I can understand why there’s a certain level of appreciation for what the amateur scouting staff has done, but with the exception of Cody Ceci, Curtis Lazar or a Mika Zibanejad, it certainly doesn’t feel like there’s too much to get excited for and these guys were first round picks.

It hasn’t been talked about much, but part of the reason why the Senators have stagnated in their franchise development is that their two top ten draft picks from the past few season – Jared Cowen and Mika Zibanejad – aren’t performing at the highest level. Granted, both players are still young and have room for growth, but the Senators need these players to turn into more than a bottom pairing defenceman or a third line center.

On whether the game last night influenced him…

“Well, sure. First of all, I was very upset that we lost the hockey game. Just what you said, we could have been right in with another game win and you’re back in in a very definite (playoff) race. Here, we have a little struggle ahead of us to say the least, but it didn’t influence the fact that we wanted to do something. I had said earlier that I didn’t think that I’d get a rental player. The one thing I know about Ales, he’s played in Gatineau or Hull in junior. He knows the area and goes back quite a bit in the summertime. I think if we like him and this is a test for him as well as us, we have a chance to negotiate with him if we feel that we want to keep him come next year. So it does open some doors for us, but most importantly for the next twenty games, we’re hoping that he fits in our lineup really well, he contributes a fair amount and he gives our team a chance to be a very serious contender for a playoff spot.”

Call it a move to bid for a 2014 playoff spot, but Hemsky’s move is what it is, an audition for an extension.

On how much pressure there was from ownership in a business sense to stay in the race…

“That was never even discussed about the business part of it. We know what we are. We know that we have a fun team to watch. We’ve got a real good group of young players coming and as far as a first round pick, we’re very happy. We don’t want to finish and let (Anaheim) get the first pick overall by any means, but we’re very happy with the trade for Bobby Ryan and the fact that they have the pick this year is the way it is this year and we’ve got lots of young players coming so we’ll get ready for next year’s draft. But we’ll pick fine with our second and third round picks this year.”

Bobby Ryan played 13:32 in tonight’s game versus Calgary. Only five forwards had less ice-time than he did tonight; albeit, he was involved in a meaningless scrap with Kris Russell. Murray can spin the positives of the deal, but with Ryan’s usage of late and his constant linemate juggling, one has to wonder how much more he can stomach. The team isn’t performing well and coming into last night’s game, Bobby Ryan was 128th in the NHL amongst forwards in average ice-time per game with 16:51. Unless the Senators blow him away with a contract offer this summer, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that he’ll want to stick around for the long haul.

On Jason Spezza and Chris Phillips’ names being circulated around the rumour mill…

“I got a couple of calls on Chris Phillips and they were legitimate. He was a UFA and people are inquiring and wondering if we’re going to move him if we’d consider something from their group and that’s totally understandable. The thing that was frustrating for me was somebody that I don’t know tweeted that Jason Spezza is being shopped around and every one of you guys jumped on it and continually talked about it, so we have to defend ourselves, I guess, in those situations. I had one team only inquire and I quickly said to them, ‘We are what we are right now and we’re not going down that path.’”

Going down that path right now…

On the final pressure point to bring Chris Phillips’ deal to two-years…

“Well first of all, Chris wanted two years and that’s usually what a player wants. They want term. I offered a one-year term to start the negotiating. We went back and forth. Some deals take months and months to get done. Chris came back. We came with a number and it just went back and forth. And today, I talked to him this morning and he was adamant that the two years were important to him and we were adamant that we wanted him to stay in Ottawa. We felt he was a solid leader, a mentor for a number of our young guys, a guy that has stability in the locker room, so it wasn’t very hard to get to a point dollar-wise and term-wise that satisfied both parties. As far as the no-trade (clause), it’s the same situation as he had before. It’s (a list of) ten teams (that he can be dealt to) and we have options after that. There’s nothing really unique about this deal. It’s just what we do every day in the summertime.”

As mentioned in the trade deadline day analysis piece from yesterday, Phillips’ signing gives the Senators five left-shooting defencemen who are under one-way contracts next season. At some point, something is going to have to give and all signs point to one of Patrick Wiercioch or Jared Cowen being moved this summer.

On what it was like not having Tim Murray at the deadline…

“Yeah, and no there was no secret, he was a very important member of our staff and a guy that I counted on a great deal. He was a real astute guy and as far as evaluating talent, he’s to the point very often. But fortunately for me, I had two guys that have worked with me now for a few years in Pierre (Dorion) and Randy (Lee). They maybe haven’t done a lot of the negotiating, but they are very aware. They were always present. They had done a lot of comparables in the past for us when we were doing contracts, so their information was good. We had Rob Murphy and Jim Clark here as well, our pro scouts. So I was well surrounded and we got some good insight into a lot of players, many of course that we didn’t get. But the evaluations of the moves we made was quite good.”

Judging by his first few deals and the organization’s ouster of Pat LaFontaine, Tim Murray’s doing a real fine job down in Buffalo.

On how the negotiations with Tim Murray went and what the dynamic was like trying to orchestrate a trade with a general manager who knows his system very well…

“No, that was … we did talk a lot. We talked again this morning and Tim was trying to make the Moulson deal. We couldn’t do that one. I did talk to him about Chris Stewart. That’s something that we may talk further about come summertime. But, Tim was very adamant in what he wanted and in a couple of cases, I just couldn’t do what he wanted. He knew our people and obviously I know his player pretty well as well, so we just agreed to disagree and to talk further later on.”

Just when you think you can forget about all that #fancystat prep writing about Stewart while expecting him to get dealt to Ottawa today, I’ll just have to revisit them later this summer apparently.

On whether he had inclination that Buffalo would claim Cory Conacher on waivers…

“Well Tim asked me if I wanted him to and I wasn’t against it by any means. I think for Cory’s sake, being able to stay in the league, he played college hockey in Buffalo. We were hoping to get a little bigger. Now that we have Mike Hoffman here and it looks like he’s a legitimate NHL player, we just felt that giving Cory a chance to move on, giving Mike a chance to be an NHL player, we have a couple other guys in the minors that are on the verge of getting called up or should get called up at least for a couple games this year, so I think at the end of the day, it worked out well for the both of us.”

One name that will be interesting to watch is Shane Prince’s. Prince of course was held out of a game earlier this week as a healthy scratch – raising suspicions that the rumoured trade request was real and that the organization would honour it. Whatever the case, Prince is still a part of the Senators organization and I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether he’s one of these prospects who could get a sniff later in the season.

On Chris Phillips re-signing and whether it creates a backlog of talent that needs to be addressed with a trade…

“We’ve got eight defencemen that we’re counting on, including Mark Borowiecki. I think that’s what you have to have in the NHL and I believe at some point, maybe something will happen. There may be a… top seven guys will probably stay on a regular basis but I think if you go with less than eight or nine defencemen, you’re probably shortchanging your organization. I’m happy to have this group. I think we’ve got a real competitive group. A couple of them have to get a little more growth to them and a few more games under their belt. I don’t think it’s a disservice to any of them to have them as part of an eight-man unit.”

Bryan Murray might be the only one who's happy with this group. It's easy to pin most of this team's defensive issues on this group, and there's something to be said about the team needs to improve as a five-man unit, but the defence has been an issue for the organization all year long and banking on this group, beyond Erik Karlsson (who by the way, has responded quite well since last season's surgery to repair his Achilles tendon) seems incredibly optimistic. If the organization is serious about contention, this group needs to improve exponentially. Whether that improvement comes from internal growth or via a trade or signing to bring in outside help, this group has to get better.

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