Maple Leafs bet big on Matt Murray in trade with Senators

·2 min read
The Toronto Maple Leafs are banking on Matt Murray to solve their issues in net after acquiring him from the Ottawa Senators on Monday. (Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are banking on Matt Murray to solve their issues in net after acquiring him from the Ottawa Senators on Monday. (Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs have their netminder.

In a trade confirmed by both teams, the Maple Leafs have landed two-time Stanley Cup champion netminder and distressed asset Matt Murray in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. The Leafs will take back third- and seventh-round draft selections from Ottawa to complete the deal while offering future considerations in return.

The Senators will retain just 25 percent of Murray's $6.25 million salary as part of the trade as well, which means the netminder will cost the Leafs a little under $4.7 million for the next two seasons to be their expected starter.

Surely the Leafs negotiated hard in an effort to have the Senators retain 50 percent of Murray's contract, apparently to no avail.

It's a fascinating gamble on the part of the Maple Leafs, who have effectively taken themselves out of the Jack Campbell sweepstakes with the move. Clearly, they believe the organization can breathe new life into Murray's career, and that his talent supersedes that of Campbell's.

Officially a free agent Wednesday, Campbell is expected to command in the neighbourhood of $5-6 million on a long-term contract, which represents an AAV only slightly higher than Murray's curtailed value.

Part of the confidence has to be linked to past dealings. Like several other members of the Maple Leafs organization, including general manager Kyle Dubas, Murray has ties to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. In fact, Murray and Campbell were briefly working in a tandem in the Soo in the 2011-12 OHL season — or one season prior to Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe's arrival.

Murray's career has taken a fairly sharp downturn since stepping in to help lead the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in his first two seasons in the NHL. He has an .899 save percentage over his last three seasons, and has the NHL's seventh-worst Goals Saved Above Average over that same time period. He bounced back a bit last season but appeared in just 20 games for the Senators, sporting a total .906 save percentage and a GSAA only slightly below the standard.

Still, strange circumstances regarding his availability for Ottawa remained a talking point throughout the season and his tenure in Ottawa. He appeared in just 47 games for the Senators across two seasons after signing a four-year, $25 million contract following his acquisition from Pittsburgh in October of 2020.

Dubas has said in the past that he's willing to bet his career on some of the foundational elements he's put in place since arriving in Toronto.

With Murray, it seems he's made his biggest bet yet.

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