Matt Murray is delighted with this opportunity.
He also knows that there are more than a few skeptics.
The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired the goaltender – a player in search of a return to form that helped him win the Stanley Cup twice early in his career – from the Ottawa Senators on Monday along with two draft picks in exchange for future consideration.
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas’ move is undoubtedly a bold one in a dwindling guarding market with last year’s No. 1 option, star Jack Campbell, set to hit free agency on Wednesday. at 12 p.m. ET as Toronto looks to settle its biggest summer. interrogation point.
But despite strong career numbers, Murray’s statistical profile has plummeted over the past three seasons, including two in the Nation’s Capital after a trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins, due to both poor play and a wound.
“I’m extremely motivated,” Murray said Tuesday during a video conference call with reporters.
“I have a lot to prove.”
Social media lit up — it’s the Leafs, after all — once the trade was reportedly closed, then exploded when it was announced.
We criticized Murray the player, his contract and the fact that Ottawa only eats 25% of the remaining dollars.
‘Toronto a great place’ to push goalies
The 28-year-old intends to show that Dubas, who along with Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe had Murray as a junior with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds a decade ago was right to take the plunge.
“It’s about pushing myself to try to be the best I can be,” he said. “Toronto is a great place to do that.
“A lot of excitement on my part.”
The Murray acquisition was necessitated by a number of factors, including Campbell looking set to jump in and some other realistic #1 options in the market where dollars and duration would make sense.
Toronto also sent underperforming goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks to clear a salary cap in the draft to pave the way for Murray’s transfer.
The Leafs could look for another goaltender to work alongside Murray. But given the nearly US$4.69 million salary commitment over the next two seasons — Ottawa claws back that portion of its $6.25 million cap reached through 2023-24 — it’s prudent to assuming Murray will be the starter when training camp opens.
Toronto set team records for wins and points last season, while Auston Matthews became the first Leaf to score 60 goals and the third to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.
But an ultra-talented roster that also includes Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander up front has again been unable to advance into the postseason – an overall franchise playoff drought that dates back to 2004 and includes seven straight streak losses.
“There are so many great players on this team,” Murray said. “It’s something that I’m super, super excited to join.”
Cup titles with the Penguins
A third-round pick of the Penguins in 2012, he played in 246 regular-season games, posting a 132-78-22 record with a .911 save percentage, a 2.77 goals-against average and 14 shutouts.
The Thunder Bay, Ont., native is 29-21 in the playoffs, including Cup wins with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017, along with a .921 save percentage, 2.18 GAA and six shutouts.
A big concern from Toronto’s perspective, however, has to be Murray’s injury history, which includes concussions, and the size of his recent squad, especially with Ottawa.
The rebuilding Senators signed the goaltender to a four-year, $25 million deal after a trade in October 2020 with the goal of having him lead a young squad from the crease.
The slump just never worked in the nation’s capital, and Murray’s decline began before he left the Penguins.
In his final season with Pittsburgh and two with Ottawa, he played just 85 games, posting a 35-36-8 record, .899 save percentage, 3.06 GAA and four shutouts.
A low point came in November when he was placed on waivers, went unclaimed by the other 31 NHL teams, and was demoted to the American Hockey League.
‘No strong emotions’
Murray could have sulked.
Instead, he bounced back with a 5-4-2 record, .941 save percentage and one shutout in 11 games over a six-week span after joining the big club in January before a few bad outings and an injury. neck does end its season in March.
He knows me well, knows my game well, knows how to push me.— Matt Murray on the Maple Leafs’ new head of goalie development, Jon Elkin
“There are no hard feelings,” Murray said of how things went in Ottawa. “But I focus on the present and the near future.
“That’s where my energy, focus and focus is.”
He will work in Toronto with new goalie coach Curtis Sanford and Jon Elkin, who is the Leafs’ head of development in that role and has a long history with Murray dating back to his childhood at his hockey school.
“He knows me well, he knows my game well, knows how to push me,” Murray said of Elkin. “I think he can provide a lot of insight into all of those things.”
Murray grew up as a Leafs fan. It was also his late father’s favorite team.
“We used to watch games together,” he said of James Murray, who died in 2018. “Just being able to put this jersey on for the first time, I think, is going to be something really special.
“I can’t wait to see everything in there and get things started.”