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Leafs Acquire Matt Murray from Ottawa Senators

Toronto’s goaltending picture gets a little clearer.

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

After much rumouring, it’s official: the Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired goaltender Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa is retaining 25% of Murray’s salary, leaving him with an AAV of $4.6875M against Toronto’s cap for the next two seasons. As is made clear above, the Sens are paying a third-rounder and a seventh to make Murray not their problem, or at least, 75% not their problem. It’s likely relevant that Murray’s deal is ascending in actual salary paid out: he makes $7M in real dollars this year and $8M next. Enough about money; what about the player?

Murray, 28, started his NHL career with a bang, winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. Things haven’t been quite so hot since, though: he fell out of favour in Steeltown, was signed to an inexplicably fat contract by the Sens, lost the job said fat contract would seem to have guaranteed him, and has now arrived in Toronto. The contract, by the way, is still only half over.

The question for the Leafs is whether Murray can be relied on in net for a team with (sigh) championship aspirations. The team seems to think the answer is yes. As is common for Kyle Dubas, Murray has a connection to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds: he played for them while Dubas was the Greyhounds’ general manager (2011-2014.) In an amusing not-actually-a-coincidence, Murray and departing Leaf goalie Jack Campbell were teammates for the Greyhounds in 2011-12. But what has Murray done lately?

Pessimists will note Murray had two rough years from 2019-2021. Optimists will note that Murray put up decent results this past season. He had a .906 save percentage behind an extremely dubious Ottawa defence, and according to Moneypuck he was 23rd in Goals Saved Above Expected among netminders who hit 20 games in 2021-22. (Jack Campbell was 35th.) This modest rebound was not enough for the Sens to want to keep him, though. What his Ottawa numbers mean for his Toronto future is anyone’s guess.

Murray has had a tough injury history in recent years; according to Darren Dreger, part of the reason this deal took time between being rumoured and being consummated was that the Leafs were combing through Murray’s medical records. It looks like whatever they found didn’t scare them too much. Still, relying exclusively on a goalie who’s played 88 NHL games over the past three years, and most of them not all that well, is a high-risk move. It’d suggest the team needs a high-end backup or 1B option to put alongside Murray—Cam Talbot or old friend James Reimer are two possibilities among many.

I’ll be honest: I’m uneasy about this one. A good team without goaltending is a bad team, and Kyle Dubas had better be sure he’s entrusting the net to a netminder who can win for Toronto in 2022, not just Sault Ste. Marie in 2014 or Pittsburgh in 2017. Fingers crossed.