Senators sign GM Murray to extension
Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray acknowledges his good fortune that owner Eugene Melnyk has allowed him to follow through with his blueprint for the team’s future, despite all the setbacks the past two seasons.
DETROIT — Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray acknowledges his good fortune that owner Eugene Melnyk has allowed him to follow through with his blueprint for the team’s future, despite all the setbacks the past two seasons.
“There are some GMs who don’t get that chance,” Murray said at the start of a busy day Friday, when the club announced an extension of his contract through the 2010-11 season.
“I think it’s four or five years minimum, really, to see the results of your first draft. Maybe, for me, it’s from the second draft (in 2008) on because I wasn’t a big part of that draft. Over the next few years, we’ll see the players feed into the system. We like our prospects. Like every team, you’re turning players over because of salary cap numbers, but I’ve been very fortunate that Eugene Melnyk sees what we’re doing.”
Indeed, a more trigger-happy owner might have fired the Senators’ GM at some point during the previous two seasons, after the club plummeted from Stanley Cup finalist in 2007 to playoff observer last season.
Murray’s history of trades with the Senators has been spotty and his first two choices as coach — former Senators assistant John Paddock and national junior coach Craig Hartsburg — were failures.
Instead of asking the 67-year-old Murray to walk away, however, Melnyk stuck with him.
Obviously, front and centre in the decision is the Senators current success under Cory Clouston, Murray’s third hire as coach. The Senators have run off a stunning stretch of 13 wins in 14 games going into Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, vaulting the team from being on the bubble of making the playoffs all the way to the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Yet, just as significantly, Melnyk has also bought into Murray’s promise for the future.
When Murray stepped up from coach and replaced outgoing GM John Muckler in June 2007, the prospect cupboard was bare due to a series of ill-advised trade deadline deals by Muckler.
Now, there’s renewed hope from a young group that includes rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson, University of Denver defenceman Patrick Wiercioch, national junior team defenceman Jared Cowen and feisty forward Zack Smith, who impressed during a brief stint with the big-league team and is now playing with Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
Murray is “a good communicator, he’s a people person, he works hard, he has a good network and he’s not afraid to negotiate,” said Senators president Cyril Leeder, who announced the extension Friday.
Leeder says the time was right to make the extension, allowing Murray to concentrate on the trade deadline, the playoffs and the 2010 entry draft, while not wondering about his own future. When Murray was appointed general manager in 2007, it was a three-year deal, with a one-year option to continue.
While Murray admits there were “a lot of thoughts that went through my mind” during the tumultuous 2008-09 season, he’s ecstatic with the Senators’ current position.
“Obviously, I feel the team has made the strides to where I feel we are once again a very competitive hockey team,” he said. “I believe we have a chance to challenge the better teams in this league going down the stretch and into the playoffs. I think it’s the right thing for me at this point in time to go one year at a time, to enjoy the moment and certainly the growth of the organization. The challenges ahead are many, but we certainly have to enjoy where we are.”
As if on cue, only minutes after Murray’s extension was announced, the Senators announced they had acquired forward Matt Cullen from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade for defenceman Alexandre Picard and the Senators’ second-round selection at the June entry draft. In a second news conference, Murray also said he’s in the market for an additional defenceman before the March 3 trade deadline.
To complete his day, Murray placed disappointing winger Jonathan Cheechoo on waivers.
© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.