Murray Staying in Ottawa

Bryan Murray Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray

While the Winnipeg Jets were overhauling their staff, the Ottawa Senators were sticking with theirs.  On Monday, the Senators announced that they have extended General Manager Bryan Murray’s contract for another two years.  He was also named Director of Hockey Operations making him the chief decision maker in Ottawa, so to speak.

It’s no coincidence that the news comes in the the wake of losing Assistant GM Tim Murray who was named GM of the Buffalo Sabres last Thursday.  Tim, who is Bryan’s nephew, worked under his uncle for seven years before earning the head job in Buffalo.   He is replaced by Pierre Dorion and Randy Lee.  Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk, however, stated that he wanted to negotiate a contract extension for the 71 year-old Murray while the team was playing well, which they are, in order to “ensure that nobody ever would think that this was some kind of knee-jerk reaction to what was not an optimal beginning to the season.”

Murray by contrast, is unfazed by the team’s early struggles and expressed his lofty Cup aspirations for the next two years: “I think obviously the objective is to do it when I’m here as a general manager,” Murray said. “The core we have is a very good core, it’s young.”

He also stated that his priority right now is putting the right pieces in place to ensure the Senators’ second playoff appearance in as many years. On his agenda, as the Olympic break and/or trade deadline approach, is a possible trade for an experienced power forward or natural scorer and re-signing core players who will become unrestricted free agents at season’s end: “We have got about five players that are important parts of the present team that we have to make a decision on and then do contracts for,” said Murray.  Those players include Milan Michalek and defenseman Chris Phillips both unrestricted free agents and season’s end and captain Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan who will be free agents at the end of next season.

It’s a good thing Murray isn’t afraid of tough choices, since the Senators have their work cut out for them if they expect to make the playoffs this season.  They have yet see the inside of the playoff picture and have struggled with consistency and leadership since the departure of long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson.   That said, the team is coming together at just the right time  with six wins in seven games, including a 3-0 blanking of the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday night; perhaps a sign that the team is also on board with Murray’s game plan.

The team and Melnyk are right to be confident in Murray who has built a team with a strong core of young talented players but who isn’t afraid of triggering a trade should he need one.  We saw that first hand when he surprised the league with the biggest trade of last season that brought star forward Bobby Ryan to Ottawa.  However, it’s tougher to predict whether or not this year’s team, given their struggles, will be able to improve on last year’s second round playoff appearance, let alone win a Cup in two years.

The clock is ticking.  Sens fans should have an exciting road  ahead.

See our selection of tickets to Thursday’s Canadiens vs. Senators game at the Canadian Tire Center.