The Toronto Maple Leafs added to their goaltending group by acquiring Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators via trade. Along with Murray, the Leafs received a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 seventh-round pick. The Senators also retained 25 percent of the netminder's salary and received nothing in return (future considerations).
Let's take a look at how the Matt Murray trade breaks down for each team.
For Ottawa, the priority was obviously moving on from Murray and clearing cap space.
Murray had a disastrous run with the Senators since being acquired by the team two years ago. Injuries were an issue and even when he was playing, he struggled significantly. In just 47 total games with Ottawa, Murray managed only 15 wins and a .899 save percentage. It's not what the team had in mind when they gave up a second-round pick and a prospect for him in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Obviously, he hasn't played anywhere near well enough to justify his $6.25 million cap hit. He was placed on waivers and even played games in the AHL this past season. The Senators have other options in net to turn to, meaning moving Murray became a priority. Anton Forsberg had a great year with Ottawa, which earned him a three-year extension, and the Senators also had Filip Gustavsson, who's since been flipped for an upgrade in Cam Talbot.
That said, the Senators had to retain quite a bit of salary and gave up a decent pick to make the deal happen. They'll take on $1.56 million against the cap for two more years and lose a third-round pick.
If the Senators were a team in major need of cap space, giving up picks would be fine. Ottawa was under no obligation to play Murray and if they didn't need the cap space, they could've just waived him and buried the contract. The team could've saved $1.13 million after the contract was buried and given the team is saving about $4.7 million after the retained salary, it's a difference of about $3.5 million. With nearly $12 million in cap space now, Ottawa may not have necessarily needed to make the move.
It does provide the Senators with flexibility though, as they are likely still looking to add a defenseman. They had to work around Matt Murray's 10-team no-trade list too, which also complicated things. The Senators were reportedly trying to use the seventh-overall pick in a swap to the Buffalo Sabres to move the contract but the deal was blocked by Murray, and this trade with Toronto looks a lot better.
Ottawa didn't give up a ton in the trade and overall, it's a fine move to unload the contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs
This move is quite the gamble for Toronto.
The Maple Leafs desperately need to take the next step and will now need to rely on Murray. His .899 save percentage over the last three seasons won't inspire confidence, though.
That said, let's look at the positives first. Murray has obviously had major success in the past and about four years ago, was looked at as a top goalie. He's a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins and is still just 28 years old.
In terms of the trade itself, Ottawa retained a lot of salary. A $4.69 million cap hit is certainly a lot better than the full $6.25 million. Then the Leafs also got back a third-round pick, along with a seventh-rounder as well.
There are teams this deal would make a lot of sense for – but the Leafs aren't one of them. If Toronto wasn't a team looking to contend right now, it's a decent move. Murray has some upside and getting assets to take him, with the chance of him possibly bouncing back, is perfect for a team in a transition period. Obviously, that isn't the case for the Leafs though, who are now under more pressure than ever to perform.
If they had a solid starter at a low enough cap hit to be able to afford Murray as a 1B, it would make some sense. However, Murray's tandem partner will be Ilya Samsonov, who wasn't even qualified by the Washington Capitals. Samsonov posted an even worse .896 save percentage last season.
The point is that the Maple Leafs need to figure out a way to win and they've used precious cap space to make a major gamble. Murray could certainly bounce back, at least to an extent. He's been a great goalie before and there's the possibility of him returning to form. That said, this really isn't the year to take that gamble and it's a move that could have disastrous consequences. If Murray doesn't bounce back, Toronto is in a terrible spot goaltending-wise and will still have his deal on the books for another year, further complicating their cap situation.
Acquiring Matt Murray is a Hail Mary but general manager Kyle Dubas clearly believes in him. With his job potentially on the line though, betting on Murray is a bold move.