OTTAWA – Matt Murray says he thinks he’s a really good fit with an up-and-coming Ottawa Senators team.
The Thunder Bay goaltender, who helped lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017 and spent four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League locally with the Soo Greyhounds, on Wednesday was traded to Ottawa for a second-round pick in this year’s just completed NHL entry draft and prospect Jonathan Gruden.
The deal came on the heels of a disappointing fifth season with the Penguins, one which saw the team bounced in the play-in round by the 12th-seeded Montreal Canadiens and his number fall, posting a 2.87 goals against average and a career low .899 save percentage.
Ottawa is a chance to wipe the slate clean, said the 26-year-old Murray, in a conference call with media on Thursday morning.
He’s excited at the possibilities in the nation’s capital, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons and has suffered through plenty of turmoil on and off the ice in recent years.
“I see a team that's heading in the right direction and heading there quickly. I paid a bit of attention to what happened in the draft and this is a young team stacked with talent and heading absolutely in the right direction and a team anybody would be excited to be a part of and a team that has a really bright future," Murray said.
"I see a really good fit there for me being a bit of an older guy I guess and I feel like I have a lot to bring to a team like that and everybody should be really excited about the future of this team."
Murray joins a young Senators squad, with plenty of players set to enter their prime, including winger Brady Tkachuk, former first-rounder Colin White and offensively-gifted defenceman Thomas Chabot.
The team posted a 25-34-12 record in 2019, good for seventh in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, but is only three years removed from a trip to the 2017 Eastern Conference final, in which Murray and the Pens dispatched of them in five games.
Murray will enter camp as the team’s clear No. 1 player between the pipes. Thirty-nine-year-old Craig Anderson was not offered a new contract, leaving journeyman Anders Nilsson and Marcus Hogberg as the lone holdovers.
He said he wants the team in front of him, particularly the defensive corps, to know he’s got their back.
"As a goalie I think it's important to keep the same approach and try to be a rock back there and try to always keep your demeanor in the right place. I think when guys look back at their goalie they should feel comfortable and confident. That's the kind of demeanor that I try to bring no matter what the scenario is," he said.
Leaving is never easy, but after a roller-coaster ride in Pittsburgh the past couple of seasons, Murray said he’s looking forward to writing next chapter in his hockey story -- though he did say he wasn’t sure he’d be moved until it actually happened.
"(It’s) mixed emotions for sure. It’s my first time being traded. It’s something new for me. I had a lot of good years in Pittsburgh. I’ll always miss it there,” Murray said.
"I had great years in Pittsburgh. I’m nothing but thankful for my time there. We had a lot of ups and downs and I personally had a lot of ups and downs. I learned a lot of lessons from it. I think those lessons are going to serve me well in the future."
Murray was also asked about his relationship with former Senators goaltender Alex Auld, who once called Thunder Bay home.
He recalled the time Auld bought either a chest protector or a new set of gloves for every goaltender in the Thunder Bay Kings system.
“I was in shock at the generosity of it. He’s been a idol of mine to this day because of it and a guy that everyone from Thunder Bay is proud to say that he comes from Thunder Bay,” said Murray, who added he and his partner are expecting a girl early next year.