Matt Murray said he is happy to be joining the Ottawa Senators and optimistic he’ll soon sign a long-term contract with them.
The goalie, acquired by the Senators in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, can become a restricted free agent Friday, Oct. 9, and is eligible for salary arbitration. He said he is looking forward to establishing himself in a new city with a young team.
“I’m sure my agent and the team are having talks so yeah, I’m super excited about it,” Murray said Thursday from his home near Huntsville, Ontario, about 200 miles west of Ottawa. “I see a ton of potential on this team and I see a really good fit for myself and my family.
“So for sure, I’d like to be here for years to come.”
The Senators extended a qualifying offer Wednesday to Murray that kept the 26-year-old from becoming an unrestricted free agent. He’s coming off a three-year, $11.25 million contract (average annual value of $3.75 million) he signed with the Penguins on Oct. 20, 2016.
Murray can become an unrestricted free agent after next season but said he doesn’t want to get to that point.
“I hope we can get something done so I can be here for years to come,” Murray said. “It’s a place I’m pretty familiar with. I live a few [hours’] drive away now. I played in the Ontario Hockey League, so I played in Ottawa [a lot] growing up. I’m from Thunder Bay, so I’m an Ontario kid. And, yeah, it presents a really good opportunity for me and my family.
“I see a really good fit there, so I’m very excited.”
Murray won the Stanley Cup twice (2016, 2017) with the Penguins but split No. 1 duties with Tristan Jarry this season. Murray was 20-11-5 with a 2.87 goals-against average, an .899 save percentage and one shutout in 38 games with Pittsburgh this season. He was 1-2 with a 2.50 GAA and .914 save percentage in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, when the No. 5 seed Penguins lost in four games to the No. 12 seed Montreal Canadiens.
Jarry, who was 20-12-1 with a 2.43 GAA and .921 save percentage, signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract (average annual value of $3.5 million) with the Penguins on Oct. 3.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion told NHL Network on Wednesday that Murray “without a doubt” will be Ottawa’s No. 1 goalie next season.
Partly because of the Jarry contract, Murray said he was not surprised by the trade that sent him to the Senators for forward prospect Jonathan Gruden and a second-round pick (No. 52) in the 2020 NHL Draft, which the Penguins used to select goalie Joel Blomqvist from Karpat in Finland’s junior league Wednesday. He said he views it as a clean slate and a new chapter in his career.
“I see a team that’s headed in the right direction and headed there pretty quickly,” Murray said. “I paid a little bit of attention at the draft a couple of nights ago and yesterday. This is a young team stacked with talent and absolutely headed in the right direction.”
The Senators (25-34-12, .437 points percentage) finished 15th in the Eastern Conference this season and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. They had three first-round picks in the draft, including two in the top five. Ottawa selected forward Tim Stuetzle at No. 3 with a pick acquired from the San Jose Sharks in a trade for defenseman Erik Karlsson on Sept. 13, 2018; defenseman Jake Sanderson at No. 5 with its own first-round selection; and two-way center Ridly Greig at No. 28 with the pick acquired from the New York Islanders in the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade Feb. 24.
Dorion said Stuetzle and Sanderson could be in the NHL next season.
Some Senators players have already reached out to Murray, including forward Brady Tkachuk, the 21-year-old who led Ottawa with 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) this season. The two have worked out together near Toronto in the past.
“Brady shot on me most of the summer last year, so I got to know him pretty well there,” Murray said.
As for the Penguins, he had nothing but positive things to say about the organization and the fond memories from his time with Pittsburgh, which selected him in the third round (No. 83) of the 2012 NHL Draft.
“So many moments stand out there, I can’t just pick one,” he said. “Just those moments in the locker room I would say, especially after those two Cup wins. Obviously a lot of fun times. But it’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing that I remember most. I think there was so many and I’m so fortunate to be part of such a great team and to have so many moments like that.”
Murray plans to make new memories in Ottawa, on and off the ice. He revealed he is due to become a father for the first time in January.
“The next step is hopefully getting a contract done with Ottawa and then start looking at moving and getting a house and all that stuff,” he said. “Now that the trade has happened and everything is starting to fall into place, there is a lot of excitement for sure.”