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Penguins Blog: One No-Risk, High-Reward Crazy Free Agent Idea



Toronto Matt Murray, NHL trade talk, and Pittsburgh Penguins PTOs

It seems appropriate to write this as Pittsburgh Hockey Now covers the Memorial Cup in Saginaw, Michigan, just a few hours south of the Sault Ste. Marie. This might be initially a cringe-inducing idea for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but one that has real merit. First, take a breath.

Here goes. The Penguins should be the team to take a chance on goalie Matt Murray and attempt to resurrect his career.

No, really.

Murray, 30, had hip surgery last November and missed the remainder of the NHL regular season. He mounted a short comeback at the end of the season by playing a few games with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL but did not play in the playoffs for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, and his phone might collect a good bit of dust. In the last few years, Murray’s star has fallen fast and far from the heights of being a Penguins goalie who backstopped two Stanley Cup championships before his rookie status expired.

After the Penguins traded him for salary cap space, Jonathan Gruden, and some draft capital, he washed out in two years with Ottawa. Then he did little to distinguish himself in 26 games with the Maple Leafs this season, posting an “excuse me” .903 save percentage before the surgery.

The goalie-starved Toronto fans weren’t pleased. Nor did it seem like the new Toronto regime led by GM Bred Treliving was enamored with the situation.

Matt Murray History

It was a lifetime ago that Murray rocketed through Sault St. Marie (The Soo) and was the Penguins’ third-round pick in 2012. Murray was projected as the backup to Tristan Jarry, drafted in the second round just a year later, but after Murray turned pro, he rapidly asserted himself in the process. He quickly jumped ahead of Jarry in the AHL and then Marc-Andre Fleury in the NHL.

Murray made his NHL debut in the 2015-16 season. Due to injuries to Fluery and Murray’s play, coach Mike Sullivan essentially created a tandem that carried the Penguins to a Stanley Cup victory.

Fast forward to 2020, Murray was no longer the same goalie and was soft against the Montreal Canadiens in the Qualifying Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup bubble tournament in Toronto. Former GM Jim Rutherford traded his rights to Ottawa following the season.

Now, Murray will be a free agent on July 1. He will need help this summer and next season, rehab, probably some patience, and his game could use a bit of work.

Or a lot of work.

And where better to get that work than the organization that shepherded him from the Soo to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and quickly to Pittsburgh? Penguins goalie coach Andy Chiodo has drawn rave reviews from several of the goalies who have passed through Pittsburgh over the last few years. The list of happy goalies includes Alex Nedeljkovic, who credited Chiodo with helping him get his mental game in the right space and with a few technical adjustments, too.

Louis “Spicy Broccoli” Domingue had similar praise before leaving via free agency in 2022. Domingue recounted the initial phone call he received from Chiodo that so excited him, it was the moment he felt renewed interest in his flagging career.

The tattoo on Murray’s arm is a quote from the famous Teddy Roosevelt “Man in the Arena” speech, which discounts critics and praises the “dooers”  whose faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood. The ink showed up during a particularly difficult stretch in Pittsburgh when his play was under heavy criticism from Penguins fans and perhaps some internally, as well.

The Penguins currently have only two goalies in their system, Jarry and top prospect Joel Blomqvist, and only Jarry has NHL experience. That means the Penguins organization has space for either two goalies in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or one in the NHL and one in WBS.

No, the Penguins could not afford to blindly make Murray a well-paid backup. He hasn’t earned that.

A two-way, bargain bin deal makes sense for the Penguins, and it might make sense for Murray, too. Go back to the beginning. Rebuild. Be surrounded by people with an exclusive interest in his best interests. Not only is Murray connected to every level of the Penguins organization and many of the people, but he’s also connected to Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas, who was the wunderkind GM of the Soo Greyhounds during Murray’s tenure.

If it does work, the Penguins have a goalie who did his best work late in the season playing beside a goalie who decidedly hasn’t played his best in March or April.

Hey, if it doesn’t work, the Penguins will have lost nothing but an AHL roster spot. And that’s why in about a month, it would make great sense to bring Murray home.