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Murray likes where his team is at without Heatley

Friday, 11.20.2009 / 1:00 AM / Quarterly Report

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"It was very public and it was a long summer, but we have passed it now. We know the player has moved on and we have brought in adequate people. We got a second-round pick that we hope we can capitalize on in the future. We have what we have now and we think we have a competitive hockey team. We have more depth and a better use of money going forward." -- Bryan Murray

Bryan Murray's world only appeared to be crumbling around him over the summer as the very public fiasco surrounding Dany Heatley's trade request was unfolding.

In actuality, as the Senators' GM can safely and somewhat proudly say now, things didn't turn out so bad in the end.

The Senators finally traded Heatley to San Jose for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a 2010 second-round pick. Heatley is flourishing in the Silicon Valley, but the Senators, who will play their 20th game Saturday, are at least surviving without him.

In fact, they are better off now (10-6-3) then they were exactly 365 days ago (6-9-4). Murray even believes they have given away as much as six points in games they just couldn't close the deal on, a reason why they are a playoff bubble team now.

"It was very public and it was a long summer, but we have passed it now," Murray told NHL.com of the Heatley issue. "We know the player has moved on and we have brought in adequate people. We got a second-round pick that we hope we can capitalize on in the future. We have what we have now and we think we have a competitive hockey team. We have more depth and a better use of money going forward."

Murray may be looking to spend some of that money this season on a top-six forward. Like most GMs, he identifies scoring as an area of need if his team is going to be a legit contender coming out of the Olympic break.

"I'd like to get a little more out of our second line," Murray said. "When Alfredsson plays with Fisher and Kovalev it's a good line, and when he plays with Spezza it's a really good line. We probably need one more guy to fit into that role, but top-six forwards are very hard to get."

The Senators were hoping they would get Heatley-like production out of Kovalev when they signed him this summer. Now they would settle for the type of production Kovalev gave the Montreal Canadiens last season (26 goals, 35 assists in 78 games).

Kovalev, though, has just 4 goals and 10 points, prompting Murray to say rather dryly, "He has been OK." Murray, though, chalks some of Kovalev's scoring problems up to the fact that he doesn't have a true finisher to play with.

Fisher is benefitting now with a team-high 9 goals, but he's never had the reputation as a big-time scorer. His career-high is 23, though he's on pace to shatter that. Nick Foligno recently has played with Fisher and Kovalev, but he's also not a 30-goal threat right now.

"(Kovalev) has scored a couple of big goals for us, but he has made probably five or six sure passes that should have been tapped in but weren't," Murray said. "I think that's where we have to get a little better fit. He probably could have five or six more points, easily."

Although the goals-against would suggest otherwise (2.84 this season vs. 2.82 last season), Murray believes the Senators have been more stable on the back end this season because of increased mobility and the goaltending tandem of Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott.

Leclaire was a deadline acquisition from Columbus last season, but he was injured and didn't make his debut until this season. Elliott is a 24-year-old backup that Murray might peddle in a trade for a top-six winger down the road.

"Our goaltending, we're up and down a little bit in some games," Murray said, "but Leclaire is a real good goaltender in the National Hockey League and I believe Brian Elliott is a real promising player who in the very near future will get a chance to be with us or someone else as a No. 1 guy."

There might be some stability on the bench, too. Since taking over the team Feb. 2, Cory Clouston has guided the Senators to a 28-17-7 record. He signed a two-year contract April 8 and Murray doesn't have to contemplate a change midseason.

He made coaching changes in each of the last two winters.

"I think the players believe in what he does," Murray said of Clouston. "They like the guy as far as the way he directs the game and does things in practice. He had a great turnaround for us last year and I think it has continued."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp