SUNRISE, Fla. -- On a day filled with significant trades at the 2015 NHL Draft, it would be easy to overlook a minor one made by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
But the decision to trade defenseman Eric Gryba to the Edmonton Oilers for a fourth-round pick and prospect Travis Ewanyk was important for Senators general manager Bryan Murray.
It wasn’t so much the defenseman he let go, but rather the one who stayed behind.
By trading Gryba, Murray said he was creating space in the lineup for defenseman Jared Cowen to play a bigger role next season.
Cowen has been a target for criticism in Ottawa because of his inconsistent play, but Murray selected him with the No. 9 pick at the 2009 draft and remains hopeful Cowen will live up to the promise he saw in him back then.
“I believe he will be a real good defenseman in the League,” Murray said. “I think opening the door for him to get that spot was a big part of [the Gryba trade].”
Many of Ottawa’s younger players began to thrive when Dave Cameron took over from Paul MacLean as coach, including defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, who was shown more confidence and given important minutes to play. That didn’t happen for Cowen, and Murray has made it so Cameron doesn’t have much of a choice but to give him those minutes now.
“Dave’s going to let him, or he’s going to have to let him now get on the ice and be more of a role guy on the team,” Murray said. “But the coaches only do so much for you. You have to accept the role that they give you. He has to come back to camp this year understanding that 'I am what I am,' and that’s a big, strong guy that can play defense. He’ll benefit from it and we’ll definitely benefit from it.”
Murray said Cowen needs to realize his limitations and not think of himself as an offensive presence on the ice.
“I think Jared wants to be more than he is,” Murray said. “I think he thinks he can be an offensive player, when really he can bring a little bit of offense, but we want him to be the big, strong, defensive player that uses his stick, uses his body and helps us win just based on doing that.”