Senators GM Bryan Murray met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to give his update on today's trade which sent Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars, as well as the team's status in the free agent market.
Here's what he had to say...
On the trade with Dallas:
Well I've said all along you don't get equal value for a player who's a skilled point-getter. With the request being made three or four times to us and, in spite of what anyone else says, we didn't encourage any movement, we were asked if it would happen. I didn't want to go through another summer of issues every day. Articles on what we were going to do, what we were going to get. At the draft we had three legitimate offers that disappeared as the weekend went on. I had one yesterday from one team that ended up signing a big player today. That offer disappeared. Dallas was the one option that I had. I thought Jim Nill was very straightforward in what he suggested he could offer me. Chiasson is a young, big, strong guy that has big potential we think. Our scouts as a whole group like him a lot. We got two young prospects that are, without a doubt, NHL calibre candidates — it's a time thing. We got another second round pick in the 2015 draft that's supposed to be a good draft. Does that help us today? Of course not. With Jason Spezza leaving we have to fill a void now, we know that. The other thing that happens is there's a $3 million difference in money paid out. That allows me to try to make another deal, which I'm in the process of trying to do now to get another NHL-ready player that if it happens we'll be very satisfied with the overall package.
On when the second deal will get done:
I don't think so, I just talked to the team and it looks like they're stalling to pick one of our prospects that I've included in the package.
On if they're done for July 1:
It appears — the fact we signed Milan Michalek which we wanted to do, we had brought in another potential unrestricted free agent but he disappeared at much more money than we ever envisioned we'd have to pay for him so that was okay.
On Chiasson's potential:
He's a real competitive guy to start off. A good sized body, a big kid that can come off the wing. He goes to the net, he can be a net-front presence on things like the power play and net drives. He looks like he has an ability to score points and goals and he's a hard-working kid. I know last year he kind of dropped off in the middle, he had an illness that didn't allow him to have the year that he thought and Dallas thought he could have. At the end of the day after looking at the whole package that he brings we just think he's a guy that can fit in here and be part of a team we're now going to have to try to build. More determined, harder working, more than one or two individuals who get points here, we're going to have to work for our points, there's no doubt about that. We think he fits there.
On if there's an organizational identity shift:
We've always wanted to shift to the hard-working competitive team we had two years ago and last year for some reason we got off the track. We're going to try to get back on track.
On the prospects in the deal:
Nicholas Paul played in North Bay, he's 6-foot-3. The observations we had are hockey sense, good skill, first line centre that led the team to the OHL Final this year — they lost, but he was there. Alex Guptill played at Michigan, he's 6-foot-3 with size, speed and a big shot. Those are the evaluations I got from our scouting staff and obviously I take their word for a lot of the information in the things I do. It's like I said to Mr. Melnyk earlier today, I remember when I traded Vermette. It was a tough day, we got back Pascale (Leclaire) and he didn't play a lot of games for us but our second round pick was Robin Lehner who's going to be a starting goaltender in the NHL for, we think, a really long time. It is a waiting game and nobody wants to wait. You can see that by the free agents that were signed today and the money. We all want to win today but sometimes you have to plan to make sure your organization is in great shape going forward as well.
On the team's ability to ice a competitive roster:
Well I'm not going to give you a number but I heard the panel discussion, everybody has an opinion on everything. We've got other teams that have spent to the limit buying out guys and sending guys home after three years of a seven year contract. There's all kinds of issues with how you do it. If you do it right you don't always have to be up against the cap. It's nice to be able to splurge once and a while on a player I suppose but I think, and I've said this all along, whatever the cap or the budget is, whether it be Ottawa or another team, you have to manage the type of player you bring in and what your expectations are of those people. For example, if we're a contending team in the East at all during the year we have the extra second and we enough money in our budget to find a good player or trade for a good player later in the season. That's one type of strategy you can employ. I'm not saying it's the right one, I don't care what other teams spend, I know my job is to manage what I have and we try very hard to do that. Sometimes it doesn't suit some players and they have to move on and that's life in the NHL today.
On if he's concerned with the centre depth:
We could sure use one more NHL centreman. We have a couple of young guys that we think are going to be players in the League. We think Zibanejad, Turris and Smith are very definitely legitimate, good NHL players. We can peg them in certain spots. At the end of the day we'll keep looking if we have to do that. As I said at the beginning, we can't replace what we gave up today. We have to find a way to get a little different type of player but a proven player that can play games.
On remaining free agents:
We have not talked further about free agents at this point. There are a couple of guys though. Maybe we come to tomorrow or the next day that we'll look at if we have to but for the moment we're more inclined to trade than do anything.
On the team's reputation:
I hear the comments that we don't spend. I, just so you know, offered Jason an extension and they said they weren't interested. Whether it's because he didn't think we had enough around him or what. There are different stories around them in each case. The problem is I tell my version and then they go to somebody else who will tell a different version of it and that's the one that is believed. That has been frustrating to me. I tell it the way it is, I don't usually fib anybody. Somebody makes a comment that we tried to trade Jason or asked Jason to take a trade, that never came up. Daniel Alfredsson, they said I was too slow doing it, I made an offer to Daniel Alfredsson well, well before anything happened with Detroit and they told me they'd come back to me but I've told this story before. The other version seems to be more real and more exciting and more reported more often.
On if there are problems of how the team is perceived:
I've never had one player that I've called and asked if they want to come to Ottawa say, "No I'm worried about the money on your team." Perception is what you make it to be and what you believe to be true. I think players know they come here, they're treated well. Milan Michalek is an example. He had a deal with much more money and two years longer than he took in Ottawa. I called him today, we talked, he loves it here, he thinks we have a really competitive team. I told him Spezz was moving on and he said, "That's fine, there's another centre I can play with for sure," and he signed the contract. He took a deal that was, as I said, a hometown discount. I guess in the eyes of some players this is not the place to be, in the eyes of a lot of players it is the place to be. Players find out about Ottawa and how we operate and usually respect it a great deal.
On if today's deals effect contracts that haven't been signed:
I don't think so, we've prepared offers, we've gone through a few people already. I don't think it's a day where other agents are able to say, "Yeah we'll do that deal." They're not interested in that, they're trying to get money for their clients that are up this year. That will be looked after. I'm not saying we'll get everybody done, that usually doesn't happen, somebody usually wants to go to free agency. Jason wouldn't sign so we either made the deal today, at the trade deadline or we got nothing for him so we went ahead and made the deal that would benefit us long term. The same thing will happen if we talk to players that don't want to be in Ottawa, don't think the offer is fair enough or don't think we're building a strong enough team. Then we'll have to make that decision.
On if they're still rebuilding:
We're past that, we're going to have a good hockey team here. We're going to compete, we lose a little bit a centre ice, we gain a little bit on the wing. We've got a couple of young guys coming that are going to be a different brand of player in Borowiecki, Lazar, guys like that who bring a real character to the team. I think our team is going to be a really competitive, hard-working group of people and I think the leadership — I've talked to Erik Karlsson the last day or two and all that type of thing — I think we're going to be well off going forward.
On if Karlsson is the next captain:
I don't know that, I haven't talked to Erik about that at all. I talked to him about totally different things.
On the status of the four roster spots he alluded to at the draft:
The option is to go to one of the young people in all likelihood at this point. If something else came along and we could use a pick to do that or if I was wise enough to go out and get another centreman, another NHL guy, that would help us too. We'll continue to pursue it but I'm trying to do this one thing first and then we'll see what happens afterwards. We felt going in that one of our kids had to be really NHL ready to play or we had to acquire somebody different in that spot.
On losing captains in consecutive offseasons:
Obviously we put the C on the wrong people here. No, I don't know. It's disappointing when you lose good people and it's perceived as something that's negative to the team and the town. I think Alfie, and maybe it was totally that, he wanted to try another team. Maybe for Jason it's totally that. All he said to me today when I talked to him was, "After 11 years Bryan I think it's good for the team and it's good for me to try something different." As I said, I didn't want to fight it this time. We held on to Dany Heatley because we didn't like the terms of the return. This time I felt let's not go through a whole summer not doing things right. We did it, we accommodated Jason's request and we got some return for it.
On Spezza as a captain:
That's not my judgement to make. I think our team didn't do very well. It's a whole group of things that happened and being a one year captain it's very difficult to judge.
On Lazar as a centre vs. a wing:
Training camp will determine that. He played centre in junior but we thought in the beginning it would probably be easier for him to play right wing. Now that we've acquired Alex it might be another situation that he might have to play centre, which is not a bad thing and he probably prefers it, but that was our initial thinking.
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