|Senators general manager Bryan Murray believes strongly in the team that's currently on the ice, and in the prospects who also give the organization the potential for an extremely bright future (Getty Images).
Bryan Murray believes he's playing from a position of strength.
The Ottawa Senators general manager believes he's directing a team that has proven it can compete with the best in the National Hockey League. And he's also got a fertile crop of prospects that will soon begin to make their mark in the nation's capital, giving the organization plenty of reason to believe the future is nothing but bright.
In other words, there is no urgency for Murray to make a blockbuster move — or a deal of any kind, for that matter — with the NHL's trade deadline just six days away. That's a drastic turnaround from a year ago, when he unloaded half a dozen veterans before the deadline, which signalled the turning of the page toward a more youthful future.
That plan still remains very much in effect, said Murray, even with the surprising Senators currently sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference and very much in the playoff picture. It's a spot virtually nobody outside the organization thought possible at the season's outset.
"We have a plan that we’ve put in place and we’re going to try to follow it as best we can," Murray told reporters earlier today. "But we’d (also) like to win in the playoffs. We’d like to be in the playoffs and we’d like to win. So if something came along that makes us change our mind on a particular person or a player that’s elseswhere now, we’d do that.
"We're in the race. There's no guarantee about what (will) happen with 21 games to go, but I like the way we're playing ... it makes us feel real good about the group we have right now."
While he'd like to add some depth, if possible, before Monday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, Murray has insisted it won't come at the cost of one of the Ottawa's prized prospects or a first-round draft pick. However, the Senators' current win streak — they've earned nine of a possible 10 points in their last five games — has given rise to thoughts of playoff success that can't be entirely ignored.
"If we continue to play the way we are (now), we’re comparable to many, many of the good teams in this league," said Murray. "Are we the best team? Obviously, the standings say we’re not at this point. But we’re a competitive hockey team every night when we work hard and we’re competitive because our back end produces a lot of points for us (an NHL-leading 150, led by Erik Karlsson
's 57, tops among league blueliners by a wide margin).
"This is the way the game is today, I believe. If your forwards get shut down pretty well late in important games, if you have the back end that can produce plays and points, you have a chance. So based on that, we have a chance."
Captain Daniel Alfredsson
, for one, says the current group in the Senators locker room wants that opportunity to prove what it can do in the crucible of the post-season.
"The way Bryan is going to approach it is if he feels there's a chance to improve our depth, he will," said Alfredsson. "But we've shown we've got good chemistry in this room and that's something to respect as well. We definitely like what we have here and we'd like to continue with this group. But any GM, if they feel they can do something to make the team better ... they're going to look at it and probably make that call."
Murray, too, is very cognizant of the current chemistry in the Senators dressing room.
“I think chemistry is very important,” he said. “I think the ownership that some of our veteran players have taken has a big part to do with what’s happened. So I do think that guys liking and feeling good about each other is all very important. But I also think that if you make the right addition, the players buy into that very quickly. And I think the message to the players is 'we’re trying to help you,' not anything other than that.”
That being said, it is indeed possible the most significant trade of the Senators' season may already have been made — the Dec. 17 deal that brought centre Kyle Turris
to Ottawa and sent defence prospect David Rundblad and a draft pick to the Phoenix Coyotes. Turris has been an impact player almost since the day he joined the Senators and, at 22, his best days would appear to be ahead of him.
"That's the kind of trade I'd like to make (this week)," said Murray. "If we can get a younger player coming in that can help us now but has a good future, that’s the type of thing I’d much prefer to do over trading a young player for a veteran guy who is unrestricted and you’d really have a hard time re-signing and keeping here.
"Kyle has come in here and done a real good job for us (with 15 points in 28 games). I really lilke the way him and Alfie have worked together. He’s a long-term guy for us at this point."