Bryan Murray knew exactly what he was getting when he pulled the trigger on his lone trade deadline deal Tuesday afternoon.
The Ottawa Senators general manager has a definite history with Martin Lapointe, the gritty forward he obtained from the Chicago Blackhawks for a sixth-round pick in the 2008 National Hockey League entry draft.
And Murray figures the forward he drafted back in 1991 when he was GM of the Detroit Red Wings will be a highly effective addition for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
“I said to (Lapointe) ‘maybe we can end our careers together,’ ” Murray told reporters about the 34-year-old Lapointe, a 15-year NHL veteran and two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Red Wings. “Marty’s a terrific man. When he came (to Detroit) as a young player, a saw character galore in him.
“He hasn’t changed – maybe he’s lost a step. But he’s played with determination and grit, he’s a real character guy. I really like the fact that he won (Stanley Cups) and that his presence in the room will help us.”
Murray is counting on Lapointe, who has worn the captain’s ‘C’ in Chicago, to “help the (Senators) leadership group” as the team begins the stretch drive toward the playoffs.
“(Lapointe is) not afraid to step on toes,” said Murray. “I think he brings that dimension. That’s only part of what we need, but we certainly needed that gritty type of guy who will show up at critical times in games.”
The timing of Lapointe’s arrival is especially crucial, given that the Senators learned today that rugged forward Chris Neil
will be out 4-5 weeks with a torn MCL in his right knee. Murray acknowledged Neil’s injury played a role in the deal to acquire Lapointe.
“We were looking for that type of player,” he said. “Chris Neil
is a very important player on this hockey team. He’s strong and tough and a character guy, and Marty Lapointe is very similar in that way.
“Chris is younger and, right now, probably gets to the net a little more often, but they are similar players. Very definitely, if we have both of them in the lineup, it’s going to be a real plus.”
The Senators did make a pitch, Murray said, to bring former Senators sniper Marian Hossa back into the fold. But instead, he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who shipped forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Hossa and forward Pascal Dupuis.
“It just didn’t work out (for us),” said Murray. “That’s what happens in the business.”
But with Lapointe, forward Cory Stillman and defenceman Mike Commodore added into the mix via trades in the past two weeks, Murray likes the group he has on hand to take another run at the Stanley Cup.
“I look at our team, and I think we have a good hockey team,” he said. “We believe that we’ve got a good group here (but) some of our better players have to play considerably better.”
Murray was adamant that he didn’t want to sacrifice some of the younger talent on the team to obtain a player the Senators might not be able to keep beyond this season.
“How do you replace those players?” he said. “I just made a decision that these are young players with long careers ahead of them. If you’re (trading them) for players that you might have for two months here, you’d be wondering what you did in the summertime.
“These are important pieces of our puzzle. They’ve proven they’re good players, they took us deep into the playoffs last year. They should be a touch better this year. We just have to get them to that stage as a group.”