Matt Murray was at home in Ottawa on Tuesday, fielding calls and text messages from his new hockey club. He and his wife Christina had already begun to search for houses in Toronto via the internet.
He was pleasant and polite in his first media availability since he was traded on Monday from the Senators to the Maple Leafs. Said all the right things; recalled rooting for them as a kid while growing up in Thunder Bay.
“I wanted to let everyone know how excited I am and how intense and exciting the last few days have been,” Murray said before taking questions. “Everything about this team is top-notch.
“It seems like a place where I can thrive.”
The 28-year-old goalie seems to check off some important boxes. He has won two Stanley Cups, so there is that. As a teenager he played four years for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, so he is well acquainted with Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe, also formerly of the Soo.
Beyond that, though, there are an awful lot of questions.
On one hand, the Maple Leafs satisfied a need by acquiring a veteran netminder. That they did it two days before Jack Campbell becomes an unrestricted free agent almost makes it look like a last-minute pre-emptive strike to tamp down the disappointment of not re-signing a 2022 all-star.
Murray comes with a pedigree earned by capturing Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in his first two seasons. But that was a half-dozen years ago; he is more of a reclamation project now.
He spent the last two seasons with the Senators, lost more games than he won and stopped less than 90-per-cent of the shots he faced.
He is three-times concussed, last year lost the starting job to Anton Forsberg, was waived and finished the campaign in the American Hockey League.
Perhaps he will regain the form that once made him one of the game’s elite young goalies but it is a lot to ask.
Without him, though, the Maple Leafs have more holes in the crease than Vladimir Guerrero’s first baseman’s mitt. They recently dealt backup Petr Mrazek to Chicago and beyond that have Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll to rely on. Between them, they have appeared in 19 NHL games combined.
Toronto acquired Murray, a third-round selection in the 2023 NHL draft and a seventh-round selection in the 2024 draft in exchange for future considerations. Ottawa will retain 25 per cent of Murray’s salary – US$6.25-million a year for two years – as part of the deal.
Campbell, meanwhile, is about to line his pockets while playing for some other team – at present the Edmonton Oilers are aggressive in that pursuit.
Campbell, 30, went 31-9-6 last season with a .914 save percentage. He made US$1.65-million in each of the last two seasons and unseated Frederik Andersen as the Maple Leafs’ starter.
It is hard to imagine Toronto will be better without him, especially if its defence remains erratic.
Murray has been good enough at times to displace Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins’ No. 1 goaltender. Pittsburgh was once so confident in him that it even made Fleury available to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.
He will need to recapture some of that magic to boost Toronto’s chances of winning at least one playoff round. That doesn’t seem like too high of a measuring stick until you realize it hasn’t been done here since 2004.
Maybe there is another surprise coming. If not, the grumbling among fans has already started. From the reaction on Monday, you’d think that Dubas just about set the franchise on fire.
That isn’t Murray’s fault in the least. He seems like a good enough guy.
“My time in Ottawa didn’t go the way anyone expected,” he said on Tuesday. “Now I am focused first and foremost on the future.
“I’m extremely motivated and feel I have a lot to prove. Toronto is the place I want to be. I’m excited to get started.”
Murray travelled to Toronto last week and passed his medical examination. He expects to be back soon to work with the coaching staff and train with his new teammates.
“It is a heck of a group,” Murray said. “There are so many great players on this team, and they have had so much success these last few years.”
Yes, during the regular season. Otherwise, no.
“The huge thing those Cup runs taught me is that it is all about the day-to-day process,” Murray said. “It taught me a lot of lessons I can apply here.”