Analysis

Senators' Bryan Murray loves to pull the trade deadline trigger

If history tells us anything, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray will make at least one trade before the March 5 deadline, but should he stand pat this season?

Shawville, Que., native has made 2 trades in each of 6 seasons as Sens GM at trade deadline

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray took over as the team's GM in 2007 and made two trades before each of his six trade deadlines. (Mark Blinch/REUTERS)

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray should be a journalist, or maybe a stock broker. The man loves deadlines and he loves trading.

The CBC's Jamie Long writes a sports column each Friday for CBC.ca. He also brings you a weekly sports segment on CBC TV News at 6 in Ottawa each Saturday.

If history tells us anything, Murray’s index finger is itching to pull the trigger before 3 p.m. ET on March 5.

In the six seasons since he became the Senators’ general manager, Murray has made at least two trades in the month leading up to each trade deadline (See his trade deadline history at the bottom of the story).

Unlike other years, Murray isn’t working with a surplus of valued assets. He already lost his first-round pick in the Bobby Ryan trade and there's no extra piece like Ben Bishop in Murray’s back pocket.

He does have a long list of young forwards who could become important players down the road, as well as young defencemen on the NHL roster who have yet to reach their potential, plus a couple of pending unrestricted free agents. But as far as we know, other GMs aren't knocking down Murray's door asking about those players.

Throughout the NHL, general managers are waiting until the last minute to decide whether they buy or sell at the trade deadline. Murray is no different.

But fresh off his new contract extension that should see him in Ottawa for a few more seasons, and while facing a tight budget, it would be wise to stand pat unless a desperate team offers Murray a sweet deal.

Murray's assets will more likely appreciate during this season and next. As a result, the trades he could make in the offseason, or next season, should bring him more return than any trade now.

Veteran leadership struggles affect deadline plan

Murray began this season knowing the team needed to gel. It's taken a while, but there have been improvements.

Still, the new leadership has struggled, the team has been inconsistent and the lineup continues to be a work in progress.

Spezza is no longer the team's top centre. Chris Phillips is no longer among the Senators’ top four defencemen. Craig Anderson has struggled, though so has backup Robin Lehner for that matter.

Chris Neil, left, and Chris Phillips, right, were named alternate captains to Jason Spezza in September 2013. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
Young defencemen also haven't played up to expectations. It’ll take a strong finish and some long-awaited consistency just to sneak into the playoffs.

Murray has said he wants a forward who could be in Ottawa over the long term. Will that player make the difference between making and missing the playoffs? Maybe, but he won't turn this team into a Stanley Cup contender.

It's unlikely Murray will find the player he wants without selling off too many assets, so Murray should just ease off that trigger, and walk away.

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Bryan Murray's trade deadline history

InOut

2013

Cory Conacher, Matt Kassian, 4th Round PickBen Bishop, 6th Round pick
2012Matt Gilroy, Ben BishopBrian Lee, 2nd Round Pick
2011Craig Anderson, Ryan Potulny, 1st Round Pick, two 2nd Round Picks, 6th Round pick, 7th Round pickChris Campoli, Alexei Kovalev, Chris Kelly, Brian Elliott, Jarkko Ruutu, Mike Fisher
2010Andy Sutton, Matt CullenAlexandre Picard, two 2nd Round Picks
2009Pascal Leclaire, 2nd Round Pick, Mike Comrie, Chris CampoliAntoine Vermette, Dean McAmmond, 1st Round Pick
2008Mike Commodore, Cory Stillman, Martin LapointeJoe Corvo, Patrick Eaves, 6th Round Pick

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