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Bryan Murray Speaks – Ryan’s Status and Impending FA Contracts

As the Senators play out the string on what’s been a thoroughly disappointing season, GM Bryan Murray appeared on TSN 1200 this afternoon to talk to Ian Mendes and discuss his team’s shortcomings and elaborate on the status of negotiations with a number of players who are slated to hit unrestricted free agency this summer (ie. Ales Hemsky) or in 2015 (ie. Clarke MacArthur, Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, Marc Methot and Craig Anderson).

To listen to his interview, you can click here or stream the embedded audio at the bottom of this post.

As always, my thoughts are in bold.

On updating Bobby Ryan’s status…

“Well, everything went well. He’s coming back to Ottawa this afternoon and he’ll be around for a little bit time to start rehab and get the treatment. And then hopefully as the season ends, he will be in full activity as far as being able to work out for the summer.”

This gives Ryan a head start on being able to curb the criticisms of his conditioning and fitness levels that TSN’s Shawn Simpson has been forthright about for the better part of this season.

On how this injury should alter the way that we should be viewing Bobby Ryan’s first season in Ottawa….

“Well, first of all, we were very happy that we acquired Bobby. Through November, he had 25 points for us in 26 games or something like that and he kind of had an injury at that point. He didn’t want to take any time off and pull himself out of a game and he played fine. He didn’t play maybe as consistent as he had early on before he got hurt, but he certainly played well for us. I just felt that watching him play, he wasn’t shooting the puck – which was his real strong point – the way he should be and had been. And then I realized more and more that he was really being affected by the sports hernia or injury and then when he got hurt in Dallas, it was a decision on the part of Bobby and myself and Gerry Townend and the doctors that (shutting him down for the season) was the right thing to do to get him healthy rather than try to play through it and give him a start on his therapy and offseason conditioning.”

Looking at Ryan’s gamelog, his TOI totals certainly take a bit of a dip between the 21-26 game mark, so this 26 game point that Murray mentioned kind of fits here. But I probably wouldn’t exclusively blame his injury for the diminished production because it was going to nosedive a bit anyways. Through the team’s first 19 games, Ryan had nine goals and 19 points. He obviously clicked playing on a line with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur, but Ryan’s numbers weren’t going to be sustainable because of a relatively high PDO of 106.4.

On Bobby Ryan’s impending UFA status in 2015 and his ideal scenario or game plan is for Bobby Ryan moving forward…

“Well, we’d certainly like to keep Bobby here as (well as) a couple of other guys. It’s a little bit early because we’re not allowed really to do any negotiating until July the 1st. But certainly, the conversation with Bob, he seems to really like it here. He feels comfortable with the group. I think he’s going to be happy to talk (extension) with us and we certainly plan to try and keep him. It’s like every other player, you negotiate and some days it goes real well and other days it doesn’t. But in fact, we hope to get something done with Bob so that he will have a fairly long career in Ottawa.”

I’m not sure what else Bryan Murray can say. Re-signing the team’s leading goal scorer and Jason Spezza for that matter are the kind of popular moves that won’t ruffle too many feathers.

However, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that blindly ponying up the kind of money and term it will take to get Spezza and Ryan to sign extensions is wrong.

It’s just that the thought of the Senators allocating what assuredly will be more than 20 percent of its internal budget so that it can lock up Ryan and Spezza scares the shit out of me. 

It’s not that I think the Senators can spread out the money more or use it on different players. I don’t have anyone that springs immediately to mind who could be a better fit. 

Don’t get me wrong, both players are likeable and have talents, but for me, I just think that both players are huge risks. 

At his age and health, I feel pretty confident that Jason Spezza’s best days are behind him and as he ages and skills continue to erode, I’m not entirely convinced that the Senators can win by continuing to count upon the fact that whatever offensive contributions Spezza makes will outweigh his defensive shortcomings. 

In Bobby Ryan, I see an offensive player, who although he’s stylistically different, reminds me a lot of Dany Heatley in the sense that he has difficulty impacting the game when he is not put putting up points. 

It’s fair to accept the argument that Ryan’s goals per 60 rate of 1.01 this season — which is the third lowest of his career – was impacted by sports hernia injury, but in playing Ryan away from their elite playmaking center in Jason Spezza, the Senators have essentially capped Ryan’s offensive ceiling. So how much room for offensive growth is there?

It doesn’t matter much right now because Ryan’s earning a relatively modest $5.5M per season, but if you’re management and you’re ready to throw close to $7M per annum at a player who doesn’t offer much in the way of anything else when the puck isn’t on his stick, is he the right player to allocate a significant amount of dollars toward?

For me, I see him as an asset that you acquire to help put your team over the top when you’re looking for that last piece as a contender. 

Like his role playing on a line with MacArthur and Turris, he’s not the straw that stirs the drink. He’s simply nice piece to have. Yes, he can put up some points, but like the Anaheim Ducks, I just don’t see him as a crucial building block for a franchise.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that. I don’t work for the organization and I didn’t give up a ton of assets to acquire Bobby Ryan. Moreover, the decision to move one or even both players would be difficult to make, especially since either decision probably won’t be too popular. Like it or not, PR plays a large role in how this franchise operates. 

On whether there is any concern or fear that he will roll into next season with a few guys slated to hit UFA….

“Mmmm, everything is possible and anything is possible. We will have conversations. We, first of all, internally will have to have (conversations) or make some decisions, have a lot of conversation on what we want to do with who and then talk accordingly. I would say that it’s unlikely that every one of them will get done. Although, who knows at this point in time? But certainly, we have a year and more to worry about that and negotiate and do what we have to do to keep the players that we want to keep.”

Considering the volatility of the trade market that we witnessed at this year’s NHL trade deadline, I can’t imagine a situation in the Senators begin next season playing without the Ryan and Spezza situations being resolved. There’s simply no way they can allow those potentially distracting situations unfold over the course of the season. 

On Ales Hemsky fitting in and has he started any formal contract negotiations with Hemsky’s representatives…

“I have not. We, like a lot of the fans I’m sure, appreciate that Ales is a very skilled guy and a good player and a guy that was in Edmonton for a long time and was kind of was excited to come to Ottawa. We haven’t played nearly as well as we hoped we would since the trading deadline, but he’s a guy that we will talk to. I’ve said hello to his agent and I’ve talked to Ales a little bit. I got, again, that he likes it here. He likes the city and he likes the way he’s been treated. But until you start talking and really realize what the commitment is term and dollar-wise, it’s hard to know where (negotiations) will go. But we certainly will have conversations and that’s part of the reason why we traded for him at the deadline. We like his talent, so we thought that if we get him on board here and he gets to know the group and gets to know how we operate, it might be easier for us to negotiate with him. So we hope that, in itself, will be a little bit of an advantage for us.”


On Robin Lehner’s impending RFA status and how he weighs the benefits of a long-term deal or a short bridge contract and whether he has started contract talks with Lehner yet…

“We have not, and again, he’s a restricted (free agent) as you mentioned, so we have the opportunity to retain his rights. We will talk to him. I know Robin has indicated that he likes Ottawa and he wants to stay here, it’s just a matter of where we think he fits and what kind of term his agency really wants. We’ll get it done with Robin, I’m sure of that. It’s just a matter of making a decision on where he fits in the long-term plans here.”

Ryan, Hemsky and Lehner… is there any other player that Bryan Murray would like to point out who also likes the city of Ottawa? 

On it being a disappointed year and the questions that surround Paul MacLean’s job security as the head coach of the Ottawa Senators…

“Well, I don’t have any definite answers but Paul’s got a contract going forward. He was coach of the year last year. I don’t know what happened this year necessarily, as far as performance is concerned. I think he’s a very good coach. I think he has the ear of the players in the room. We’ve had some really tough outings and I guess, it’s shared amongst a lot of people – myself included – we thought our team was better. We thought we had enough skill here to offset a couple of little things that we were missing last year. From the outset, it didn’t work out. Was it because of the departure of Daniel Alfredsson? Was it that we overestimated a couple of our young guys? I think all of those evaluations will take place and will continue with ten games to go. We’ll be watching very closely with the effort that’s put forward here, but I’m certainly not going to make and not planning to make any decisions until the 82 games have gone by the board and we make a decision based on the whole year.”

It’s scary to hear management say that they possibly overestimated how good its young players are – with the caveat being that he’s talking about Jared Cowen or Colin Greening (who actually isn’t even that young). This Senators team should be building around its young players and core, and not around its veteran players who continue to deteriorate and get worse with each passing season.

This offseason has the potential to be one of the most pivotal in franchise history. Watching it unfold will be fascinating to watch.

On this being the most difficult season that he’s endured as GM of this organization…

“In Ottawa for sure. I really feel that we came into the year after having a hardworking, real competitive team last year. We won a round and we were missing some star players for a big part of the year. I think we all thought that things happen. I guess what happens when you have a younger group that there are inconsistencies. We had a really tough start going to California and we didn’t play well and we got beaten up pretty good. And that might have knocked the confidence out of some of our younger players and they had a hard time recovering. I guess there’s always factors or excuses if that’s the right word, but those are the things that we have to look at. But very definitely, my expectations were like the fans and like the media here, we thought we were going to be a real contending team and we certainly haven’t shown that to this point in time.”

Hearing Murray say that he thought the Senators would be a contending team is funny and sort of sad. Their injury-riddled team lucked into a favorable match up with Montreal. Not only were the Canadiens undersized, they were counting heavily upon Carey Price who struggled mightily in the second half of the season. One would have assumed that the Senators’ series loss to Pittsburgh would have humbled them, but I guess not.


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