After the few trades made last night during the first round of the 2020 NHL draft, the first significant domino involving player movement fell prior to the second round getting underway; as the Ottawa Senators traded prospect Jonathan Gruden and pick #52 (Ottawa’s first of three second round picks) to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for goaltender Matt Murray.
Heading into the offseason, the Penguins were expected to trade one of their two goalies, and following the extension of Tristan Jarry to a three-year, $3.5 million AAV contract, Murray appeared to be the one packing his bags. With free agency opening up on Friday, the time was now for GM Jim Rutherford to make a move. In terms of the assets the Penguins received in this deal, 6ft, 180lb Jonathan Gruden is clearly the centerpiece of the package. In the 2019-20 season with the London Knights, Gruden scored 30 goals and registered 36 assists for 66 points in 59 games. He was +20 +/- wise on the season and had only 23 penalty minutes. Pick #52 was Ottawa’s first of three 2nd round picks this draft. Pittsburgh used this selection to take Joel Blomqvist, an 18-year old goaltender for Karpat in the SM-Liiga. In two games played in the Liiga last season, Blomqvist had a whopping 4.73 GAA and .808 SV%. He’s off to a better start this season however, as he’s currently 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .910 SV%.
On the Senators side, they hope Matt Murray can be the goalie of the present, and future for their young, up-and-coming team. For a 26-year old, he has an extensive resume. As a 3rd round pick (83rd overall) in the notoriously lackluster 2012 NHL draft, Matt Murray became the first rookie in NHL history to win two Stanley Cups. He currently holds the NHL record for most postseason wins by a rookie with twenty-two, and previously held the single postseason wins record tied with Patrick Roy and Cam Ward but was passed by Jordan Binnington in 2019. He was the starting goaltender for the Team North America team at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto and won a silver medal representing Team Canada at the 2019 World Championships. In terms of statistics, Murray had the worst season of his career in 2019-20 for the Penguins, as his SV% was below .900 for the first time ever. His W-L-T record was 20-11-5 with a GAA of 2.87 last season as well. In the NHL bubble, Murray lost 2/3 games against the Montreal Canadiens, but had a .916 SV% in those games. The Penguins lost by a goal in both losses as well. His career-average SV% was .920 heading into this season, and Ottawa certainly expects to have that Matt Murray return to form with the change of scenery.
Considering Matt Murray is a pending restricted free agent, Ottawa will need to extend what they believe is their next backstop for years to come, and it will certainly be interesting to see what the inevitable contract looks like when it’s agreed upon. In regard to who won the actual deal, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t want to make the same mistake twice in leaving one of his two stud goalies exposed in expansion drafts. Rather than letting Murray walk for nothing like he let Fleury with Vegas, he appears to have gotten a promising young center prospect and an interesting goalie prospect. However, we believe Ottawa got the better end of the deal, despite still needing to hand Murray a new contract. More to come, as Ottawa appears to be having a franchise altering draft as we speak.