The Senators signed GM Bryan Murray to a three-year contract extension today to give Murray the ability to control and oversee the rebuild in Ottawa.
Murray has been GM of the team since June 2007 and in the four years under his tenure, the Senators have made the playoffs twice, losing in the first round both times. In the two seasons where Ottawa missed the playoffs, they did so in glorious burn-the-house-down fashion. With the Sens alternating years between making the playoffs and colossal season-long failure, things are looking up for next season but only because they’ve been so awful this year.
Speculation has swirled around the position for the entire second half of the season as the Senators had some curious moves and decisions to make. Acquiring Craig Anderson from Colorado for Brian Elliott and then re-signing him to a lucrative four year extension while rookie phenom Robin Lehner waits in the wings in the AHL stood out as a particularly curious move especially with Murray’s future as yet unknown. Now the two will be linked together for the next three seasons to see where exactly they can lead the Senators in the future.
Making the Senators rebuild all the more fascinating to watch is how things broke down this year. They’ve cleared out guys like Chris Kelly, Chris Campoli, Alexei Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu, and star forward Mike Fisher in an effort to shake things up and start from the ground up once again all while captain Daniel Alfredsson plays it year to year trying to lead what’s now a very young team through the rough stages of growing up. Alfredsson’s season is over this year but he’ll be back next year.
One guy that might not be back next year is coach Cory Clouston. Clouston was able to juggle injuries and goalies last season to get Ottawa to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference. His luck ran out this year as injuries and poor play in goal sunk the Senators before they could put it together before acquiring Anderson. Is poor goaltending of that magnitude and horrible luck with injuries the fault of a coach? That’s up to Murray to decide before the offseason begins in earnest and the suspicion is that Clouston will be out after the season is over. Then again, we thought Murray was toast too so who knows.
With Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Chris Phillips all back next year with a group of hard working rookies like Bobby Butler and Colin Greening joining up promising players like Peter Regin the Senators future is murky and a lot of how things go for them as time goes on hinges upon this year’s draft.
The Senators will have five picks through the first two rounds, including two first round selections. They’ll get what should be a stud player with what should be a top five pick and then see what shakes loose later on, but for Murray the pressure to make this year’s draft a very successful one is huge. Another draft with poor choices dooms Ottawa’s future and with free agents not clamoring to get to Ottawa, the road to rebuild could turn into a road to ruin fast.