Over the years that Bryan Murray has been the GM of the Ottawa Senators he's received a lot of criticism, but he also deserves some praise in certain areas. While a few trades and signings were regrettable, he has been very good at locking up talent for very cheap. There are exceptions to this as I will point out, but this summer shows that he is good at keeping his assets for pennies on the dollar.
There are a few examples of players that already had contracts before this summer, and I would label Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Craig Anderson, and Patrick Wiercioch as "steals." Karlsson is arguably the best defenseman in the game right now and he's making just $6.5 million, Turris is a first line centre making a measly $3.5 million, Anderson is a legitimate number one goalie with a salary of $4.2 million, and Wiericoch is one of the most underrated players in the league having a cap hit of only $2 million:
Besides Karlsson, those players were signed before they were truly "proven" players, and Murray bet on them being better. Those were good bets to make, and if Ottawa wants to succeed they will need to make more bets to keep cheaper players.
Of course, there are a few exceptions like Colin Greening and Jared Cowen who were supposed to be better, but it's clear that the team has a certain philosophy of locking up players early.
That's what Murray did this summer, as he added to his list of "bargain deals." While he didn't sign anyone to long-term deals like I would have wanted, he did get all five of Ottawa's RFA's to sign deals that were considered below-market value. Mike Hoffman for only $2 million was simply shocking considering he lead the team in scoring last year.
You know who else has a cap hit of $2 million? Eric Fehr, Raffi Torres, Barret Jackman, and Brian Boyle. Talk about value. I'm not happy it was only a one-year contract, but the good news is they still own his rights next summer as he will be a restricted free agent again.
Mark Stone should be a mainstay in the Senators lineup for years to come, and he is coming off of a 64-point season. Somehow Murray was able to sign him for just $3.5 million for the next three years. Once again, he will still be an RFA at the end of the deal, so Ottawa can at least deal him for assets if worst comes to worst.
Mika Zibanejad is another solid player to bet on, as he has potential to be a first line centre, and at the very least he will be a quality second liner. He's making only $2.625 million despite probably being worth around $4-5 million. Jean-Gabriel Pageau proved that he can hold his own as a third line centre in the NHL, and his cap hit is only $900,000 for the next two years. Alex Chiasson isn't everybody's favourite, but keeping him for $1.2 million certainly isn't expensive.
The reality is that if Ottawa has a tight budget they can't really compete with big market teams. But they at least have a fighting chance if they are extremely smart with their money, and they certainly got their players on the cheap this summer.
The fact that Stone, Zibanejad, Pageau, Hoffman, and Chiasson were signed for a total cap hit of $10.225 million is insane, as I think that the first four on the list will be important players on the team for a long time.
The team has made a few mistakes with over payments, like giving Bobby Ryan $7.25 million, Milan Michalek $4 million, Chris Phillips another season, as well as the aforementioned Greening/Cowen deals but they have at least made up for it by trying to sign young players for cheap. The good news is that most of the bad contracts on the team are close to expiring and they are the older players, so Ottawa may actually have room for some more reinforcements in the near future.
All in all, it was very good work from the Senators management this summer in handling the RFA's. We'll save the talk about letting Erik Condra walk for another day, as it's good to focus on the positives once in a while. It would have been nice to lock up some of these RFA's to longer deals with a bit larger cap hits, but it's not the end of the world.
The Senators will still own all of these players rights at the end of their deals, and the worst thing that happens is that they can't afford them and have to trade another player on the roster.
After Murray has left as GM of the Senators, we can say for certain that he signed many players for extremely team-friendly deals. It's easy to focus on the bad deals, but you can't really complain when the true core of your team comes very cheaply.