“Signed to a four-year extension by the Senators, Murray has struggled mightily with injuries and illness since his arrival in Ottawa.”

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The clock is winding down on the Ottawa Senators’ regular season.

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And the chance of us seeing Matt Murray before the final buzzer sounds next Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center is slim at best.

The 27-year-old veteran goaltender hasn’t played since he suffered a neck/head injury March 5 in an 8-5 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on the road, and the reality is we likely won’t see him again this season .

Murray has been out of sight and out of mind since he suffered the ailment, but with the off-season fast approaching his future with the Senators will be something that has to be dealt with in the coming months.

He’ll miss his 23rd straight game Friday when the Senators face the Columbus Blue Jackets and with only five dates remaining we’ll likely have to wait until training camp in September before we see Murray again.

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His stay with the Senators hasn’t been anything he or general manager Pierre Dorion expected when the club made the decision to acquire the two-time Stanley Cup champion from the Pittsburgh Penguins in October 2020.

Signed to a four-year extension by the Senators, Murray has struggled mightily with injuries and illness since his arrival in Ottawa and though he’s shown glimpses of getting back to form the club hasn’t been able to rely on him.

This season has been a roller-coaster ride.

It feels like a long time ago, but Murray was sent to the club’s AHL affiliate in Belleville to try to get his game together at the end of November, was shut down because of close contact with COVID-19 in mid-December with the rest of the team and recalled to Ottawa after Christmas.

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Murray’s numbers weren’t great this season even when he did suit up. If he doesn’t play again, he’ll finish the year with a 5-12-2 record in 20 appearances, with a 3.05 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

The Senators have been fortunate they have depth in the net and it’s been put to the test this season.

Picked up on waivers from the Winnipeg Jets in March 2021, goaltender Anton Forsberg has carried the ball for most of the last two seasons. He had the night off in Vancouver, but has recorded 19 of the club’s 28 wins.

Signed to a three-year extension before the trade deadline last month, the 29-year-old Forsberg will arrive at camp next season penciled in to be the No. 1 and for the first time since Murray arrived here he’ll have to battle for playing time.

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Don’t forget, Filip Gustavsson, who made 34 stops in the club’s win against the Canucks, is on a one-way contract next year so he’ll be in the mix. He won’t get through waivers at the end of camp so that will be a scenario the Senators will have to weigh this summer.

With a two-day break in the schedule, I gathered virtually Tuesday with Nicolas St-Pierre, the French play-by-play voice of the Senators on Unique 94.5-FM, and former Citizen columnist Wayne Scanlan of Sportsnet for the highly informative Senators ‘Dashboard.

Once we talked to St-Pierre about trying to convince Florida Panthers forward Claude Giroux to sign in his hometown as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, the discussion turned to what the Senators should do with Murray this summer.

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Both suggested the club should exercise a compliance buyout. With $15 million in real cash remaining on the final two years of his deal, Murray would receive $10 million on a buyout, according to the calculator on capfriendly.com.

The Senators aren’t likely to be a cap team, but I still don’t really see that as an option so I presented a scenario to St-Pierre and Scanlan where they couldn’t buy him out to see what the solution may be .

Both said the best bet is to bring Murray to camp to battle for a job.

Right now, that feels like the most viable option and one that will have to make sense as long as the Senators can get him healthy in the summer. There has been speculation about long-term injury reserves, but we have no reason to believe Murray won’t play again.

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In fact, if Murray could get the green light to go again this year, then we’d see him in the net next week. He’d like the opportunity to play a game or two just to know he’s well enough to go during the summer, but it doesn’t feel like that’s going to be an option now.

Make no mistake, nobody is more disappointed with what’s happened here than Murray. He wants to get healthy, make his comeback and help the club’s young core get to the next level. He knows that’s why he was brought here and is determined to prove the Senators made the right decision.

If it feels like this kind of thinking is premature with five games left, it’s not because you can be certain Dorion, assistant GM Peter MacTavish, senior VP Pierre McGuire and coach DJ Smith are already looking ahead and wrestling with decisions.

As for Giroux’ future with Ottawa, tune into the panel because St-Pierre and Scanlan brought a lot of insight.

[email protected]

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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