Matt Murray is on the road to recovery.
Matt Murray is on the road to recovery.
As it stands now, the Ottawa Senators goaltender hopes to be back in net when training camp opens in September.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since he received a head injury during an 8-5 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on March 4, the 27-year-old Murray confirmed he was experiencing post-concussion syndrome.
He finished the March 4 game after defenseman Nikita Zaitsev crashed into him while colliding with Arizona’s Antoine Roussel, but Murray missed the final 25 contests of the season. Though he tried to return for the final week, he recently shut it down because he’s not 100 per cent healthy.
Murray said when he realized he wouldn’t make it back in time for the end of the National Hockey League season, he also ended his goal of playing for Canada at the IIHF world championship in Finland beginning May 10. He skated up until a couple of days ago, but hasn’t been on the ice since.
“It was a diagnosed concussion and I’m still feeling the lingering effects of it, you could say,” Murray said Saturday. “I’ve definitely seen a lot of progress since the injury itself, so that’s a positive.
“I’m just focused on getting over this last couple of hurdles heading into the off-season and getting ready for next season.”
Murray will stay in the Ottawa during the summer to work with Senators medical staff and to get ready for next season. He has a home in the Muskoka region he’ll try to spend some time in his family with him, but, for the most part, he will be in the capital region because the couple has two kids.
When the Senators acquired the two-time Stanley Cup champion from the Pittsburgh Penguins in October 2020, the hope was that Murray would stabilize the situation in goal and help the young players take the next step.
That hasn’t been the case. He has suited up for only 47 games in two seasons and he hasn’t been reliable because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
The Senators are fortunately backup Anton Forsberg has taken the ball and run with it. Forsberg secured his 22nd win in the club’s 4-2 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers in Friday’s season finale.
“It’s unfortunate. We brought him in a couple of years ago to be the starting goalie, and he’s just not available most nights,” Senators head coach DJ Smith said. “It’s not his fault, the injuries and the sickness, and he’s just not available.
“You look at the rest of the teams in the league, if there’s any, that have had their starting goalie miss that many games? I’d say there probably isn’t. The positive is we found Forsberg and he’s come in and given us some stability there. We hope that Murray can join him.”
Looking at the big picture, this season was a write-off for Murray.
The situation hit rock bottom at the end of November, when Murray cleared waivers and was sent to the American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville. He came back refreshed after Christmas and seemed ready for the challenge to be the club’s top goalie, but was derailed by another injury.
The Senators felt Murray was struggling when general manager Pierre Dorion sent him to Belleville.
Apparently, Murray didn’t agree with that assessment.
“To be honest, I thought I played well all season,” Murray said. “Even before I was put on waivers, I thought I was playing really well.”
You’d have hard time finding anybody around the Senators who would back Murray on that point, but, if that’s the way he felt when he was sent down, then who are we to argue with him? What matters now is what happens in the future.
The Senators and Murray have to turn the page and hope he gets to a point he can play, but there’s no guarantee. He’s scheduled to make an average of $6.75 million for the next two seasons, and, if he isn’t ready next season, then the club will place him on a long-term injury reserve.
No one is talking about that possibility at the moment, and Murray stated more than once on Saturday that he was close to being healthy.
“There’s a couple of small hurdles to get over,” Murray said. “That’s really my main focus heading into the off-season, to get healthy and then get to work once I start feeling a bit better to get ready for next season.”
One thing we’ve learned about Murray in his two seasons with the Senators is he’s even-keeled. He doesn’t get too high or too low. He’s trying to approach what’s happening with a business-like approach. He’s not a player who wears his heart on his sleeve.
“Frustrating? Sure, a little, but it’s part of the game,” he said. “It’s something you’ve got to deal with, so I’m trying not to spend too much energy on being frustrated. I’m trying to spend all my energy on getting better.
“That’s where I’m at right now.”
Guess we’ll see what happens in September.