What a difference a year makes for Bryan Murray and the Ottawa Senators.
Last January, the Senators general manager was in fire-sale mode, as his club was one of the biggest disappointments in the Eastern Conference.
“You see the way we played last year, it was most disappointing. Nobody was happy in our room and there was no chemistry whatsoever,” Murray said on Wednesday morning. “It was just an unhappy group that didn’t play well. This year, it’s totally different.”
This season, the Senators have been one of the biggest surprises, sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. And while Murray consulted with Eugene Melnyk about starting a complete re-build last January, he will have a very different conversation with the Senators owner leading up to this year’s trade deadline. The Senators could be looking to add a piece or two before the Feb. 27 deadline — but only if it makes sense in the big picture.
“Eugene is going to be a big part of it because we did have a plan in place,” explained Murray. “If we do try and get a player from another organization, financially, you have to make a decision. And you have to decide what you’re going to pay for that player. This year’s deadline, I hope we’ll take a look at it in a realistic manner. If we’re going to be a playoff team, we’ll take a different view of it, no question.”
The Senators, who have 58 points, have a nine-point cushion over the teams that are currently out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. While that seems like a comfortable margin, Murray is going to wait until the middle of February before he proclaims his squad a legitimate playoff contender.
“If we can compete during the next three weeks, then I’ve got to say ‘When you get into the playoffs, anything can happen,’” Murray said. “My thought at deadline time has always been if you can get something that the players believe is a good addition, that really adds something to the roster. Because (the players) see that we’re trying.”
Murray said they aren’t likely to make any dramatic moves at the deadline — especially since he already made a splash in December by landing centre Kyle Turris. While he wouldn’t divulge his exact needs, it’s believed the Senators would like to add a depth forward or defenseman. Murray does not appear to be interested in trading any of his highly-touted prospects or draft picks for a short-term rental player. In any event, it’s a dramatic shift from last year, when Murray was forced to jettison veteran players like Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu at the trade deadline.
“We are going to keep our eyes and ears open to see what’s available,” added Murray. “I’d like to think that the perception of this team has changed dramatically since September.”