Bryan Murray doesn’t expect to be active at the NHL trade deadline.
And the Senators general manager certainly doesn’t anticipate trading one of his three goaltenders in the next few days.
Even though he’s sitting in a position of strength with three NHL netminders in Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner, he does not think his hand is being forced to move one of them.
“Absolutely not. I think we’ve got a great scenario,” Murray said when asked Friday about having to trade one of them at the deadline. “We’ve got two young guys and a veteran guy that’s played great for us. We’ll do what we have to do at the time. If there’s something we can do to add to our hockey team, we’ll consider that. But it’s not a handicap having three top calibre guys.”
“If you don’t get what you want to get at this point in time, why would you do it?” Murray added. “We have that choice to make — let me put it that way.”
Some observers felt that Murray’s hand would be forced by the return of Anderson — which will likely happen at some point late next week. The netminder has been out of action since Feb. 21 with a sprained right ankle, but Bishop and Lehner have filled in admirably in his absence. The Senators still lead the NHL with a 2.11 GAA after 34 games, despite using a pair of unproven goalies for the past month.
Rumours have swirled around Bishop for the past few weeks, as he appears to be the most logical candidate to be moved. Lehner is clearly the goalie of the future in Ottawa, while Anderson has established himself as the current No. 1 netminder. Bishop’s status as an RFA this summer also makes him an attractive candidate to be shopped.
But Bishop has also won four consecutive games and coming off a 3-0 shutout win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. With the Senators likely headed to the post-season — and with no guarantees of how Anderson will play when he returns — the most likely scenario would see Murray hang onto Bishop at the deadline. And when Anderson does return, the general manager admitted he would likely send Lehner back down to the AHL.
“I don’t think that would be fair,” Murray said when asked about keeping three goaltenders on the NHL roster. “It’s not fair to the coach or to the players themselves. We have one player (Lehner) who has a two-way and could play in the American Hockey League if he’s the third man here. And that’s probably what would happen.”
Bishop has heard the trade talk for the past few weeks and has tried his best to ignore it.
“I’ll just have to wait and see what happens here. We’ve got a few days left and I don’t know what’s going to happen to be honest. If I get a chance to play, I’m just going to play. And if I do end up getting traded, that’s just part of the business,” Bishop said.
On Friday, Murray also confirmed that he won’t be getting star centre Jason Spezza back in the lineup any time soon. The club had initially hoped Spezza could return at some point in early April. But he’s experiencing some discomfort with his back, after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc on Feb. 1. He could return for the playoffs, but playing regular season games might be a stretch.
“Jason hasn’t skated lately. Based on that, I assume it’s going to be difficult for him to get back in the near future. Whether that changes, we’ll have to see over the next week or two. But we’re not optimistic he’ll play games in the regular season at this point.”
Even knowing that he likely won’t have Spezza for the stretch drive won’t force Murray to make a move. The general manager has been extremely pleased with the development of youngsters Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg in recent weeks and would rather not tinker with the chemistry of his team for the sake of replacing one injured player.
“I know we’re not doing much of anything. I keep watching the team and I’m fairly happy with our young people with the way they’ve performed,” said Murray. “If something comes up that is of interest, we’ll certainly explore it. But at the moment, I don’t think we’ll be driven by the fact that one player is out.”