OTTAWA — It looks like Ryan Miller will head to the Olympics as a representative of the Sabres. Whether the goaltender finishes the season in Buffalo is up to other general managers.
Buffalo GM Tim Murray doesn’t expect much movement around the NHL heading into this afternoon’s Olympic trade freeze. Players get paid during the break, so it makes little sense for teams that are up against the salary cap to add a big-ticket item like Miller and his $6.25 million salary while they’re not playing. Plus, there’s the risk he gets hurt in Sochi before he even suits up for the new team.
“I never expected this to be a deadline,” Murray said Thursday. “If we don’t trade anybody, we pay them through the Olympic break and you can make a deal after it. The economics of the game and the possibility of injuries at the Olympics for those players, I never expected anything to get done quickly.”
Murray is willing to get something done before the March 5 trade deadline, however.
“I’m just listening and hopefully get an offer that I think is worthwhile on a couple of our guys, and if not then that’s the way it goes,” he said. “I’m making a lot of calls, but I’m making them to guys that called me first. The teams that have showed the most interest in certain players, I’m obviously trying to keep in contact with them every day to see where we’re going.
“I don’t know if the right deal is going to come along,” he said in regards to Miller. “It’s not ‘when,’ it’s ‘if’ more so than ‘when.’ I just think there has to be certain types of prospects and players involved in a deal like that, so I just need a team that thinks the same way.”
It’s an interesting time for Murray, who was hired last month. He enters his first trade period with a limited amount of time to learn the organization and make decisions, including big ones on pending unrestricted free agents Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson. He knows the players well, but he doesn’t know much about all the GMs.
“The challenge is that I’m new so I think there are established GMs that certainly want to test me, and that’s fair,” Murray said. “Rookie players get tested all the time. Hopefully, my support staff, the guys that I talk to in our organization about trades point me in the right direction. I have my ideas, and I certainly want to involve other people in the organization in them.
“I know all these GMs, but I don’t have a circle of guys. I talked to Donnie Maloney today about that,” he said of the Phoenix general manager, “and he said you end up with certain guys you trust and those are the guys you probably deal with more so than others. I don’t have that right now, but I’m comfortable in the fact that I’ve been around the game a long time and I’ve been around these guys and I know them all.
“I don’t think they’re going to help me, but I don’t think that they feel that they can pull the wool over my eyes.”
The general manager Murray knows best was in the same arena Thursday. Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, who is Tim’s uncle, says his longtime assistant and scouting guru actually has an advantage in deals.
“The advantage is that Tim knows players really well,” Bryan Murray said. “He knows the league. He knows the minors in particular really well. So I think he may be able to identify a person or two that a lot of people won’t know, but they’ll be players. That’s his strength, really.
“It is a tough time to come in. There’s no question. Trying to get to know your own team and trying to identify what you can and can’t do in the short term, I think that the big challenge is just making sure you get fair return if you do something.”
It’s possible Tim Murray’s first trade will be with his mentor. Ottawa is in the playoff race and could use a scorer like Moulson. Henrik Tallinder also fits the Senators’ style of defense. Bryan and Tim have talked a couple of times.
“It hasn’t been much fun because I’ve asked him for certain things and he won’t give it to me,” Tim Murray said. “Of all the GMs, I know him more so than anybody else what they’re thinking, how they value players. I think I know his organization pretty well, so there might be a little hesitation on that side of it.
“Talking to him is easy because we know each other so well, so if I could do a deal with him I’d love to.”
The appearance in Ottawa was Murray’s first since he left the organization. He joined the Senators in 2007, and they thanked him and wished him well on the scoreboard during the first period.
“I drove through the gate like I owned the building, and then I had to park up top,” he said. “Everybody, no matter what they do, they have changes in their lives and you just go with it. You can’t dwell on anything, and you just come in here and hope to get two points.”
Murray finished the game thinking about what’s next for his new organization. There’s a lot to think about.