Monday, March 1, 2010

Murray Playing Russian Roulette With Volchenkov

In the afterglow of an historic Canadian gold medal win, it may be a Russian dilemma that brings Senators fans down to earth again.

Ottawa GM Bryan Murray guested on the local Team 1200 afternoon show and was asked where negotiations were with soon to be unrestricted free agent Anton Volchenkov.

Murray's response was troubling... and brief.

"Nowhere" was his response and what followed was a few seconds of silence. When prodded to say if he would trade Volchenkov if a deal was not in place, Murray said it was something he would consider.


Far be it from me to present to you another argument about why Volchenkov is so important to this team's short and long term future. If you've watched only a handful of Senators games in the past 4 seasons, you already know the impact Volchenkov has, not to mention his super-human grit and pain tolerance.

No need to go over that well-trod terrain. Let's just assume that keeping Volchenkov is a high-priority for everyone in the organization.

So the solution seems simple, right? Just give him the money he wants and get ready for the playoffs, of which the Senators are almost assured to be a part of this season.

But what kind of GM would Bryan Murray be if he just handed the players the team cheque book? Not a very good one, but on the other hand, if he somehow lets Volchenkov leave this city for another team, he will have a lot of explaining to do.

Murray has always been a hockey man I've respected but sometimes I question his tactics, such as his unwillingness to defend his players when they get ripped in the local and national media, his neverending openness about what moves he intends to make in the trade market and his annual contract haggling with core players like Volchenkov et al.

Yet I'm always reminded by a friend that Murray went through the same sort of negotiations with Chris Kelly and Chris Neil, both "heart and soul" core players and in the end, he signed them to deals just before the clock ran out on terms that were very favourable to the organization.

So there's hope there. Murray is not a dupe. He knows that Volchenkov has stated he wants to stay in Ottawa. The real deadline is July 1, not March 3.

But when is the luck going to run out?

We all saw what happened when John Muckler went to the wall with Zdeno Chara (apparently not even offering a contract in the end). Volchenkov is one of the most respected defenseman around the league for those in the know, and if he's worth X amount of dollars to one team, why is he not worth that to Ottawa?

It's a good question. If anyone knows how valuable Volchenkov is, it's Murray and his Senators staff. Ultimately, they are just trying to extract a hometown discount. It worked with Kelly and Neil. Maybe it will work with Volchenkov.

But Senators fans would feel an awful lot better going into the post-season if they knew it would not be their last with the A-Train.


Of other note in the interview:

Murray raised the possibility of Jonathan Cheechoo returning to the team later in the year or in the playoffs if the need arose. According to Murray, Cheechoo is playing well down in Bingo and mentioned that Cheech could be one of those players who is capable of a "surprise" playoff run.

Depending on who Murray picks up at the deadline, there very well may be room for Cheech on the salary cap sheet and the ice. Something to watch for anyways....

Murray also mentioned that he had interest in Florida defenseman Jordan Leopold before he was traded to Pittsburgh earlier this afternoon.

I'm still predicting one of Milan Jurcina, Aaron Ward or Jason Strudwick. I just don't see a big name coming in to this team right now. Maybe I'm wrong. That's what makes deadline day such a good time.


Anonymous said...

My money's on Ward. I think he'll be in the lineup by the end of the week.

The sense I got from the Cheechoo demotion was that it was a cap clearing move. I'm with you in that I think that he'll be back up here towards the end of the year. He could redeem himself pretty good with a few timely playoff goals.

I disagree on the Kelly and Neil contracts. I don't think that the terms were favourable. I think that Neil, in particular, could have been had at a better price had we re-signed him a year earlier.

To me, those contracts are like those $135 Team Canada jerseys. They're overpriced. Once you have one, your proud so you don't want to let it go, so you forget about the price. I'm glad he re-signed both. I would not want to lose either of them. But, I wonder if waiting cost more in the end. Maybe they could have been had cheaper had we acted earlier.

Everybody has their own negotiating style. Maybe Murray knows something about Jay Grossman's (Volch's agent, I think) negotiating style that we don't. I'm willing to cut Murray some slack on Volch as long as the goal is to get it done. I don't care how he does it. Just get it done.

Jeremy Milks said...

Anon: In regards to Cheechoo, I was more just explaining what Murray said rather than expressing my opinion on him. I actually think Cheechoo is done as an NHL player, as sad as that may be.

He just isn't an NHL player anymore, whether it was that injury he went through in San Jose or if it's just between his ears.

But it would be a pleasant surprise to see him defy the odds and battle his way back. It's hard not to like a character guy like Cheechoo. But for my money, Shean Donovan is the one fans should get behind.

Anonymous said...


It's 7:17pm. In that case, we differ. I think he still has something to give. I think the problem is confidence.

But, then again, I also thought Redden would quickly regain his form after last year.

Even still, I still believe in Cheech.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Ottawa Is trying to give Volch the home town discount. I think, and IIRC, the contract offer was favourable. I don't envy a GM who needs to manage cap, and keep everyone that matters satisfied on the team. The bottom line is that Murray has set a figure, and I am sure there is some negotiation room. There always is. However, since Anton was offered the contract prior to the brake, and his agent's tactics were to deliver it in person, that delayed by two weeks. Now he ~2 days to decide, or get shipped out of town. If Volchy is traded, another D man with contract is coming back. If he signs, we will get somebody like Ward for a late pick.

My 2 cents.