Monday, February 27, 2012
Murray Swaps Lee For Gilroy – Reminiscent of Anderson Trade
Hardcore fans will be making a big deal out of it, and understandably so, but the trade of former 1st rounder Brian Lee for former Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy is a fairly minor move by GM Bryan Murray, but one that helps both the Senators and Lightning move forward from past mistakes.
In ridding themselves of Brian Lee, the Senators put to rest one of their biggest first-round blunders from the John Muckler-era and avoid having to figure out what to do with Lee when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Clearly, Brian Lee wasn’t a favourite of GM Bryan Murray or coach Paul MacLean, although MacLean had recently been playing the baby-faced defenseman over the more grizzled Matt Carkner and it was paying off with Lee having some solid games as a bottom pairing puck mover.
In the meantime, the Bolts have gotten something for Gilroy, who is going to be a UFA this summer and may not have wished to continue playing for ultra-conservative coach Guy Boucher whose system doesn’t really showcase more offensive oriented d-men like the speedy Gilroy.
Some are probably scratching their heads (or taking to Twitter with pitchforks and torches) about why Murray would move a pending RFA defenseman who can give you quality minutes for a pending UFA defenseman who, although the better player in the deal, can walk right out of town this summer for nothing.
I think the answer is that Lee just isn't and was never going to be "Murray's guy". Clearly, he didn’t see a future for Lee in Ottawa. This is a deal he has likely been trying to make for some time but Lee was playing so little that nobody wanted to touch him. On the same day that Bolts GM Steve Yzerman traded for soon-to-be UFA Mike Commodore just to have somebody to dress the rest of the season, I’m sure the Bolts are happy to get a defenseman they can keep in the system. They don’t have the baggage of having picked Lee too early and then living with him as he struggled to even make the lineup on a consistent basis. Instead, Lee goes into Tampa and if he plays well, it’s just considered a bonus. There’s very little pressure on Yzerman or Lee in this deal.
Murray’s move will be under the microscope a little more, especially if Gilroy doesn’t contribute down the stretch and into the playoffs, only to leave in the summer for greener pastures. But even if that happens, this deal will only be a bust if Lee blossoms into something more than a peripheral, marginal NHL player. Clearly, Murray and his staff don’t believe that’s going to happen.
Both Gilroy and Lee need a fresh start and they’re going to get it. Both are slick, skating defenseman but Gilroy has more high-end potential than Lee, despite the risks with his contract. If Filip Kuba leaves this summer, Gilroy might end up getting his money and Murray doesn’t have to go out fishing in the open-market. If Gilroy impresses, we might see a repeat of the Craig Anderson situation. Murray didn’t wait long to sign Anderson to a contract extension once it was clear he was going to be a good fit on and off the ice. No doubt Murray will be watching for the same kind of characteristics with Gilroy.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you could have predicted that I’d like any deal that involved moving Lee out. And you’d be right. I don’t think Lee ever fit this team and in his defence, he might have gotten a tougher ride than he really deserved after being a high-pick and expected to deliver a performance he was never really capable of.
Now Ottawa has another college grad, one that was the subject of a bidding war when he was finally eligible to play in the NHL. If Murray and the team weren’t sold on Lee as a part of the future, or even the short-term playoff push, then you can’t blame them for a swap that brings in a player they obviously want.
The risks are low, even in the worst-case scenario. So why not throw the dice?
Since I wasn’t in town for the Ben Bishop deal, here’s my take on it: