By Allan Muir
Multiple sources are reporting that the Penguins have acquired veteran defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks.
In return, the Sharks get Pittsburgh’s 2013 second-round pick. The Pens are also obliged to send a 2014 second-rounder to San Jose if Murray re-signs with Pittsburgh this summer or the Pens win two playoff rounds. If neither of those happen, the pick turns into a 2014 third rounder.
Full marks to Pens GM Ray Shero, not just for addressing a need, but for doing it this far out from the April 3 deadline. Adding new personalities and new talents to a tightly knit bunch isn’t a seamless process, so by making these moves early, he gives the new recruits time to learn their roles and gel with the group.
But did he get the right guy? As with Brenden Morrow, who the Pens acquired on Sunday, Murray’s game is far from blemish-free…in case you couldn’t tell from the lineup of volunteers willing to drive the ex-Shark to Mineta Airport.
On the plus side, he’s the big (6′-3″, 240) physical defender every successful playoff team employs. Years ago, a player told me that being hit by Murray was like being hit by one of those cartoon wrecking balls — you just hear this sound and then whooomp … the wind is knocked out of you. He’s highly effective at clearing out the slot, a trait the Pens hope will help patch up a leaky penalty kill.
But Murray is slow. Glacially, painfully slow. That lack of foot speed was routinely exposed in San Jose where, as Jonathan Willis notes he was on the ice for more shots-against during five-on-five play than any other Sharks defender (huzzah for #fancystats!)…hence all the hate in NoCal.
But the Sharks are a slow team, which made hiding Murray’s cement legs almost impossible. On a more mobile Pens’ blueline, it should be easier to cover for that deficiency. Look for him to be paired with Matt Niskanen, another player who revived his career in Pittsburgh after being written off by the Stars.
Two second-rounders is a steep price to pay for a depth player. But if the Pens go all the way, you won’t hear many complaints about the cost of doing business.