ANAHEIM – The reeling San Jose Sharks made their first significant transaction of the season on Monday, sending popular and rugged defenseman Douglas Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
[KURZ: Sharks trade Murray to Penguins]
While the Sharks’ 6-11-6 mark since winning their first seven games certainly isn’t all Murray’s fault, the message that general manager Doug Wilson sent to his team was received loud and clear before a game with the Ducks at the Honda Center later Monday night.
Joe Thornton said: “Hopefully, it sends a message. Dougie was one of my best friends, and it’s tough losing a guy like that. We’ve been kind of in a funk, so hopefully it gets our attention and gets us playing a little bit better.”
Dan Boyle, himself the subject of trade speculation, said: “We’ve got to win, or else guys go. There’s nothing to learn from that than what we know.”
Boyle spent the majority of the two previous seasons before this one paired with Murray on the blue line.
“As far as a loss, he’s not only a good teammate and good friend, he had a lot of heart,” Boyle said. “I think everyone talks about his physical play, but he had a huge heart. He always worked his ass off out there, which I appreciated. Guys in the East, forwards in the East, if they don’t know who he is they’re going to know shortly. He’s got to be possibly the hardest hitter in the game, I would think.”
The trade leaves the Sharks with six active defensemen, seven if you count Brent Burns, who will remain at forward for at least one more game. Justin Braun and Jason Demers, both of who have been in and out of the lineup since the start of the year due to injury and inconsistent play, will be counted on nightly, barring any further moves. So will rookie Matt Irwin.
“The move opens up some ice time, and an opportunity for guys that have been waiting,” Todd McLellan said. “If I’m one of those guys, I’m so excited right now [about] getting out there and playing, proving that I can do it on a daily basis. I get some penalty kill time, some power play time – what a great opportunity for them.”
Braun will play against the Ducks after sitting out the last three games following a poor performance in Los Angeles on March 16, in which he was a -3.
“I’m trying to look to get that taste of L.A. out of my mouth, and get it back on the right track,” he said. “It’s been a long break, but I’m excited to get back in and play my game, like I know I can.”
Thornton said: “It just gives another d-man a chance to play. We’ve had seven D here all year, and now Justin Braun, who hasn’t been playing, [gets] a chance to play and prove himself. On the other hand, it’s tough to lose a guy like Dougie, but Brauner gets to play some big minutes.”
But, Murray will be missed, especially on a personal level. He was originally drafted by the Sharks in 1999, meaning he spent 14 years with the organization, including eight with San Jose and parts of four seasons with AHL affiliates in Cleveland and Worcester.
Coincidentally, Murray and Thornton made their Sharks debuts on the same night, on Dec. 2, 2005 – a 5-0 win in Buffalo. Thornton had two assists, while Murray was a +2 with four penalty minutes in about 13 minutes of ice time.
“Dougie’s been here ever since I’ve been here. We came here together, and it’s tough losing a good friend like that,” Thornton said. “It’s a part of business, we all realize that. A lot of us have been traded before. We all [wish] him the best, and hopefully we meet him in the Finals.”
Boyle said: “It’s tough whenever guys go. Some guys you’re closer with than others, and he obviously was one of my closest friends here. It’s tough.”
McLellan offered a reminder of the nature of the business that everyone is in.
“We haven’t been winning enough, and the only guys that can fix that are the guys in the locker room,” he said. “Popular player or not, you don’t base decisions on that. You base decisions on what’s good for the team, and what gives them the best chance of winning now and moving forward.
“Yeah, Dougie Murray was a popular guy. We all liked him. The coaching staff loved this guy, he was a competitor. But, this is the type of business we’re in. You can’t keep guys just because they’re popular.”