One name has been mentioned quite a bit this summer regarding the Columbus Blue Jackets, and that one name is Ryan Murray. Will he make the team? Is he 100% recovered? Would he be better off playing a year in the AHL? I think there is an even bigger question that needs to be asked. Is there any room for Ryan Murray on the roster?
The quick answer is yes, there is room on the team, but I guess you have to go even deeper than that. Is there room on the ice for him? Or will he be stuck sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch because there are already six NHL caliber defensemen slotted for ice time. If he earns ice time, who is going to be losing out? I guess there are more questions to be answered than expected.
Lets take a look at one answer; Murray plays a year in the AHL. Would it be the worst thing in the world? He hasn’t played an actual game since being drafted, and throwing him into the deep end right away might not be the smartest move by management. Even if he is ready, let him gain some confidence in Springfield. The Falcons had a record of 45-22-5 last season, and with Murray and probably Boone Jenner as well, that record could improve and put the team into a situation to succeed in pursuit of the Calder Cup. This answer would also be better than him not playing a substantial amount of games next season due to being a healthy scratch. I can’t imagine management to do that though, he will either be in or out. Its not a long term solution, but it could be an extremely positive answer.
Second answer; find room for him to wear a Blue Jackets jersey, not just on the roster, but on the ice as well. This is the more complex answer, several different options are viable. Lets take a look at who else could sit, because that is the biggest part of this answer.
One of the two younger blue liners who just recently made huge strides in the NHL last season? Tim Erixon, or Dalton Prout. Probably not the smartest move for their development. Erixon has been aiming for a spot on an NHL roster and couldn’t quite grasp it in New York, but now he has a shot in Columbus to become an NHL regular. Prout, like Erixon, emerged last year as a solid talent on defense. In short, don’t sacrifice one player’s development for another.
What about the oldest defenseman on the roster now? Fedor Tyutin, at age 30, should he be the odd man out? Stats wise, he played the best last year, 4 goals, 18 assists for 22 points and a plus 9. Next up, Nikita Nikitin, the 27 year old Russian, who is probably entering the prime years of his career. Stats wise, eh not so great, 3 goals, 6 assists, and a plus 2. One player who is definitely not losing a spot on the ice is Jack Johnson. I won’t even waste your time writing about it.
One more to go, James Wisniewski, the most expensive defensive player on the roster. $5.5 million for the next five years, the third highest paid player on the roster. Am I being apparent to where I am going with this…Wiz needs to step it up if he wants to keep his job. I have two thoughts if he doesn’t end up playing like the Wiz of old; one is a buyout next summer, the other is to find a team willing to take on a struggling defender. This would free up a position for Murray, not that it is the only answer, but it is just the answer that I calculated.
Did I answer the question? Is anyone else lost? I guess I accomplished what I set out to do: to show how complex this answer really is. Murray can definitely make the team, but there will be a casualty. Do you have another answer in mind? And please don’t say run seven defenseman, I don’t think that is a good idea…