A report from TSN’s Darren Dreger surfaced yesterday which suggested that the Hurricanes are in the process of shopping defenseman Ryan Murphy to teams around the league. The relevant quote from that story is below.
The implication that the Hurricanes were after Fowler is an interesting one given the team’s existing level of strength on defense.
Should the Canes Actually Move Murphy?
You can put me firmly in the “no” column on this one. While it’s true that Peters seems to be unhappy with Murphy’s play, and that’s understandable to a degree, I think the Canes have done some things to misjudge and mishandle Murphy’s development at pretty much every turn.
First of all, there’s the myth that his offensive production has been lacking. It’s often said that Murphy doesn’t produce enough points for the type of player that he is, and on the surface this appears to be true. It’s true that Murphy’s 36 points in 128 games are a bit underwhelming.
However, this picture starts to look a lot different once you’ve adjusted for ice time. According to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, since 2013-2014, 201 defensemen have skated at least 1,500 minutes of 5-on-5 play. Of those 201, Murphy ranks 72nd in even-strength points per 60 minutes.
You’ll note that that’s firmly above average. It also puts his level of production ahead of some pretty impressive names. Drew Doughty sits at 87th. There’s also Seth Jones (90th), Zdeno Chara (76th), Jay Bouwmeester (99th), Jake Gardiner (100th), and apparent Hurricanes target Cam Fowler at 105th.
So he’s above average in the aspect of his game that is his main selling point as a player, but what about all the other stuff? Many often refer to his struggles in his own end to serve as evidence that Murphy is a failed prospect, but the evidence behind those claims seems to be weak as well.
According to corsica.hockey, since the beginning of last season, no Hurricanes defender has a lower expected goals against per 60 minutes than Murphy’s mark of 2.19. The next closest player still currently on the roster is Brett Pesce at 2.32.
His offensive prowess shows through with expected goals as well with 2.56 expected goals for per 60 minutes. His share of expected goals is the best on the team as well in that time frame, at 53.9%. The next closest is Jaccob Slavin at 52.41%.
So given all of that, I really do not see what the rationale for moving Murphy would be. As competent as Tennyson has looked in these last few games, Murphy is almost certainly a better player. The only reasoning for a Murphy trade would seem to be some outdated notions about what a player has to look like (read: how big they have to be) to be an effective third-pairing defender.
You could make the argument that Murphy’s good underlying numbers are simply the result of low quality of competition, but nobody is arguing that he belongs anywhere on this team other than on the right side of the third pairing behind Faulk and Pesce. As long as Murphy continues to completely dominate those match-ups and produce at a well above average rate, why not allow him to continue to do that?
IF the Canes deal Murphy, What Should They Be Looking For?
Given the way the team has handled Murphy, I don’t think his value around the league is going to be very high right now. Teams on the outside looking in aren’t going to be lining up to move valuable assets for a player that is stuck behind Matt Tennyson on his team’s depth chart.
Given that, I think the Hurricanes could expect to get a 4th or 5th round pick straight up for Murphy. I think that’s fair value wise, but the upside for the Canes on that sort of deal would be very minimal. It would be the definition of a high-risk, low-reward trade.
The other option would essentially be to trade for a forward who is in a similar position to Murphy. You’d be looking for a player who was drafted highly from 2009-2012 and has clear upside but hasn’t been able to fit in with the team that drafted him. Basically, the target would be another player who could “benefit from a change of scenery.”
In my mind, there are a few names that fit this description that could fill needs for the Canes. Alexander Burmistrov of the Winnipeg Jets is a guy that comes to mind. He was taken with the 8th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft by the Thrashers. He was rushed into playing in the NHL in his post-draft year, spent some time in the KHL, and returned to Winnipeg last season. He put up 21 points in 81 games last season, and currently has 2 assists in 17 games this season.
I think there’s a chance he could do well in a bottom six role in Carolina, perhaps in the third-line center role if Elias Lindholm remains as the first line right wing for the foreseeable future.
I’ll go into less detail on the other options, but some other names that stick out to me include: winger Austin Watson of Nashville, center Mark McNeill of Chicago, and winger Matt Puempel of Ottawa.
All that being said, what do you think? Have I convinced you that Murphy is worth hanging on to? If not, which of my suggested targets do you find the most appealing? If it’s none of them, who would you be looking at? Be sure to let us know in the comments.