The last time the Ottawa Senators had the 15th overall pick in the NHL draft, they selected a future Norris Trophy finalist.
The Senators are back in the same slot four years later as they head into this weekend’s draft and while they might not find another Erik Karlsson, general manager Bryan Murray has always shown a willingness to make a move in order to improve his team.
“We’re looking to get a good player number one,” said Murray. “We think where we’re picking there’s someone there that will fit a need down the road. Probably not in a year, but somebody that will develop into a good NHL player.
“If there’s options like making a move to pick earlier or I guess I could even be enticed to move back depending on what was offered, but very definitely we think we’ll be picking at 15 and we will allow Pierre (Dorion) and his staff to go about the normal business.”
Four years ago Dorion, the Senators director of player personnel, convinced Murray to make a deal to jump from 18th to 15th where they selected Karlsson, this year’s top scoring defenceman.
“We’re confident we’re going to get a good player, maybe not someone with the flash and dash of Erik,” said Dorion. “But we’re going to get a good player whatever position he is and someone that down the road is going to help us.”
The Senators acquired a number of prospects last year when they had three first-round picks and 10 overall, many of whom they hope to see push for a roster spot next season.
Overall, Murray was happy with his team’s performance last season as the Senators finished eighth overall in the Eastern Conference and pushed the New York Rangers to a deciding Game 7 in the opening round of the playoffs.
He does, however, see room for improvement on the team’s blue-line.
The Senators are expected to part ways with defenceman Filip Kuba, an unrestricted free agent whose salary expectations don’t necessarily fit in with Muuray’s plans. Murray also needs to make a decision on fellow blue-liner and unrestricted free agent Matt Carkner.
“I think we very definitely have to have one of our young defencemen or alternative signed to make our team next year,” said Murray. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that we want to be a touch better back there or different back there and we always talk about a top six forward, there’s always room for that kind of player, but we do have a couple young guys that are very strong candidates this coming year and maybe they’ll fill a need.”
Murray has never been afraid to make bold moves, as was evident with the trades of veterans Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly two years ago, and admits he would be open to do the same in the event that the right offer came along.
“There are people on this team that we are not really interested in trading, but it may well happen that we would try to do something to add a player or a higher pick,” said Murray. “We’re very open-minded and so if it gets out there and other general managers would like to call I would be very open to that.”
While the Senators have solid goaltending at the NHL level, they have few young prospects in the organization.
“We don’t have any young goalies besides Robin Lehner in our organization so maybe adding a goalie would be something we’d look at,” said Dorion. “We will draft a goalie in this draft, but whether it’s in the first round or seventh round we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Murray is still waiting on a decision from Daniel Alfredsson on whether or not he will return for one more season or retire, but the veteran manager says that decision will have no bearing on any potential deals at the draft.
Karlsson’s future is clear meanwhile after he and the Senators agreed to terms on a seven-year contract extension Tuesday.