Ottawa Citizen

Murray top free agent

- WAYNE SCANLAN

In theory, this should be the simplest, most satisfying summer break the Ottawa Senators have known.

After reaching the Stanley Cup final for the first time, there aren’t any major unrestrict­ed free agents to worry about, and, if the hockey club decides it wants any or all of the players with contracts pending, there is ample money in the coffers to re-sign them.

The season ticket base could exceed 13,000 by the fall, putting Ottawa into the NHL’s “above average” group for the first time.

And how’s this for a switch: the Senators now pay INTO the league’s equalizati­on plan, sharing some portion of their playoff riches with the league’s have-nots.

For all of these affirmatio­ns that the Senators have joined the league’s upper crust, there remains an awkward, complicate­d situation atop the hockey chain of command.

As it happens, the Senators most prized free agent is neither a forward, defenceman nor goaltender.

It is head coach Bryan Murray, whose contract is expiring.

After the Senators disposed of the Buffalo Sabres in five games in the Eastern Conference final to qualify for the Cup round, general manager John Muckler termed Murray “the right man to coach this team.”

Does the king of Shawville have other aspiration­s within the organizati­on, though?

As well as he coached this past season, patiently guiding the Senators out of the fall cellar and into the Stanley Cup final, Murray just might be a better GM than he is a coach.

See SCANLAN on PAGE D7

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