Senators: Waiting for Melnyk’s answer
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“If I’m around … hopefully the whole group will come back together,” Murray said, though that’s hardly something to bank on.
Further, this uncertainty is likely to last for another two weeks. No resolution is expected until the NHL draft in Columbus, on June 22-23.
Murray and Muckler met Friday to discuss several topics, including the parameters of a new contract for Murray. Mlakar said he had gone through the channels in an attempt to reach an expedited solution. He’s waiting for Melnyk to get back to him.
“That’s fair to say: I’m waiting for an answer right now,” Mlakar said. “This all unfolded within the last 48 hours, so yesterday was my first phone call. I actually laid out everything to my alternate governor, (lawyer) Sheldon Plener, and Eugene was travelling yesterday. I’m sure it will unfold in a very short period of time.”
The main question appears to be one of succession. Muckler, 73, has one more year on his contract, after which he becomes a “consultant” for at least a year.
That would presumably leave the general manager’s chair open for Murray, though that’s not clear. Mlakar said he laid out a succession plan for Melnyk last September, but wouldn’t go into details.
Maybe the plan does call for Murray to take over as general manager. Maybe it calls for Muckler to be general manager for life.
Whatever it calls for, negotiating a contract for Murray will be tricky.
In such an uncertain business, he’s unlikely to agree to anything less than a three-year deal. Otherwise, he could be fired before he gets a chance to become general manager.
Mlakar was asked if it would be insulting to offer Murray a one-year deal as a sort of bridge to the general manager’s job.
“I don’t know if (insulting is) the right word,” Mlakar said. “The man has achieved a lot of success here. He has done a very good job. That has got to be taken into consideration, for sure.”
Murray made it clear he wants to stay with the Senators.
“This is what I said at the beginning when I came here,” he said. “I’m an area guy.
“The greatest thing for me in all of this is seeing some of our kids get better, play pretty well, go deep into the playoffs. To see the city of Ottawa and the fans and the reaction in this community to the Ottawa Senators was something. … If you didn’t want to be back here, you’d be foolish.”
Murray has considerable market value now, making it even trickier. Not only did he take the Senators to the final, but his prior work as Anaheim’s general manager helped the Ducks win this Stanley Cup.
He wouldn’t address whether he saw his future as the Senators coach or general manager, but he said he would not want both jobs. His talk with Muckler was brief, but frank.
“John and I were very straightforward,” Murray said. “We sat down, and John said, ‘Do you want to come back as the coach?’ and I said, ‘Well, I believe so. There’s no reason I don’t want to be.’
“He told me the term he had in his contract, what his plans are going forward, to some extent. We talked about players, and I just said, ‘What term are we talking about?’
“He had some people to talk to about that. So I said, ‘I’ve got to go do some things with my life for a few days, so why don’t we talk once we get to Columbus or just before that.’ “And that is the intent at this point.” Muckler suggested reaching an agreement was simply a matter of time.
“I asked him if he would like to stay, and he told me yes,” Muckler said, “and I told him that we definitely wanted him to stay because of the job he has done for us. He has done an excellent job, and we intend to meet again in Columbus at the draft.
“So he wants to be here, we want him here and, when two people want something, you usually get it done.”
If Murray does become general manager in two years and Muckler slides over to become a “consultant,” how much they’ll actually consult is a question. They have very different world views, especially about players. Murray is believed to have wanted Gary Roberts at the trade deadline. Instead, he got Oleg Saprykin. Yesterday, Murray acknowledged they had disagreements about players.
“Well, we did (disagree), and do,” Murray said. “People don’t always see eye-to-eye on players. That’s the good thing.
“I would hate like heck to have scouts and management and coaching staff (agree). We don’t even see eye-to-eye sometimes in the coaches’ room. “The bottom line is I love that. I don’t see eye-to-eye with some of the articles that are written about us, but that’s OK, too, because I can debate it and we can fight it out behind closed doors: I like this guy, you like that guy, I know this guy better.
“At the end of the day, when you walk out of the room, you’re supposed to have a common bond and recognize that opinions are important, and you filter through them and you get the players you can get to play as well as you can.
“So we don’t see eye-to-eye on every player. Absolutely we don’t. But that’s OK.”
CHIEF SCOUT AILING
The Senators’ chief scout, Frank Jay, is recovering after having emergency surgery for a stomach aneurysm early last week. Mlakar said it was still uncertain when Jay would be able to return to work.