Goalie Matt Murray, who starred for the Pittsburgh Penguins during their run to the Stanley Cup, will make his 2016-17 debut Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks. The 22-year-old netminder, who still has his rookie eligibility despite already putting his name on the Stanley Cup, has fully recovered from a broken hand sustained at the World Cup of Hockey.
With Murray healthy enough to return, the Penguins turned a waiver wire pickup into an asset. Goalie Mike Condon, who was claimed off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens just before the season began, has been traded to the Ottawa Senators for a 2017 fifth round draft pick.
The Sens needed some goalie help as backup Andrew Hammond sustained a lower-body injury and starter Craig Anderson may need to take another leave of absence from the team as he and his wife prepare for her cancer battle.
Condon, now in his second NHL season, offers the team a much more experienced goalie than the others they have in their system presently. Had Ottawa just allowed Condon to go on waivers, as he likely would have amid Murray's return, they would have risked him being claimed by a team with a higher waiver priority. The Sens currently rank eighth overall in the NHL after their surprising 6-3-0 start to the season. That's probably why they felt the need to work a relatively cheap trade.
It's a win-win for all sides in that deal, but the Penguins will feel pretty good about getting a mid-round pick out of a guy that played 20 minutes for them after they acquired him for basically nothing.
The Penguins will surely be happy to get Murray back. The young netminder hasn't been able to play any games for about six weeks, which isn't ideal, but he looked sharp during his brief run at the World Cup. If he comes back ready to play, he may offer Pittsburgh an upgrade in net.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who has started all nine games for the Penguins, has had an up-and-down start to the year with a .909 save percentage and 3.09 goals-against average. Despite the team allowing more goals than they've scored so far this season, they're 6-2-1 and just a point behind the New York Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Now Murray will get a chance to battle for more ice time, while also giving Fleury a chance to catch his breath.
The early portion of Murray's career has gone exceptionally well, aside from the injury setback. He appeared in 13 regular-season games for the Penguins last year and posted a .930 save percentage while going 9-2-1. In the playoffs, he tied the rookie record with 15 wins as he backstopped Pittsburgh to the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup. During the run, Murray posted a .923 save percentage and 2.08 goals-against average.
Murray's injury allowed coach Mike Sullivan to push back the clock on the delicate juggling act he'll have to perform with his two goaltenders. Both will probably want to play more than they actually do. It will be interesting to see how the second-year head coach handles this situation and how it impacts the Penguins throughout the season. It's a pretty good problem to have at least.